Monday, February 8, 2016

Viewing the world through a bug's eyes

This week's home work assignments for my kids involved learning about bugs.  Beyond being our family's resident bug killer when it comes to squashing the pesky ones we find lurking around our home, I didn't know a whole lot on the topic.  So we turned to makemegenius.com which provides free videos that explains scientific concepts to children in ways that are easy for them to comprehend.  Many of the videos like the one we viewed on bugs are portrayed as cartoons with an animated boy and girl explaining the topic so viewers appear to be learning from peers rather than being lectured to by an adult.  My children learned about the different types of bugs, the difference between arachnids (spiders, scorpions, ticks) and insects (ants, bees, beetles, dragonflies, flies, grasshoppers, praying mantis, true bugs and wasps) allowing them to easily answer their homework questions after we watched this seven minute video.



Other topics that makemegenius.com covers include astronomy, biology, chemistry, geography, and physics.  Videos can be sorted by age range (Kindergarten through 8th Grade) or by topic.  The animated sequences attempt to take concepts that my befuddle a student at school and explain them at the child's level to help him or her get a grasp on the information.  Videos range from being as simple as explaining why there is day and night to more complex subjects such as how does friction work, what are parallels of latitude, or understanding the digestive system.  The focus for all of these free videos which can be viewed either at makemegenius.com or on their youtube channel is to make science easy for kids.  If you have a child in elementary school or junior high this is a resource you should definitely check out!

Once my kids wrapped up answering their homework questions, we took a walk over to the neighborhood park to check out how the world looks through a bug's eyes.  Thanks to our Educational Insight's Animal Eye Viewers my twins were able to explore the playground through a pixelated bug's-eye view.  My son pretended he was flying like a bee soaring up and down on a swing while my daughter jumped all around the playground equipment like a giant grasshopper.


Unlike human eyes which are one big pupil, insects are made up of lots of little lenses.  Their eyes are too small to see as clearly as we see but they still provide a wide range of vision.  An insect's many little lenses help detect quick movements, which explains why flies can be so difficult to swat.  Also insects can see a broader spectrum of colors than human beings can which for example helps honeybees find nectar when examining flowers.  Using our insect viewer from our set of GeoSafari Jr. Animal Eye Viewers from Educational Insights, my kids were able to get a first hand perspective on how a bug views the world.


Educational Insights' GeoSafari Jr. Animal Eye Viewers comes as a three piece set that allows children to view the world around them as an insect, chameleon or shark.  Next week's homework  involves reptiles so we'll also be doing some exploring as well with their chameleon eye viewer to help make that assignment fun and interesting for them.  Hmm their teachers haven't given us enough advance notice to know if sharks is a topic that is coming up but I'm sure we'll have some fun with that version of the Animal Eye Viewers as well soon.

FTC DisclaimerA Geek Daddy was provided a complimentary Animal Eye Viewers set to review from Educational Insights.  Opinions are honest and my own.

PSA by Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds encourages people to "touch themselves" on Valentine's Day

Deadpool the movie about a wise-cracking, foul mouthed mercenary with a love for chimichangas from the Marvel comic book universe who has mutant powers that provide him with accelerated healing through enhanced cell regeneration so that he is never permanently injured, but which also has the side-effect of causing him to suffer from psychosis and mental instability, arrives in theaters across the United States on February 12, 2016.  While not as well known with mainstream audiences as  pop cult icons such as the Avengers and Spider Man, Deadpool has become one of Marvel's most popular characters with teen and adult comic book readers.  An interesting aspect of the comic book, which is also being incorporated into the film by Ryan Reynolds who is portraying Deadpool, is that the character has an awareness that he is a fictional character, breaking the so-called fourth wall of media, and often communicates directly to audiences with humorous quips that have bestowed upon him the nickname "the merc with a mouth."  While this film will most likely be an action-packed, joke-filled adventure that will appeal to Deadpool's comic book fans due to obscene behavior, sexual content, and violence this is not a movie to take children to go see.  I let my son sit on the movie's promotional display for a picture but that is as close as he is going to get to Deadpool.  That being said as a big comic book fan, I'll probably be picking up the movie when it is out on DVD to watch myself after the kids have gone to bed one night.

