Engage, Engage, Engage! Make Any Lesson Interactive with Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit

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From YouTube clips on the Elmo projector to blogged book reports, technology is playing a major part in modern student engagement. And the brand new Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit makes it easy for teachers to turn any lesson into an interactive activity! Perfect for challenging students who are moving at a faster pace than the rest of the class, providing practice for students who need a bit of extra help, and as a totally independent and engaging center activity, the Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit makes any lesson interactive!

Just by placing a “hot” Hot Dot sticker next to the correct answer on a multiple choice question and a “cold” dot next to the other choices, teachers can turn any quiz, worksheet, or activity into an interactive lesson. Students simply press one of several Talking Hot Dots® Pens to a dot for an immediate audio and visual response including lights, sounds, fun phrases, and music. (Note—audio can be turned off for a quieter classroom environment-lights will still denote whether a student’s response is correct or incorrect.) The Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit is perfect for:

  • Patterning Activities
  • Upper and Lower Case Matching
  • Picture Word Matching
  • Numeral Quantity Matching
  • Math Facts
  • Word Problems
  • Telling Time
  • Fractions and Equivalents
  • Spelling
  • Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • States and Capitals
  • Geographic Locations
  • Any content you want to customize!

The Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit is perfect for creating customize flash cards, worksheets, tests, quizzes, posters, wall maps, and more. You can even use the dots to turn an existing multiple choice test into a more engaging interactive version. How would YOU use the Hot Dots® Make Your Own Kit in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.

Sleight of Hand? No! It’s Science! Three Magical Science Experiments That Amaze

From rainbows to phosphorescent sand, the natural world is pretty magical. Amaze your kids (or students) and kick-start their curiosity about science and the world around them with the magical science experiments below. You really won’t believe your eyes!

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Dazzling Egg Shell Geodes

Turn a regular old egg into a dazzling, crystalized geode with the help of some hot water, food coloring, and alum powder. Egg-cellent Easter project!

Materials:

  • ¾ Cup alum powder (available in the spice section of your local grocer—this is the equivalent of 4 or 5 small jars)
  • School glue
  • Food coloring
  • Egg
  • Craft stick or plastic spoon
  • Paintbrush
  • Gloves

Water Instructions:

  1. Carefully crack a raw egg in half lengthwise and drain. Wash the sides gently.
  2. Paint a thin layer of glue on the inside of each half and sprinkle a bit of alum over the glue, like glitter. Sprinkle too much and you will not leave enough room for your crystals to grow. Let the shells dry overnight.
  3. Heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan until it’s almost boiling, pour into a heat-proof container, add your dye, and stir with your craft stick or spoon.
  4. Pour ¾ of a cup of alum into the colored solution and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. When the solution is cool (roughly 30 minutes), place the eggshell halves into the colored solution, open-side up. Cover the container and let sit for 12-15 hours.
  6. Remove your shells carefully and air dry completely on newspaper or paper towels.

Ta Da!

Share the Fun:

Your kiddos can dazzle their friends with homemade geodes!

The Science Behind the Magic:

Using heat to dissolve some solutions, like the one you made with water and alum, results in a “supersaturated solution,” which allows more of the alum crystals to dissolve than would have if you’d stirred it at room temperature. As the solution cools, those extra dissolved crystals emerge and crystalize onto the alum you shook onto the glue on your egg shells, creating a larger crystal made up of many, smaller crystals.

 

Magic Messages in Invisible Ink

Pass a friend a mystery note and use lamplight to reveal the contents!

Materials:

  • Vinegar
  • Blank sheet of unlined paper
  • Paintbrush or cotton swab
  • Lamp

Instructions:

  1. Dip your paintbrush or cotton swab into a cup of vinegar.
  2. Use the brush like a pen to write a short message on a blank, unlined sheet of paper, rewetting with vinegar as needed.
  3. Hold the paper up to a lamp with at least a 100 watt bulb and watch as the message is magically revealed.

Ta Da!

Share the Fun:

  • Have your kiddos tell a friend that they have an important secret to share, and pass the friend the “magic” note.
  • Your kiddos can quietly enjoy watching their friend trying to read their invisible secret message.
  • Have your kiddo suggest that the friend stands closer to the lamp. Then watch as the lamplight magically reveals the message! Alternatively, your kiddo can spray the message with a lemon juice mist (lemon juice in a spray bottle) OR can carefully iron the paper to reveal the message.

