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Family Game Night: Using Board Games to Improve Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

By: Stephanie Osorno
Improve Critical Thinking with Board Games

Chances are, wherever you live, that there's a shelf or a closet with a stack of board games waiting to be dug out and opened for family game night. Whether it's a low-key weekend, a snowy or rainy day, or an after-dinner activity, board games are often a go-to social activity for children and adults.

You may think that board games are simply a great way to entertain your child, but they can also serve to foster learning by boosting his or her critical thinking skills! If you're looking to make family game night fun and educational, we have some tips and suggestions for finding the right game for your family.

How Can Board Games Help Students with Critical Thinking?

Board games that deal with major subjects such as English, math, and history can be a useful source for students to practice essential academic concepts. Here are some ways board games can stimulate critical thinking:

  • Game rules often make things a little tricky. Students will have to put their thinking caps on and figure out a way to score points while still abiding by the rules. This will help with problem-solving skills.
  • Board games are all about strategizing and planning ahead. Not only do students have to focus on what they're doing, but they also have to pay attention to the moves their opponents are making!
  • Many games require players to think and make decisions quickly. This is a greatly beneficial skill for school tests and quizzes.
  • Logic ...

Teach Your Children about Water Sustainability for Earth Month

By: Beth Werrell

In honor of Earth Month in April, teach your child the importance of water conservation. One way to start this discussion is to learn more about freshwater scarcity. With 97 percent of the world’s water supply being salt water, and with many people without access to fresh water, water conservation is a great way to make an impact globally.

One route to freshwater sustainability is water desalination, or removing the salt from salt water. There are more than 16,000 desalination plants1 across the globe currently, and that number is still growing. To begin learning how desalination occurs, click the image below for instructions on how to create freshwater from salt water using a few household items.

What Is Water Scarcity?

Water scarcity occurs when there is not enough drinking water to meet the needs of the population in a given area. Since most of the planet’s water is salt water, is frozen freshwater, or is not accessible, this leaves some areas high and dry.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Fresh Water?

Freshwater is an essential part of life. Water helps nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream move around the body. Humans are generally made up of about 45 to 65 percent water.

Freshwater is a key to good health. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it is dehydrated. Dehydration can keep you from doing your best at sports, school, and whatever else the day may throw ...

Take the Digital Learning Day Online STEM Trivia Challenge

By: Stephanie Osorno

Mathematician, scientist, engineer, computer technician—does your child aspire to pursue any of these careers in the future? Is he or she interested in these disciplines, or does he or she enjoy learning about them? If you answered yes, then encourage your student to try our new STEM-themed QuizBowl trivia challenge, just in time for Digital Learning Day on March 13 and for Pi Day on March 14!

What Is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education is a unique, hands-on learning approach that combines each field, rather than separating them into individual classifications. This interdisciplinary and applied way of learning is designed to focus on skills that students will eventually need in order to be successful in the workforce.

STEM-themed Online Trivia Game

What better way to celebrate Digital Learning Day than trying this year’s QuizBowl trivia challenge? The QuizBowl is a fun way for your child to learn more and test his or her STEM knowledge without the pressure of a course grade or assessment.

The challenge includes twenty STEM-themed trivia questions that will quickly get the brain fueling. After taking the quiz, your student might even want to research some of the topics further or discuss them in more detail—it could stimulate an exciting academic conversation or new interest.

And it’s not just for students; the quiz is for all ages, so you can take it too and have a little friendly competition ...

Measuring the Transition between Winter and Spring

By: Beth Werrell
How to Measure Snow and Rain

Can you believe that our clocks are springing forward this weekend? And with spring being right around the corner, you don’t have much longer to enjoy the snow and frosty air. Use the changing seasons as a way to teach your student how to track weather changes with this fun weather measurement activity.

What Weather Metrics Do We Measure

Before you start experimenting, go over these measurable weather vocabulary terms with your student.

