Monday, October 27, 2014

How Do Things Fly? - A Fun and Interactive STEM Activity

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has a bunch of great online exhibits for children and adults. A couple of years ago I featured the America by Air online exhibit. American by Air is a series of thirteen online activities that take students through the history of commercial aviation in the United States. After learning about the history of aviation let your students try their hands at designing their own airplanes on the How Things Fly exhibit.

How Things Fly features an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

Applications for Education
Working through How Things Fly could be part of a fun STEM lesson for elementary school and middle school students. The feedback that students receive on their airplane design modifications includes information on thrust, drag, lift, and weight.

How to Check if Google Drive is Down for You or Everyone

A lot of people are reporting that Google Drive is down for them right now (1:15pm Eastern Time). If you're ever having trouble accessing Google Drive or any of the other Google Apps, visit the Google Apps Status Dashboard to check if the problem is with you or with Google. Visiting the Apps Status Dashboard won't fix your problem but it will let you know if the problem is with you or Google.

To check if other websites are down for just you or for everyone visit Down For Everyone or Just Me?

By Request - Five Good Math Sites and Apps for Elementary School

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for "the best sites and apps for elementary school students." That is a very broad question and I rarely say that any site or app is "the best" because what's best for my students may not be the best for another teacher's students. That said, I'm putting together a response to the question in the form of four lists of sites and apps for elementary school. There will be a list for math, science, social studies, and language arts.

Freddy's Fractions is a free game from Math Chimp. Math Chimp offers a large collection of math games for elementary school students. In Freddy's Fractions students help a sea turtle named Freddy find fractions that are larger or smaller than the one that is presented at the beginning of each level. Freddy's Fractions is available to play in a web browser. Freddy's Fractions is also available as a free Android app and as a free iPhone app.

Peep and the Big Wide World, produced by WGBH, offers a great collection of online games, videos, and offline activities designed to help pre-K and elementary school students learn and develop math and science skills. In all there are fifteen online games available through Peep and the Big Wide World. The games cover skills like pattern recognition, color and shape recognition, distances, and counting.

Math Slicer is a game that offers a fun alternative to using flashcards to practice basic mathematics skills. Math Slicer is available as an Android app and as an iOS app. In Math Slicer students are shown addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems that they have to answer by “slicing” the correct answer in half. The answer choices jump up on the screen and students have to slice them before they disappear. Before the start of each round of Math Slicer students can select the type of problems that they want to practice. Students can also select the speed with which the problems and answer choices appear on their screens. The free version of the app contains advertisements. The paid version ($0.99) removes the advertisements.

IXL Math Practice is a free iPad app from the popular online math practice service, IXL. IXL Math Practice offers hundreds of math practice problems for students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. The practice problems are arranged according to grade level and mathematics skill. To find a set of practice problems students select their grade level then select a mathematics skill to practice.

Harcourt School Publishers offers a nice little visual glossary of mathematics terms for elementary school students. The glossary is arranged by grade level and then alphabetically by term. Each term has a simple image and or animation. (The animations require Shockwave).

Disclosure: IXL is an advertiser on

Learn About Congress While Learning to Identify Primary Sources

The Center on Congress at Indiana University has produced some excellent resources over the years. I started using some of their interactive learning modules six or seven years ago. This morning I spent some time trying out one of their iPad apps called Congressional Moments. After using the iPad app I discovered that it is also available as a web app.

Congressional Moments is designed to help students learn about key legislative activities that still affect our lives today. The app includes videos about six important areas. Those areas are the National Parks Service, Civil Rights, Child Labor, the Marshall Plan, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The videos are a nice part of the site, but my favorite aspects of the site are the sections designed to help students learn to distinguish the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Three sections of Congressional Moments are designed to teach students the differences between primary and secondary sources and their roles in the research process. The "explore primary sources" section shows students a resource and asks them to choose if that source is a primary source or not. Students receive instant feedback with explanations of the correct answers. In "hear from the experts" students can watch a series of videos featuring two scholars explaining how to identify and use primary sources in research. The primary sources gallery in Congressional Moments features photos, drawing, letters, and maps arranged according to the themes included in the videos on the site.

Applications for Education
The "think about it" section of the Congressional Moments asks students to use the information they read and watched in the previous parts of the app. The "think about it" section contains questions that teachers can use as the basis for lessons on the Congressional activities featured throughout the site.