The Science Behind the Magic:

The acid in the vinegar weakens the fibers on the paper. When exposed to heat, the weakened fibers darken as they heat/burn, exposing your message.

 

Fluorescent Flavored Drinks

Surprise your guests with some glow-in-the-dark refreshments, thanks to an everyday vitamin that shines in the dark!

Materials:

  • Small bottle of B2 vitamins
  • Clear soda or pineapple juice
  • Pitcher
  • Bowl
  • Stirring spoon
  • Pestle or other flat-surfaced tool
  • Black light (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, crush one B2 vitamin with a pestle or other flat-surfaced tool until it is ground into a fine powder.
  2. In a pitcher, mix the powder with a small amount of your liquid (water, soda, or juice) until dissolved.
  3. Fill the pitcher with the remaining water, juice, or soda, and stir again. Your beverage should be glowing on its own and will shine even brighter under black light. Note—this solution works well for glow-in-the-dark ice cubes and gelatin, too!

Ta Da!

Share the Fun:

  • Have your kiddos casually ask some friends if they fancy something to drink.
  • Fill some glasses with your glow-in-the-dark concoction, and have your kiddos deliver the goods to their astonished buds.
  • Turn on a black light to see the drinks shine even brighter!

The Science Behind the Magic:

B2 vitamins contain riboflavin. When exposed to ultraviolet light, fluorescent substances like riboflavin absorb the light and then quickly “spit it out.” The spit light has a longer wavelength than the absorbed light, which makes the light appear to glow. It’s interesting to note that vitamins, medicines, and chemicals that are sensitive to light, like riboflavin, are stored in opaque containers. Otherwise, their bottles would glow!

Crack the Norm! Six Egg-citing Egg Drop Experiment Ideas

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Spring is the perfect time to conduct an egg drop lesson with your students. The open-ended nature of the challenge, to build a contraption that prevents a raw egg from breaking when dropped, encourages the use of experimentation, prediction, and analyses to solve a problem—the true nature of science! And, speaking of nature, it’s warm enough to take your class outside to test their contraptions. Plus, egg drop lessons are a natural way to introduce the engineering design process (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve), as well as demonstrate several key scientific principles including Newton’s First Law (Inertia), motion, velocity, acceleration, and gravity.

There are countless ways to conduct an egg drop experiment. Some contests reward the contraption that protects the most eggs and some require the creation of a contraption to catch a “ naked egg” . The suggestions below are designed with younger kids in mind, and focus on the creation of a contraption to protect a single falling egg. No matter what kind of egg drop experiment you host and whichever contraption you build, be sure to conduct this activity outside, cover the ground around your experimentation zone with trash bags for easy clean up, and have your kids stand back at drop time!

Since younger kids are less familiar with these scientific principles and may not have tried an egg drop before, they’ll need a bit of guidance to ensure a successful experience. You may want to begin by discussing ways to protect eggs, such as commercial egg cartons, parachutes, and trampolines. Ask your students about the merits of the commercial egg carton design—how would they improve upon it? What ideas do they have to protect a falling egg?

Next, check out the six egg-citing egg drop ideas below. Ask your students to predict which option they think will best protect a falling egg and have them explain their reasoning. Now it’s go time! You know your class best, so you can decide whether to simply set the materials out and let your students loose, or provide a set of materials and specific instructions for a more guided experience. Either way, egg drop day is sure to be a smashing success!

Option 1 – Rice Cereal Cushion

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Supplies:

  • 4 Small zipper baggies
  • 1 Large zipper baggie
  • Box of rice cereal

Instructions:

  • 1. Put the egg in a small baggie and surround it with rice cereal
  • 2. Fill the remaining small baggies with rice cereal
  • 3. Place the egg baggie in the center of the large baggie and surround it with the other cereal-filled baggies, so that the egg baggie is cushioned in the center

Ask Your Students:

If the drop was successful: Do you think the egg would have survived if it had been dropped in its single cereal bag (without the box and other bags to cushion it)? Why or why not?

If the drop was not successful: Do you think the egg would have survived if it had been surrounded by more baggies full of cereal? How many more? Might a different cereal have worked better?

