Halloween Science Roundup

 

My kids love Halloween. The only thing they love more than Halloween is science. Combining the two always makes for great fun. I’ve collected an assortment of fun, Halloween-themed science experiments from around  the web. Check them out!

 

Halloween Science Experiments and Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands

19 Spooky STEM Projects For Kiddos This Halloween from BuzzFeed

Ghost Rockets for Kids from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Dancing Frankenworms from Playdough  to Plato

Boo Bubbles from Steve Spangler Science

Halloween Science Experiments from Creekside Learning

31 Days of Halloween STEM Activities and Projects from STEAM Powered Family

20 Halloween STEM Activities from The Homeschool Resource Room

I had fun finding all of these fun Halloween science activities. I can’t wait to do some of them with my kids! I hope you and the kids in your life enjoy them!

 

 

Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run Now Available!

I have spent the past year and a half working hard to get this project finished. It’s been so fun writing my newest book. I recently had a release party here in Raleigh and it was a blast! Snacks, crafts, and a reading made for a really fun day. I hope all of Nellie’s fan’s check out book number two!

Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run is a great read for kids in 3rd-6th grades!

About the book:

A year has passed since Nellie Nova built her time machine, the Purple Flyer. She and her brother, Niles, have been busy traveling throughout history to meet amazing women. Everyone in the Nova family, including their “Auntie” Amelia Earhart is very happy that the pesky government agents who tried to steal their time machine last year have finally backed off. One day, after traveling in time to meet the Native American trail guide Sacagawea, Nellie and Niles return home to find out that Agent Riley and his team of operatives are back in town and they’ve come for the Novas! Ruthless as ever, the agents chase Nellie and Niles through town, park their car in front of the Novas’ home, and even show up to Nellie’s dance recital. The Novas have had enough, so they pack their bags and head to Washington state to hide out in the mountains for the summer.
Worst of all, Nellie’s parents forbid her and Niles from using their time machine until things settle down.
Will they ever get away from the agents? And will Nellie ever be able to use her time machine to meet her newest heroine and namesake, reporter Nellie Bly?

 

If you’ve been itching to buy the second installment of Nellie’s story, check it out on Amazon today!  The Nellie Nova series is a great way to gently encourage a love of science and history in young kids.

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Keep Little Brains Active All Summer


Most kids want to spend their summer playing in the sunshine and having fun.  I can’t blame them! When the weather is beautiful, I want to play outside too! I know that many parents worry about too much TV and video game time over the summer and about trying keep kids’ brains active so that when school or homeschool starts up again, their kids haven’t forgotten what they spent all school year learning.

I’ve assembled this list of fun activities to engage kids over the summer. I hope you are able to use it and that you and your little ones have fun learning together this summer.

1.Science Experiments

Oh, how I love science experiments. And my kids love them, too!  There are so many fun experiments available online.  I especially love Steve Spanger Science.  There’s enough on that site alone to keep you and your kids busy all summer! If you want to take it a step further, you can download these free lab sheets and have your kiddos document their findings.

 2. Art Projects

I know, I know. Art  is messy, but so is life. And your kids will learn so much while creating. There are so many wonderful resources online and at your local library for art.  I love The Artful Parent. I also love The Usborne Art Treasury. It’s a great resource to learn about some amazing artists while making a mess. I mean art.

3. Music

Whether you sign your kiddos up for piano lessons for the summer,  try free lessons online, pick up a recorder and a tambourine,  introduce them to Mozart and Beethoven, or let them dance around the house to They Might Be Giants, music is an amazing way to help promote brain development and happy kids.

 4. Libraries

Check out  your local library! Our local library system has so many amazing summer programs.  From magic shows to story time to animal presentations, there’s something exciting going on every week. A lot of libraries have great summer reading programs with incentives to keep your kiddos reading all summer.