  • Temperature: A measurement of heat or coldness in an object. Temperature can be measured with a thermometer on three different scales: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • Precipitation: Liquid and solid particles that fall from the clouds. Snow, rain, hail, and sleet are all examples of precipitation.
  • Wind speed: A measure of air movement with respect to the earth’s surface.
  • Cloud cover: The fraction or percentage of the sky that is covered by clouds, as viewed from one location.
  • Air pressure: The weight of air pressing down on your body and the earth’s surface.
  • Humidity: The measurement of water vapor in the air.
  • Sunshine: The amount of direct light from the sun.
Weather Experimenting Time

Snow and Rain Gauge

As spring approaches, the rain begins to wash away the snow. What a great way for a math in nature activity and measuring the changing temperatures with your student! Here’s a simple way to get started with a snow and rain gauge to measure precipitation.

You’ll need

  • One clear glass or plastic jar
  • One ruler
  • One notebook
  • Graph paper
  • Colored ...

Fight Winter Blues and SAD with Fun Activities for the Family

By: Beth Werrell
Fun Family Activities to Kick Winter Blues

It’s hard to avoid the winter blues once in a while, no matter how much you love the snow. But sometimes, those winter blues can develop into seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is something to pay attention to in your child. Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not it’s time to consider consulting a doctor, as well as some fun activities to alleviate the winter blues.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Let’s start with the basics! SAD is a type of depression that appears in the autumn and winter months as daylight hours dwindle. It lifts as the weather gets warmer and the sun makes more of an appearance each day. Approximately 6 percent of the population experiences SAD. Although there is no known cause, it is thought to be linked to the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the body’s natural sleep cycle.

What are the signs to look for?

It is important to note that the following symptoms may be indicative of a simple case of winter blues. However, you know your child best. If your child’s symptoms persist for weeks or seem relatively severe, it may be time to consult his or her doctor. Here are some things to watch for in your child as winter drags on and the sun doesn’t make an appearance in a while:

  • Eating habit shifts: SAD typically causes a craving for simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods like cake, syrups, candy, and ...

Easy Ways to Build New Valentine’s Day Family Traditions

By: Beth Werrell
Building Valentine's Day Family Traditions

One of the unique opportunities for children in virtual school is that they are always surrounded by their support network. As your child starts virtual school, it is important to build a foundation of support for his or her schooling.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to develop family traditions and nurture your loving, supportive environment. Below are some ideas to get you started building these traditions, including meal ideas, craft activities, and Valentine’s movies for the whole family.

Morning traditions

What to make

  • Strawberry pancakes are a simple, cute morning treat that you and your child can cook side by side! If your family really likes the taste of strawberries or you just want to add extra color, you can also replace your maple syrup with a strawberry syrup and strawberry jam.
  • Pair your pancakes with some heart-shaped fruit kabobs of your choice. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are perfect for cutting out heart-shaped pieces. You can either do this by hand or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

What to craft

  • Create secret Valentine’s Day messages for friends, neighbors, grandparents, and other family members with homemade invisible ink. All you need is some baking soda, water, grape juice, cotton swabs, and paper. It’s a simple way to get your child reading, writing, and expressing his or her feelings in a supportive environment.
Afternoon Traditions

What to make

A Groundhog’s Tale: Winter’s End

By: Beth Werrell

In anticipation of Groundhog Day, I traveled to Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania last week to talk to Punxsutawney Phil, the marmot who has been predicting winter's end every year since 1886.

With hundreds of reporters starting to gather outside, I managed to squeeze into Phil's burrow early to celebrate the event over a game of Groundhog Day Vocabulary Bingo and to ask him how he came to be the world's most famous weather forecaster.

Here's what the solitary and somewhat cranky rodent told me …

Q: So, Phil, how did Groundhog Day get started?
Phil: Well, the story handed down in my family goes like this.

Long ago, humans were very concerned with how long each winter would be. Being furless and unable to hibernate like us more sensible creatures, they worried that winter would outlast their food and firewood.

So these humans looked for ways to predict when winter would end. In Germany, they wisely looked to my friend the hedgehog for a clue.