To promote Valentine's Day weekend debut of the movie, Ryan Reynolds has released a true-to-character PSA filled with Deadpoolish smart ass bravado and sexual innuendo encouraging men to "touch themselves."  Actually though there is an important message here (actually complete with diagrams)  as Reynold's promotes awareness of testicular cancer, which primarily impacts the young men who are the key audience for the film, and urging us guys to do self exams because early identification is crucial for treatment.  So whether or not you plan on seeing this movie, this Deadpool video does have some important details making it really worth a view for boys and men between the ages of 15 and 35 years old.



Of course not all comic book fans are men, and Deadpool didn't want to leave out the lovely ladies this Valentine's Day.  So here's a PSA on breast cancer from Deadpool (complete with charts and graphs) on how to do a self exam because early diagnosis can greatly improve a person's chances in combating the disease:



While Deadpool may be a bit silly, he is addressing a very serious topic. So go ahead and touch yourself this Valentine's Day! Your doctor would want you to do it, your family would want it ...and Deadpool would want it too!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

USA TODAY publishes free coloring book themed around the 2016 presidential elections

With the Iowa Caucuses concluded, the 2016 presidential election is now officially in full swing as candidates duke it out in a series of state contests across the country over the next few months in hopes of being his or hers party nominee on the November 8th Election Day ballot when voters ultimately determine the next President of the United States.  For those folks who may become irked by the barrage of television ads, telemarketing calls, and direct mail that sweeps through communities during the campaign season or stressed out by knowing that one of these candidates, probably the one you find the most ridiculous, offensive or obnoxious, could very well be the next leader of the free world, USA TODAY is providing a way for voters to unwind and relieve their stress.  Color your anxiety and stress away with USA TODAY's free presidential election themed coloring book "Shades of the Campaign."

This 14 page coloring book can be downloaded at no charge from the USA TODAY website at your leisure.  Color portraits of Democratic and Republican front-runners Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.  Shade in a map of the country predicting which states will be declared Red or Blue on election night.  Decorate images of political operatives sporting donkey and elephant campaign buttons on their lapels.  Or just engage in some silliness coloring an Uncle Sam poster or image of a jackass boxing against a pachyderm.  There are a couple of non-political sheets promoting voting filled with patterns for people to decorate included in the coloring book as well.

USA TODAY's Shades of the Campaign coloring book can be used as a civics lesson to spur a discussion with children about the presidential elections and American democracy.  It is also detailed enough to fall within the trend of adult coloring books that have emerged as today's hot pop culture sensation. Adult coloring books aren't just the newest entertainment fad, health care professionals are encouraging this new trend noting that for adults taking some time out to color can reduce stress, spark creativity, maintain fine motor skills, help keep your mind sharp, and can be just plain fun to do.   Ever wonder what reporters are doing while they are waiting around for candidates to take the stage at debates or arrive at public appearances on the campaign trail? I bet they are coloring!

So the next time you read or hear a presidential candidate stating something your sensibilities find particularly obnoxious lower your blood pressure and put a smile back on your face by grabbing some crayons or colored pencils and a copy of USA TODAY's Shades of the Campaign coloring book.  CLICK HERE to download and print out one for yourself for free.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Care Bears & Cousins returns to Netflx for a second season

Those cuddly multi-colored bears that project love and good cheer from their tummies are returning for a second 6-episode season exclusively on Netflix beginning February 5, 2016. "Care Bears & Cousins" which also includes other animals featured in the same style as the charming bears who join together with their cousins for adventures in the imaginary land of Care-a-Lot is a delightful show that will project care and joy into the hearts of the children who view it.


