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Monday, January 17, 2022

A Couple of Good Places to Find Science Activities for School or Home

While standing around watching my daughters' ski lesson on Sunday I ended up chatting with another parent. The conversation inevitably turned to "what do you do?" When she found out what I do she excited, and with a tinge of relief, asked if I had any suggestions for science activities she can do at home with her elementary school age students. My immediate suggestions were to take a look at Exploratorium's Science Snacks and Microsoft's Hacking STEM. 

Exploratorium's Science Snacks website has dozens and dozens of hands-on science and engineering projects for students of all ages. There is a subsection of the site called Family-Friendly Snacks that offers activities specifically designed for parents to do at home with their kids. The vast majority of the projects can be done with common household items. And in response to the COVID-19 outbreak Exploratorium has a selection of activities and videos about viruses.

Hacking STEM is a Microsoft website that offers a couple dozen hands-on science and engineering lessons. The activities are a mix of things that students can probably do on their own and some that probably can't be done without the supervision of a teacher or parent with working knowledge of the concept(s) being taught. For example, the mini solar house project that I've done with ninth grade students was done safely without my direct supervision (I removed the hot glue gun component and had them use tape). But the "party lights" activity on the same page is not something I'd have students do on their own without direct supervision. 

Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings

Over the weekend I shared a neat QR code generator called QRToon that lets you create a QR code that includes a cartoon version of yourself in it. Writing that post got me thinking about how far QR codes have come since I first saw them while working for Roadway Package Systems (now called FedEx Ground) in the late 90's. As a package handler and later as a dock coordinator, I hated QR codes because the tiniest smudge and made the code nearly impossible to scan with the big, clunky scanners we had. And generating the QR code labels seemed to take forever. Fast-forward a quarter century and QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan on mobile phones. 

Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings
Now that QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan with mobile phones and tablets, they can be helpful in accomplishing a lot of things in school settings. Here's a short list of ways to consider using QR codes in your school. 
  • Share sign-in/sign-out sheets via QR code. If you're using Google Forms or Microsoft Forms to maintain sign-in/sign-out sheets, post a QR code on the wall of the room to be signed into or out of to make it easy for students or colleagues to access those forms. Here's a demonstration of using QR Code Monkey for that purpose. 

  • Share links to important and frequently updated webpages like the school lunch menu. Last year the daily lunch menu was plastered all over my school in the form of a QR code that students could scan to get the day's menu and place orders in advance. One of the easiest ways to make a QR code for that purpose is to use the QR code generator that is built into Google Chrome. Here's a demo how that works

  • Create QR codes to access voice messages. With the Mote Chrome extension installed you can simply click the Mote icon to record voice notes. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes.  

  • QR codes can be useful for distributing important contact information to parents and students. QR Code Monkey lets you not only create QR codes for URLs, but also create QR codes to distribute contact information like phone numbers and email addresses. 

  • I forget which school I that I first saw it in, but a handful of years ago I visited a school library in which there was a selection of books that had QR codes inside the dust jacket. The QR codes linked to book trailer videos that students had made about those books. 

How to Make QR Codes
I've linked to a few tutorials above. I'm also listing them below for easier access.

Create QR Codes With QR Code Monkey



Create QR Codes With QRToon



Create QR Codes With Google Chrome