Monday, November 21, 2011

Internat'l Observe The Moon Night at NASA Goddard

International Observe the Moon Night logo
NASA: InOMN logo, duh.
Gasp! We saw Jupiter and it's four moons. Like in real life, in the lens of a telescope. It was truly one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I'll definitely be looking for it every night for as long as it'll remain visible. Ooh, I can't wait to see Saturn. You'll hear my excited scream when I finally set eyes on those rings, wherever in in the world you are. 

We attended the 2011 NASA Goddard's National Observe the Moon Night with some friends and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. We took turns looking at the Moon up-close through a telescope, which was kind of the goal of the night- until we set eyes on Jupiter through one volunteer's rogue telescope and it completely stole the Moon's thunder (ahem).
Image of Jupiter's ring
NASA: Jupiter's Rings
Jupiter's ring
NASA: Jupiter's Rings
There were so many activities the kids could participate in that added to the excitement of going out way after dark instead of to bed. They had crafts like Impact Painting (simulating with paint the objects that have impacted the moon to give it its prickly appearance), re-creating the phases of the moon with Oreo cookies, but best of all (at least for the kids) was making a slide out of the supports that held up the gi-normous rocket in Goddard's back yard under the cover of darkness- well, excluding the full moon's light, that is. 

Inside, their Visitor's Center is a tremendous resource, open every day and free to the public, complete with an interactive touch-screen table for creating and learning about Space Station Modules. The lobby of the Center has lots of educational materials for the taking and upstairs there's an incredible Teaching Resources office, where they offer exactly that. We scored some cool educational posters & booklets for homeschooling and it was absolutely free. There's a limit to how many you can pick up at one time, so be forewarned you'll have a tough time choosing since their selection is pretty broad, but do your best.

Their website has full-color photos, up-to-date info at what's going on at NASA, and pretty much anything you want to know about space exploration.

Follow @NASA on Twitter for relevant tweets on science, space news & events.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Day I Re-discovered PBS Kids

Allowing kids (supervised!) free play on the computer, whether it be locally on your hard drive or online can be a great way to add some excitement to their learning at home. Sometimes I work some of the games or activities I find for mine to do online into my (self-designed) curriculum to help reinforce something I'm teaching them or to get at the subject from a new, more interesting angle, so that it becomes a joy to learn. Enter: PBS Kids Lab.

Sketch-A-Mite demo on the interactive whiteboard
At a recent blogger event hosted by PBS I was turned on to some of the new things they have to offer. My kids are die-hard NickJr. fans so this was a totally new experience for me and I'm positively sure I was the only one in the room looking around like, "What? Super-Who??" It sure felt like it.

Well, when I left there, like a programmed robot, I began campaigning immediately for my kids to do the switch-over, or at least add the PBS Kids Lab web site into their repertoire. 

To my satisfaction, they were wholly compliant. Not that PBS has made it hard for them to be that way. The games are fun, engaging and some of them- with the right tools and electronics-are cutting-edge. Yes, PBS.

More Sketch-A-Mite, having fun with it!
To say I'm impressed with the new technology they've come out with to help kids (ages 2-8) play AND learn is likely the understatement of the year. I've been way out of touch but they've brought me back into the fold with their ingenious augmented-reality (squee!! = pure excitement) iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps (coming soon), games that are designed to be used with an interactive whiteboard in classrooms, and computer games that require a web cam and function very much like the games available for use with something like the Xbox Kinect. They pretty much made a believer out of me in one afternoon.

There's just too much opportunity and not enough room for me to gush over the goodness of it all in one post, so it's better that you see it for yourself. When you have a chance, give your kids a breather from the norm and check it out. You won't be disappointed.

PBS Kids Lab can be found on Twitter at #PBSKidsLab or @pbskids, and online at   
Especially great for homeschoolers: and         
The official press release is here.

BN: I have not been paid to promote any of the products or games mentioned above. I'm just an honest-to-goodness Mom who loves good, old fashioned learning, no matter what form it takes;^)