Pay it Froward With a Day of Service.

Since today is a federal holiday – in honor and remembrance of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King – many of us have the day off.  As we go about our errands and enjoy a bit of extra time, get the whole family involved in small acts of service.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life: pay the toll of the person behind you, buy a cup of coffee and a sandwich for a person out on the street, let the person behind you have that coveted parking space, let someone in line ahead of you.  You and the kids can visit a hospital and read stories to children, spend time with seniors who don’t often get visitors,  shovel snow or do yard work for a neighbor unable to do it, bake cookies or muffins for a shelter.  Leave an anonymous bag of treat on the doorstep of someone who lives alone or might need such a thing to brighten up the day.

Possibilities are endless.  The warmth and good feeling you and your children will get is guaranteed to last beyond the day.   Spread kindness.

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Got Squirrels? Read On.

Now that winter is here, we are in full bird feeding mode.  And, along with the birds come their friends the squirrels.  Instead of trying to chase these critters away, why not help scientists better understand them.  Whether you live in a city, the suburbs or a small town, squirrels are part of our landscape.

You and your kids can help researchers understand squirrel ecology by submitting your observations of the animals to the PROJECT SQUIRREL site.   http://www.projectsquirrel.org

Gifts That Keep on Giving: Part 1

As we shop away this holiday season, we are often reminded of those less fortunate and wonder how we can make a difference – even in some small way.  Wouldn’t it be great to buy something that not only provides pleasure to the recipient, but gives something to those in need as well?  Here are a few gift items that do just that:

  1. When you buy an American-made cotton FOREVER BLANKET, the company provides financial support to children in the foster care system by funding extra-curricular activities and therapy – to help offset the cost of adoption. http://www.swellforever.com
  2. Join those who have helped provide safe drinking water for children world-wide by buying a LIFESTRAW PLAY WATER BOTTLE. The 10 oz. bottle has a two-stage filtration feature that works well for school or outdoor activities.  For each bottle purchased, the company provides safe water for a child for an entire school year.  More than 630,000 kids have been helped so far.  http://www.lifestraw.com
  3. EVERLASTING LIQUID LIPSTICK donates 20% of its proceeds to rescue and protect farm animals from cruelty.  The vegan lipsticks are named for animals saved by the group.  http://www.sephora.com
  4. Uwezo’s eco-friendly shoes – crafted from cowhide – help generate funds for orphaned and vulnerable children in East Africa.  http://www.uwezobrands.com

For more gifts that give back, stay tuned to this blog’s post on 12-14.

Hess Truck = STEM Smarts.

While my son was growing up, one of the favorite traditions during the holiday season was the gift of a new HESS TRUCK.  These toys made their debut at Hess gas stations in 1964 and have gained in popularity over the years. Many kids receive these toys and have kept them as part of a collection.  My son has three such trucks tucked away and will no doubt hand them down to his children one day. The toys are considered collectibles and not available in stores.

This season features a DUMP TRUCK AND LOADER – with an added component: STEM lessons!

Available for FREE DOWNLOAD is a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum with eight lessons – all featuring the truck.  The curriculum can be used for home or school use and teaches kids about LIFTING FORCES, LEVERAGE, DEGREES OF FREEDOM, and other concepts.

Visit:  http://www.hesstoytruck.com

Kids Can Build: Free Hands-on Workshops at the Home Depot.

Do you have a child who loves working with her hands?  Does he enjoy taking things apart or building things from scratch?  Or, do you want to teach your child the proper way to use tools while creating something hand-made and original?  Try signing him or her up for one of the MONTHLY kids classes at your local Home Depot.

A recent class had children building a Military Appreciation Humvee.   Other projects have included: fire trucks, birdhouses, picture frames, toolboxes, mail organizers, race cars and many more.

These classes are FREE and the store will provide all the materials needed to complete a project.  Classes take place one Saturday each month and begin around 9AM, usually lasting a few hours.  BUT…YOU must register in advance to make sure your child has a spot.  Spaces can fill up quickly. 

The Home Depot Kids Workshop is for children ages 5-12. An adult will need to stay with the child during the entirety of the Home Depot Kids Workshop.

Interested?  Here’s information from the site on how to register:

Visit Home Depot Weekly Workshops and click on the Kids Workshops tab to view the project for the upcoming Home Depot Kids Workshop.

Click the Register button and your local Home Depot by using the Find Store button.Select the store you’d like to take your child to and choose the workshop day and time.

To complete the registration, you’ll need to fill out your name, email address, number of kids attending and their names and birthdates.

Girls Who Code: A New Book by Reshma Saujani

Author Reshma Saujani is on a mission: To narrow the gender gap in technology by teaching girls and young women computer skills.  Her book helps DECODE the basics of coding and gets girls “revved up” to create their own game or app.

GIRLS WHO CODE: LEARN TO CODE AND CHANGE THE WORLD by Reshma Saujani.  To order the book on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=girls+who+code+learn+to+code+and+change+the+world&sprefix=Girls+Who+Code%2Cstripbooks%2C141&crid=3J6SB2A8AUFFC

Here are some other recent STEM picks:

  1. OSMO CODING JAM: Allows kids to create original music.    http://www.playosmo.com
  2. KANO COMPUTER KIT: Build and code a computer from scratch + learn the programming languages like Javascript and Python.                                  http://www.kano.me)
  3. LITTLE BITS CODE KIT: Kids in grades 3-8 can invent four different games.  http://www.littlebits.cc

 

Digging For Fossils in Our Own Backyard.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I had the rare experience of digging for fossils.  Thanks to the Edleman Fossil Park at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ, people from all over the country  – and world – can find, and keep, treasures from the Cretaceous Period.  The park –  located in Mantua, NJ – was once covered by the ocean, so the marine fossils are easy to dig for and worth a family trip.

 

 

You won’t unearth dinosaurs since they were land animals, but the marine life we found was still pretty cool.  We dug for under two hours and found the remains of  oysters, brachiopods, sponges,  bacteria “poop”,   and a rare blue mineral called vivianite.  There is also a stream for shark tooth hunting.

The fossil park has two public “dig days” each year but the spots fill up fast.  More than 400 schools are on a waiting list for class trips.  But for all your little – and big – paleontologists out there, it’s a rewarding place to begin a life-long love of pre-historic things.

http://www.rowan.edu/fossils/