5. Documentaries

My kids love documentaries. If they are going to watch TV, at least they can learn something. Netflix has a lot of great options for kids.  Here’s a great list of nature documentaries by Raising Lifelong Learners.

6. Museum Trips

This is a great way to learn and get your kids out of the house at the same time. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are great at turning a clean house into a giant disaster area in mere seconds, so sometimes it’s nice to kick them out of the house for the day and learn somewhere new.  I am blessed to live in an area with several free museums and we take advantage of them frequently.

 7. Day Trips

Maybe the  idea of getting the kids out of the house was really appealing to you. I don’t blame you. It’s good for moms and kids alike to get a change in scenery  from time to time.  Where can you drive within an hour or so from your house? The beach? The mountains? A state park? Maybe a battlefield or other historic site? Take advantage of  your surroundings. If you head into the wild, take nature journals and let your kids draw and write about their experiences. If you find something historic, do some research on it before you go and discuss it with your kids before, during, and after the trip. This is another great time for the kids to journal. Depending on the significance of the historic site, you may be able to find books or movies to expand upon what you learned. I’ve lived with kids in three states in three very different parts of the USA and I’ve never had trouble finding places like these nearby.

8. Math Games

You can make math fun and help your kids stay sharp. There are lots of games online for free. Depending on their age and ability, there are also some really fun board games out there. My kids love any kind of learning games.

9. Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. Your local library probably has a ton.  Best of all, they can keep your kids happy on long road trips! Driving six hours to see Grandma? Get an audiobook! Heading to the beach for a week away? Get an audiobook! I love audiobooks because it’s a wonderful way to introduce kids to literature they can appreciate but maybe not quite read on their own yet.

10 . Creative Writing

Check out these writing prompts I wrote. Or write a story together. Take turns and create a silly story. Another great idea is to get a blank book and let your child illustrate it as he or she writes. Try buying your child a cool notebook and asking them to write a little every day. Just keep them writing because it will serve them well their whole lives.

I hope these ideas helped! Let me know what you do to keep your kiddos engaged in the summer in the comments.

Introducing Nellie’s Girls

introducing-nellies-girlsIn the months since “Nellie Nova Takes Flight” was released, I have had the privilege of traveling to schools, museums, camps and homeschool groups to do readings of my book. I have met some truly amazing kids. These kids have inspired me to start a new feature on the blog: Nellie’s Girls. 

Once a month, I will feature a girl who reminds me of Nellie Nova. A girl who is smart. A girl who is strong. A girl who won’t give up. A girl who won’t let archaic ideas about what little girls are supposed to do get in her way.  The girl will get to be interviewed by me, be featured on the blog and will get a signed copy of my book as well as a commemorative certificate.

Do you know a girl who loves science? A girl who raises money for a charity she loves? Maybe a girl who plays football? Is there a girl in  your life who has inspired you? If so, tell me about her!

introducing-nellies-girls-1

How to nominate a girl you love:

Send me an email at stephie.peterson@live.com and tell me all about her. Please include 1-5 pictures of your nominee. If possible, please include pictures of her participating in the activity you find inspirational. If she is chosen, I will conduct an interview via email or phone and post it here on the blog.

*parental permission required. 

5 Reasons I Embrace Video Games in my Homeschool

 

 

 

pablo

I know that this is not a popular opinion in some homeschool circles, but I think video games can be magnificent educational tools. Now, as the wife of a video game FX artist, I might be a bit biased, but I really think that people are too quick to brush off games as a waste of time. Can they be a gigantic time suck? Absolutely! Are there some games out there that I would not let my kids play? Of course! But there are so many great games out there these days and I think our kids can learn a lot from them.

So, in honor of National Video Game Day, here’s a list of 5 reasons my family loves to use games in our homeschool.

