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As in a recent post, I mentioned that I have taught many subjects in public, private, and homeschools over the years. Technology is one of them. My students always seemed to love robotics. Recently, I was sent a neat little robot kit called “Bug” from TeacherGeek. Most robot kits are that I have used over the years are similar even if the theme was different. This one’s theme was a bug. There were a couple of differences though to this that I like.

One difference from the kits I have had in the past was the fact that once you built the robot using the instructions and then programming it once in some way either by a device on the robot itself that let you do minimal directional changes or the robot merely would go until it hit something and then change directions via a sensor or you used a very simple computer software program to give limited directions. Now as a teacher, I had access to other ways and programming languages to do more advanced programming, but the kits never gave you that kind of thing. So, you would build the kit and play with it a little bit doing the simple things you could do with it, but mostly you just watched it move and twirl some. Neat at first, but it was quickly boring. This kit includes a manual called “Electronics Lab” (teacher’s key provided as a download with a code with purchase) that uses inexpensive alligator clips found at hardware and electronics stores or the TeacherGeek web site that you use at first for connecting to switches, creating different circuits, and exploring different elements of electronics as you change the bug in different ways. You can’t do that with most of the other kits I have found.

Another difference is that the Bug is a simple build with student-friendly parts making it easy for students as young as third grade to create and enjoy a fun project. It is also capable of being used to go further as mentioned previously with the lab manual and a few inexpensive parts. Most kits I have found were just too simple or way too complicated and involved. I like the fact that I can use the same kits with all my students and let them go as far as their interest and ability allows them to go.

I also must mention what might be a third difference and is the final wiring manual. After building and exploring, the last manual does an excellent job as a last challenge to permanently wire the bug including soldering. It checks understanding of schematics by letting them figure out the final schematic, followed by placing the wires according to the schematic, and then prepare the wire for wiring, and finally soldering. The teacher check’s off at each step to make sure the final results in a robot bug that goes forward, can be reversed by pushing a switch, and most importantly, doesn’t short circuit. The soldering instructions are included and are easy to follow and clear making first time soldering as easy as can be made. Some kits require you to look up soldering somewhere else, or their instructions are very lacking in detail and unclear. My students enjoyed the build and are still exploring much to all our delights.

 

Accessibility isn’t really advisable here for every group, but with supervision, this could be used by many tactile learners, learning disabled students, and some ASD students, especially Asperger’s. I brailled the steps for me by scanning the documents in, but I needed sighted help, of course, checking things some. I could feel the wire placement and even soldering once cooled, but I still will use a sighted aid. Blind and DeafBlind students who are older and more skilled can learn to do these projects, too, if you braille the instructions, give them a sighted helper, and teach them to know what they are feeling. I only let the oldest and most capable blind students solder, but feeling where they would solder first and then lightly and carefully, they can be taught with patience and practice. Try on practice parts first, of course.

Check out this project, accessories, and other products from TeacherGeek at http://www.teachergeek.com. The best thing about this project is the price. The single bug kit is $29.98, but multiple packs of 10 and 50 allow you to get enough for the whole family or co-op classes for as low as $6.29 for each bug. For the next three months, my readers can also get 10% off any of the TeachGeek products by using the code:hschool. Now there is no excuse not to try. In fact, this comes just in time for Christmas, so why not get Bugged!

 

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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As a Principal of a private Christian school, I see test scores for a lot of students whether they are enrolled in my school or not because we provide testing for all kinds of students not just our own. What I see most often is low math scores all the way from Kindergarten through the 12th grade and even on the SAT/ACT college entrance tests. It isn’t saddening to me because math is so important for our children. Why are the scores so low? It isn’t from lack of doing. I know that. Many of these students do lots of math every day. It isn’t lack of ability because many of these students have exceptionally high intelligence. It isn’t because the teacher whether parent or school teacher has difficulty in math themselves. It seems to come down to a lack of problem-solving strategies and true understanding of the processes of math. A little help seems to be on the way from AIMS Education Foundation’s Solve It! Series.

Many curriculums cover the basic facts and concepts in regards to rules and definitions, but the lack in transferring the understanding of why something is done. The “whys” are really more important than the “hows”. If students do not understand why they perform certain operations they can’t learn to think mathematically. If students can’t learn to think mathematically, they won’t be able to apply their skills to more advanced concepts and problems. AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) Education Foundation has created a series called Solve It! That does a really nice job presenting the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills to students. It is a workbook which some think is overdone and certainly can be, but this series will make a good complement to any textbook curriculum to help smooth out the presentation of these skills, give plenty of practice, and let students learn to love math. Learning to think mathematically actually can and does bring an element of fun and discovery to math. The activities are varied and diverse. They are well-designed and use manipulatives, art and craft creativity, charts, etc. All to keep the students actively focused as they explore the concepts and practice the skills. The teacher will find a chart detailing which problem-solving skill each activity develops. I only used the 3rd grade edition, but if the others are as well-done, I think the series deserves a close look.

There are other activity books and products in other subject areas available on the web site, too, including downloadable e-books. The prices range from $9.95 to $24.95 depending on the size of the activity book. To find out more, go to aimsedu.org.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Homeschool in the Woods is a wonderful company operated by husband and wife team, Ed and Amy Pak. They create and publish hands-on activity packs. I received the newest one in their history series, The New Testament. This packet is definitely a product of their belief that hands-on activities are the best way to cement a child’s learning in the mind.
This packet over the New Testament provides fifteen hands-on activities to create a book that a child can hold and follow the course of history from the birth of Christ to His ascension. A child will reveal for himself the Old Testament prophesies fulfilled in the New Testament. This child will then explore the beginnings of the Church that helps us to know how the Church was intended to be and how it needs to be again. There are also two additional activities that take the student beyond the lessons of this packet to teach research and application of scripture verses. You and your child will have no problem creating this wonderful book because the step-by-step instructions are provided along with all the masters to print out and cut out and color photos of the finished products to guide your experience. By putting these activities together and creating this book, the child will have a resource to return to again and again to learn about the wonders of the New Testament.
We enjoyed all of the activities. The children were of different ages and abilities. Many of my students have physical disabilities or learning disabilities. I was able to find an activity for every child and of every age regardless of their issues. For me, this allowed us to work together to put together this book for them to use in the classroom. A homeschool family with multiple children can use the same method, or purchase as set for each student to complete with the parent or alone depending on ability. Sticky fingers are a fun part of it, of course. One child with autism and cerebral palsy wound up with much of the book glued to her, but she was proud of the part she played as she continuously pointed out to everyone exactly which section she did. She adamantly repeated her simplified version of who the twelve disciples were and what they did. I think the newspaper was a big hit with everyone, but the older children were able to fully engage themselves here as they completed the sections and even added some of their own creation. Finally there was lots of glee when we added their face pictures to the soldier in the Armor of God activity. One eight year old child discovered the enlarging capabilities of the school copier and created a paper suit of armor for his small body using his sister’s thin hair bands to tie the parts to his arms and legs after gluing them to poster board. He remembers easily the name of each piece and the verse that goes with it. I was thrilled with it, but I do need to buy more copier paper now. Fortunately, my motto has always been, “Go with the flow.”
If you would like to try this activity pack, New Testament, by Homeschool in the Woods or find other products by this couple, go to http://homeschoolinthewoods.com.

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