Option 2 – Popcorn Ball

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Supplies:

  • Hollow rubber bouncing ball (at least 6” in diameter)
  • Scissors
  • Popped popcorn (or packing peanuts)
  • Duct tape

Instructions:

  • 1. Slice a hole in the rubber ball and place your egg inside
  • 2. Fill the ball with popcorn, making sure the egg is in the center
  • 3. Tape the ball shut with duct tape

Ask Your Students:

Would this experiment have been successful if the ball was full of water instead of popcorn? Why or why not?

Option 3 – Cup Stack Up

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Supplies:

  • 8 Styrofoam cups
  • Duct tape
  • Small rock or paper weight

Instructions:

  • 1. Place the rock or weight in the bottom of one cup and stack six empty cups on top of the weight
  • 2. Place the egg in a cup and add that cup to the stack
  • 3. Place the last cup in the stack and run a strip of tape down both sides of your stack to keep the cups in place

Ask Your Students:

If your drop was successful: Would this experiment have worked with fewer cups? How many or few would it take to protect the egg?

If your drop was not successful: Would more cups have prevented the egg from breaking? How many more?

Option 4 – Panty Hose Sling

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Supplies:

  • 1 Pair nylons (panty hose)
  • 2 Rubber bands
  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Duct Tape

Instructions:

  • 1. Cut a leg off of the nylons and insert the egg in the middle.
  • 2. Wrap a rubber band at either side of the egg to keep it from sliding in the hose
  • 3. Place the egg in the center of the box and stretch the hose on either side tightly to the edge of the box, securing with a staple and tape

Ask Your Students:

Would this experiment have been successful if the panty hose you used was twice as long?

Option 5 – Simple Straw Pyramid

Egg Drop 5

Supplies:

  • 6 Straws (the non-bendy kind!)
  • Duct tape

Instructions:

  • 1. Cut each straw exactly in half
  • 2. Arrange the straws in a triangular pyramid shape (triangle base and sides), taping each corner together
  • 3. Suspend the egg in the center so that the triangular pyramid absorbs the impact

Ask Your Students:

Would this experiment work if you replace the straws with Popsicle sticks? Why or why not?

Option 6 – Advanced Straw Pyramid

Egg Drop 6

Supplies:

  • Supplies from Option 5 PLUS:
  • 12 More straws (the non-bendy kind)

Instructions:

  • 1. Follow the instructions for Option 5.
  • 2. Tape two of the new straws together, end to end, to make one long straw. Repeat 5 times, until you have 6 super long straws.
  • 3. Tape one super long straw to each edge of the triangular pyramid created in Option 5

Ask Your Students:

Did the addition of the super long straws around the edge make a difference? Why or why not?

Have you conducted egg drop experiments with your students? Which contraptions have worked well for you? Share your experience with your fellow teachers in the comments below.

Sweet Surprises—Seven Unique Easter Basket Ideas

Spring is almost upon us! For many families, that means celebrating Easter, and sharing beautiful Easter baskets. Check out the unique, themed basket ideas, filled with fun things your child will love, below:

Summer

The Eggcellent Adventure Basket

The weather will be warming soon, which means more time outside—hooray! Consider creating a basket packed with outdoor adventure items, including kid-friendly binoculars like our GeoSafari® Jr. Kidnoculars™ and bug collecting tools for younger kids, or Nancy B’s Science Club® Binoculars and GeoSafari® Adventure Pens for older kids. Nestle in a new hat, sunscreen, and data-collecting notebook, and voila!

Blurt

The Eggstra Innings Basket

If you’ve got a sports-lovin’ kid on your hands, nothing will score bigger than a sports-themed Easter basket. Include a jersey, tee-shirt, or hat with their favorite team’s logo, a new basketball, football, or soccer ball, and a pump. Got a swimmer? Drop in a fun new towel, bathing suit, and shammy. Be sure to add fun, sports-themed games like Blurt!® Sports, the sports-themed quiz game for kids 10 and up, and round it all out with sunscreen, lip balm, a new water bottle, and a whistle.

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Crack Open a Good Book Basket

Who doesn’t love to see their little one reading? A book-themed basket can be lots of fun, especially if you include a plush version of your kiddo’s favorite literary star, a clip-on reading light, and a fun new bookmark along with a few new books. Our Hot Dots® Tots Interactive Board Books for toddlers and Hot Dots Jr. Famous Fables Interactive Set for slightly older little ones make great, interactive additions to any Easter basket!