Reaon One: Games Can Bring Learning to Life

My husband recently brought home an Oculus VR headset. It’s amazing! Oculus has partnered with Discovery to provide some amazing 3D experiences. I may not be able (or willing) to take my kids on an underwater field trip with sharks, but thanks to Oculus and Discovery, they feel like they’ve had amazing undersea adventures. Their 3D shark experience inspired a lot of questions and further learning.

There are plenty of games on PC, tablets, and consoles that also provide ways to bring learning to life in a variety of ways. My kids love the Dragonbox apps for math. It’s a great way to make math real for visual learners. Scribblenauts is a great vocabulary based puzzle game. There are examples in just about any area of study. For a lot of kids, games are a fun way to make learning real.

 

Reason Two: Games Can be Great for Critical Thinking and Spatial Reasoning Skills 

Even when a game is not outwardly educational, it can help improve critical thinking skills. Studies have shown as much. While I am not advocating for kids to skip math lessons so that they can play games all day, some time playing age-appropriate games could actually be good for them!

“Visual-spatial skills are viewed by psychologists and educators as the ‘training wheels’ of later skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and there is little question that we will need more and more workers with skills in these areas.” (Linda Jackson, lead researcher of a study from Michigan State on kids playing video games.) 

 

Reason Three: Games Can Inspire Creativity 

If you know more than a handful of kids over the age of five, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. In Minecraft, you can build the world around you. My son has used it to build historic sites we’ve studied- or just his own made up worlds Studies have shown that kids who play games are more creative, and it’s easy to see why.

 

Reason Four: Teamwork 

When my kids play a game together, they have to get along. It’s a great way for them to learn to work together towards a common goal.

 

Reason Five: It Makes My Life Easier

This reason may be selfish, but let’s face it, life is hard for moms who homeschool kids of multiple ages. It can be very hard to get one on one time with one of my kids when they need my help.  I can keep a kid busy with an educational game and it frees me up to work with their sibling. That’s a win-win in my book.

 

We don’t spend all day every day playing games, and I am very picky about what I let my kids play, but video games are a tool I am happy to have in my homeschool. What about you? How do you feel about video games?

Coming Soon!

Nellie Nova Takes Flight by Stephenie Peterson

My 2nd book will be available in June! It’s called “Nellie Nova’s Flight Plan: Educational Activities for Knowledge Explorers.” The book is a companion to “Nellie Nova Takes Flight.”  It’s filled with fun, educational activities, information, and resources relating to concepts introduced in “Nellie Nova Takes Flight.”  Topics covered in the book include: Amelia Earhart, Physics, Botany, Victorian England, and the Ancient Aztecs.  The projects and activities in the book are fun-filled and help kids learn more about these topics.  The activities include science projects, art extensions, writing prompts, engineering tasks, and more! I am very excited about this new book! It would be great for homeschoolers and teachers.  but also for any kid who loves to learn and can’t get enough of Nellie Nova!

 

Learning on the Road

1a

I am preparing to take “Nellie Nova Takes Flight” on tour! As this is my first book and first book tour, this is a new experience for me. I will be heading to the Dallas, TX area in early March. I am just a little excited. Or a lot.

So are the kids.

I am taking them with me. As a homeschooling mom of three, I don’t have a lot of options other than to take them with me. Thankfully, I picked Dallas as a destination because we lived there for almost six years. We have friends there who will help me out during events. That will make our trip so much easier. This trip is basically a trial run to see if I can handle touring with the book to other destinations with my sweet little brood tagging along.

My kids are great travelers. We’ve done a lot of road trips with them. We’ve had a lot of fun and learned so much that can’t be learned at home or in a classroom. It’a one thing to read about dolphins. It’s another thing all together to watch them jump and play in the Gulf of Mexico. But where there’s lots of driving, there’s often antsy kids. And when kids are away from their routine, be it homeschool or traditional schooling, a lot of parents get anxious about learning. I thought I would put this post full of tips together to help remind myself of all of the great experiences we’ve had on the road and to help other families as they embark on their own adventures.