Q: What was the clue?
Phil: February 2nd, Candlemas Day, was considered the traditional midpoint of winter—halfway between the shortest, darkest day of the year and the spring equinox. And folks came to believe that the weather on that particular day provided a sign of winter's end. They'd even sing this song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.

Q: ...

Plan a Fun Break with Our Winter Activity Calendar

By: Beth Werrell

Calendars are useful tools in virtual school for many reasons. A typical calendar helps by keeping track of appointments, test dates, special occasions, and more. Learning calendars can help you understand the learning process by recording what goes well and what can be improved. There are also family calendar apps that help families manage daily priorities.

Calendars also make fun crafts, especially if they take on a creative form. For example, the dates on our Winter Activity Calendar are represented by paper cutouts, which dangle from a clothes hanger on a piece of string.

The Winter Activity Calendar also has a special purpose: to help students schedule activities over winter break. To try this calendar craft, download the Winter Shapes Templates and click on the graphic below to see the activity instructions.

Winter Activity Ideas

When you’re choosing activities for your winter calendar, take a look at the following list for inspiration.

  1. Write a poem about winter.
  2. Find coding tutorials to try.
  3. Make paper snowflakes to study symmetry.
  4. Play a board game.
  5. Build nature smarts by finding and counting evergreen plants in the backyard.
  6. Do our holiday marbled paper craft.
  7. Find the most effective feeder for your backyard birds on January 5th, which is National Bird Day.
  8. Learn how to dust for fingerprints.
  9. Test out new indoor physical education activities for K–5 students or exercises for students in grades 6–12.
  10. Make positive refrigerator magnets.
  11. Bake cookies to ...

9 Pinterest-Inspired Winter Learning and Craft Ideas for Kids

By: Stephanie Osorno
Pinterest Winter Break Activities

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again—endless food, festive parties, gift giving, and family gatherings! This joyful season is especially exciting for kids, who have most likely been anticipating the winter celebrations for months. But how do you motivate your student when the holiday fun is over and it’s time to get back to the daily school routine? Luckily, the learning never has to stop! There are plenty of enjoyable winter learning activity ideas available on Connections Academy's Pinterest boards that you can do together over the winter break to keep your child stimulated and excited about academics.

How Does It Work?

For those of you who are not familiar with the site, Pinterest is a “visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests.” It serves as a useful virtual bulletin board to store all of your creative findings! The assortment of inspirational ideas and projects are broken down into different themed “boards,” which you can choose to “follow.”

“We are using Pinterest to find some creative craft ideas so we can decorate our home for the holidays. From making hand turkeys to making snow, we find a way to incorporate math, reading, or science into our fun activities—and, of course, we do work outside on a beautiful day!”
~ Kelley Christiansen, Louisiana Connections Academy parent

What Do You Look For?

We curate a number of helpful and interesting boards that, among others, include useful tips for parents ...

Teach Kids to Show Gratitude with Thanksgiving Place Mats

By: Beth Werrell

When young children are old enough to talk, they start to learn simple words as well as basic manners. And when a child learns the appropriate times to say “please” and “thank you,” he or she slowly starts to connect manners and gratitude. Teaching children to be grateful is essential to character development.

To help your child understand and express gratitude, try our Thanksgiving place mat activity. It’s a simple construction paper craft that gives kids a chance to thank every friend and family member at the Thanksgiving dinner table. These personalized place mats are decorated with cutout leaves, which have handwritten messages such as “Thank you for teaching me how to bake cookies.” It’s a great exercise because writing specific messages reminds kids of all the things they are grateful for.

Other Crafty Place Mat Ideas

The Thanksgiving place mat craft is easy to modify if your child wants to get creative. Here are a few ideas he or she might like to try.

  • Add extra flair with stickers, stamps, and markers.
  • Use tempura paint to make a handprint turkey in the middle of the place mat.
  • Draw a picture of the family member on a blank sheet of paper. Cut it out and glue it to the center of the place mat.
  • Glue on a couple of real leaves, if you can still find some outside.
  • Include one of the thank-you quotes at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget ...

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