Pete

Celebrity Surprise Basket

Pete the Cat® is everyone’s favorite furry feline and no preschooler will be able to resist a Pete the Cat themed Easter Basket! Start with one of the dozens of Pete the Cat books and four different Hot Dots® Jr. Pete the Cat preschool and kindergarten sets. Then, add a Pete the Cat plush doll and an interactive Pete the Cat Puppet-on-a-Stick™ to bring your basket to life!

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April Showers Indoor Games Basket

Roll the dice on a basket of games to surprise your kids on Easter morning! Fill your preschooler’s basket (and practice foundational academic skills) with Hoppy Floppy’s Happy Hunt™ Game; Ready, Set, Woof!™; Crazy Cereal™; and Brownie Match™. Your older kiddo can test his strategic thinking skills with RiddleCube The Game, Even Steven’s Odd!™, and Kanoodle®.Toss in some classic card games (and a card holder for little ones) and put on your game face!

Prancers

The Colors of Spring Arts & Crafts Basket

Your crafty kiddo will delight in a basket full of art supplies! Drop in a fresh box of crayons and a doodle pad or coloring book. Then add some bright colors to the mix—three colors to be exact – with our Rainbow Prancers™ Puppet-on-a-Stick™ Markers. These feisty unicorn puppet markers do double duty with beautiful braidable manes and movable muzzles. Round out the creative fun with squishy, squashy sculpting play courtesy of colorful Playfoam®. And don’t forget the fun, decorative extras like pipe cleaners, googly eyes, popsicle sticks, tempera paints, and construction paper.

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Dinos You’ll Dig Basket

Dino-lovers will dig a dinosaur-themed Easter basket and we’ve got you covered! Get rolling (or roaring) with a dinosaur/monster truck mash up from Dino Construction Company™! Then add Dinosaurs Puppet-on-a-Stick™ for pretend play fun; include a touch of archeology courtesy of our GeoSafari® Dino Dig Tyrannosaurus; and introduce a bit of creativity with a Playfoam® Dino Pals Themed Set!

Which of these themes would YOUR sweetie love best? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to share a photo of your EI Easter Basket with hashtag #EducationalInsights.

Instill a Lifelong Love of Reading…

Storytime is almost as much fun for the grown-up reading as it is for the child listening! After all, you’re usually snuggled together, sharing some quiet time, enjoying an exciting story with imaginative illustrations and fun (sometimes new!) language. It’s such a shame when the tale comes to a close that we usually reach for another story, just to keep those good times going! The former teachers, child development experts, and parents at EI know just how you feel, so we put our heads together to come up with some together-time activities designed to extend story time by bringing your child’s favorite books to life. Help cement that lifelong love of reading that serves kids so well with an after-book activity like:

Flipping a Fairy Tale—Together, imagine that the hero or heroine was really the bad guy and the villain was actually good. Talk through ways the story might have played out if roles were reversed!

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Alternate Endings—Did the story end the way your child thought it would? Were there other ways it might have ended? What would have made for a really sad ending? How about a really happy or funny one? Talk it through, together.

Making Story Stones—Collect 6-8, smooth, fist-sized stones and heat them in your oven. Remove them, one at a time, place on a kitchen towel, and use wax crayons to draw a character or prop from the story (careful—they’ll be hot!). Then arrange and rearrange them to shake up the order of events and create your very own versions of the tale!

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Drawing, Painting, or Sculpting Your Favorite Characters—Using an age-appropriate medium like crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, dough, Playfoam®, air-dry or bake-dry clay, recreate your favorite characters from the story. You can even go mixed medium and add button eyes, yarn hair, and fabric clothes.

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Updating the Cover Art—Challenge your child to design his or her own cover for the story by drawing or painting a favorite scene.

Doing an Activity from the Story—Was there something in the story that you or your child would like to try? Why not give it a go? Read The Gingerbread Man, then bake some gingerbread cookies, together. Read The Ugly Duckling, then try ice skating at your local rink, gliding along the ice like beautiful swans.

Trying Once Upon a Craft™—EI’s storybook-meets-craft-kit sets make it easy to bring your child’s favorite tales to life! Each set includes a beautifully-illustrated, fairy tale book to read together and all of the materials you need to complete two story-themed crafts! Complete the crafts and display your work or use them as props for your next telling of the tale.

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There are lots of creative ways to keep the story time vibe alive! Give one of these activities a try and let us know how it goes. Or, if you have a favorite way to bring your kids’ books to life, share it in the comments below!