Ruff Meets NASA

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Ruff Ruffman’s Ring of Fire Travel Guide: A Classroom Activity for Grades 3-5

Learn about volcanoes in the Ring of Fire and their relationship to earthquakes and mountain ranges with this game featuring PBS Kids character Ruff Ruffman produced by WGBH. Students help Ruff verify information about volcanoes that he has presented in a travel guide for his grandmother’s vacation. The game includes visual and text-based reference materials that students use as they progress through the game and learn about the relationships between volcanoes, earthquakes, and mountain ranges.

This activity is funded by NASA under cooperative agreement award No. NNX16AD71A. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Parent’s Choice Gold – Part 2

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Award Review:

Based on the Parents’ Choice Foundation and Emmy-Award winning PBS Kids TV program, Design Squad Global is a hands-on engineering website created for innovative middle-school students who are fascinated by solving real-world problems.

The Design Squad Global homepage offers easy-click links to categories such as Wow, Watch, Enter and Play, plus a top-of-page menu that includes Games, Build and Design. So, from the start, the direction is clear: Young, creative, problem-solving future engineers will eagerly dive in.

How can you not start with the Wow category? On this particular day, the “wow” is definitely there in a compelling feature about “plant cocooning,” a low-tech invention created by a Dutch engineer that enables trees to grow in the dessert. You’ll be impressed.

Then, go ahead and click on More Wow, and you can access stories about How a Slinky Works; a student who designed a barrier that collects the ocean’s plastic trash without harming sea life; robotic chefs; and more.

The Watch links lead to videos about everything from inflatable sculptures and kayak construction to making compost tumblers and solar backpacks. The Play category provides step-by-step moves with voice-over instructions to handling engineering challenges. In Games, the challenges are demanding and still fun to figure out—from solving real-life problems during natural disasters to learning how picking different string tensions produce different sounds.

The Enter link leads upstart engineers to project challenges in which they can submit their own designs, from rubber-band tools and balloon cars to toothpick bridges and coins sorters. The Design function lets kids create their own contraptions; the Build link leads kids to instruction on how to make all sorts of things.

One of the extraordinary aspects of this website is the Global Kids connection where users can discover what engineering-inclined students worldwide are up to or about what ideas they want to hear from other reader/users.

This is a fun, hands-on site where designing and building is the bottom line, its contagious activities giving kids insight into engineering’s impact on real-world problems. Kids can create a free account; and the Parents and Techers section allows adults to monitor and lend a hand when needed.

Parent’s Choice Gold – Part 1

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Award review:

It’s about half-way through summer as I write this review and that’s just long enough for the “I’m bored!” and “What are we doing today?” to start. And, there’s only so much time the kids should be spending playing Minecraft and Terraria or watching seemingly infinite amounts of YouTube videos, no matter how educational they may be. Our family likes to spend time outdoors, but sometimes, it’s hard to come up with ideas for what to do, especially with children of various ages. Enter PBS Kids’ new app, Outdoor Family Fun with Plum. The app features over 150 missions that can be viewed all at once or as daily offerings. All the missions are designed to get families out and about exploring the environment around them. There are counting activities (e.g., counting squirrels, flowers, clouds, etc.) as well as Scavenger Hunts (e.g., cloud shapes, colors at the park, leaves, etc.). Some of the missions even entail snapping pics of animals and environments (e.g., leaves, sunny spots, etc.). No worries if your family starts a mission and can’t complete it, you can easily stop and pick it right back up another day, because the app tracks progress against any and all missions— even multiple missions going at the same time.

And the Plum Landing website also snagged a Silver:

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