Stephenie’s Tips For Keeping Learning Alive and Keeping Parents Sane on the Road: 

books

Two of my three kids are great readers. They will happily read for hours, at home or on the road. We always bring stacks and stacks of books with us on the road. If you are worried about keeping up a school schedule, this can be a great way to keep up on assigned reading. We usually bring books they’ve chosen as well as some that relate to our destination. On our last few trips, we’ve added audiobooks as well.  There is something wonderful about audiobooks. They keep everyone happy and engaged and as a bonus, their eyes are free to take in all the changing scenery. We’ve been going through the “Harry Potter” series on car trips and I enjoy that as I am also a huge fan of the books. It makes the time pass by more quickly for the parents as well as the kids.

geo

If you will encounter geological features vastly different from those in your hometown as you drive, this is a wonderful time to discuss and explore geology. The depth of this discussion will obviously vary based on the ages of your kids, but if you are going to be passing somewhere like Mount Saint Helens or the Grand Canyon, you can learn a ton!

explorenature

Whatever your natural surroundings may be, take time to stop and explore. First off, as much as you may want to get to your destination as quickly as possible, your kids will be happier if you stop and stretch your legs from time to time. Also, kids can benefit a ton from nature study. We always bring nature journals with us on the road. That way they can make observations about the world around them on a short hike. Younger kids may just doodle, but older kids can take notes on animals they encounter, plants they want to identify later, or tracks they find in the dirt. And did I mention they can get out some pent up energy? Because that matters on a a long trip. A lot. 

history

If you pass a battleground, get out of the car and explore. Go slightly off course if it will make a trip to a great art museum possible. Get out of the car and enjoy new areas as you pass through them. There’s always something to learn if you just look for it.

FUN

While driving and when you get to your final destination, don’t forget that it’s okay to relax! You don’t have to schedule every moment. You and your kids will be happier and more open to learning if there’s time for fun as well!

I hope these tips help you enjoy a roadschooling adventure! I can’t wait to get on the road for my “Nellie Nova” tour with my sweet little assistants by my side.

 

STEM-Inspiring Gifts Under $20 for your Little Valentine

valenstem

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not skip all the candy and stuffed animals and foster a love of science in your little Valentine? I’ve included a list of products under $20 as I know most parents are always looking to save a bit of money.

This post include affiliate links. 

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

All three of my kids love Snap Circuits. They are a great way to encourage STEM play and enjoyed by a wide age range.

Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit

Lego and STEM- need I say more? My oldest got this for Christmas and we’ve been LOVING it.

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set

Why not give them science tools made for their little hands?

ScienceWiz DNA Experiment Kit

Extract DNA from fruit! Build a double Helix! Help your kids to learn the basics of molecular biology in a fun, easy to understand way.

4M Eco Science Toys

I love eco-friendly toys! The kit can make up to seven different toys, including a race car, a gravity-powered walking robot and a tornado inside a bottle. All for under $10!

Nellie Nova Takes Flight

Ok, you knew I had to throw it in the mix, right? If you don’t know about my book yet, here’s the premise:

Nellie appears to be a normal nine year old girl. But Nellie is not normal. Nellie is an amazingly gifted scientist who lives in a family of amazingly gifted scientists. One day, her brother, Niles, who is eleven, teases her (as all respectable big brothers do). This time, however, Niles goes too far when he tells Nellie that girls are silly and no woman has ever changed the world. This sets off a spark of an idea in Nellie’s most amazing mind and sends her down the path to create a time machine and meet wonderful women who made a mark on the world. First stop, Amelia Earhart! With a few bumps along the way and a government agency out to steal her technology, Nellie and Niles are in for an incredible adventure!

If you don’t have a copy yet, it is a great way to encourage kids, especially girls, to love science.

STEAM: Preschool Activities for STEM Enrichment

This book looks great for the five and under crowd!

KEVA Brain Builders Game

This looks great for little engineers over the age of seven!