Visit netflix.com/carebears to tune in to the brand new adventures of this huggable gang as they bring tales of caring and sharing to a new generation. "Care Bears & Cousins" is rated TV-Y.  Check out their 6 all new episodes exclusively on Netflix beginning February 5th.



If you'd like a Care Bear of your own for your kids to hug while enjoying the show check out the Tenderheart and Cheer Bears available through Build-A-Bear at Build-a-Bear.com/Care-Bears


Stay up to date on all the latest news about the #CareBears by visiting www.CareBears.com, following @CareBearsFriend on Twitter or liking the Care Bears Facebook page.

A Geek Daddy is a Care Bears #ShareYourCare Brand Ambassador.  As part of that blogger program, I occasionally receive Care Bears promotional information and products to review and share with blog readers.  A Geek Daddy does not receive any financial compensation for its participation in this brand ambassador program. 



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Let the kids go wild with these Zootopia coloring pages



I have to admit Shakira's new song "Try Everything" for the upcoming Disney movie Zootopia is pretty catchy.  I've found myself humming it the last few days while working out at the gym.  In this upcoming animated feature film, the Grammy-winning singer voices the role of Gazelle who is the biggest pop star in the world of Zootopia, which is a modern metropolis populated by wild animals of all shapes and sizes.

 The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia which is the backdrop for this new family friendly animated adventure from Walt Disney Studios is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it's a melting pot where animals from every environment live together -- a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything.  But when rookie police officer Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a force of big tough animals isn't so easy.  Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with fast talking, scam artist fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) to solve the mystery.



My kids have been wanting to see Zootopia since we began seeing trailers for it at the movie theater last year.  It looks to be a funny, upbeat story that parents and children can equally appreciate for a family outing to the movies.  I'm sure all of us adults can appreciate the sloths working at the department of motor vehicles though kids under 16 may not get the humor.  With a cute bunny as its star, comedic moments, and an energetic musical score this looks to be a must see movie for families that have kids at home who are young enough to go out in public without being embarrassed they are spending time with mom and dad.


While you are waiting for the film's March 4, 2016 release date let your kids go wild enjoying these Zootopia themed activity sheets and coloring pages courtesy of A Geek Daddy's friends at Walt Disney Studios. 



#Zootopia

Expand children's reading & science skills with a Rainforest Journey

** A Geek Daddy received the featured product for free to review **
edtechlens
The winter months can be cold and dreary in Michigan, but that hasn't prevented my kids from exploring tropical habitats filled with lush vegetation and exotic creatures over the last few weeks.  They've been able to go on a Rainforest Journey without having to leave the comfort of our home thanks to an innovative online science and reading curriculum program created by the company EdTechLens.  Designed for children 5 - 12 years old, EdTechLens' Rainforest Journey teaches the life science components of elementary school science curriculum through taking kids on a vibrant, multimedia tour of a rainforest. Students are walked through five multi-chaptered units of study during their Rainforest Journey which include the big picture of the rainforest, adapt or die, animals, plants and fungi, and ecosystems

(c) EdTechLens - Rainforest Journey

Whether using for home schooling or to supplement what a child is being taught at school, the curriculum format of this program ensures kids are learning during their Rainforest Journey.  Parents can customize the reading level and educational complexity so it is appropriate for their child's grade in school from Kindergarten through 5th Grade.  We've been utilizing the first grade edition (CLICK HERE to sample one of the lesson segments my kids have used) and it has meshed well with where my twins are in their studies at in school.  If children are struggling to read along through the presentation on their own there is also an optional audio narration component that reads the text as a child follows along.  Scientific concepts such as ecosystems and the water cycle are explained through easy to understand graphs and illustrations.  Plus there is a focus on using this experience to expand a child's vocabulary as they make their way through each section of this online teaching aid.

To reinforce the lessons learned in each unit of the Rainforest Journey includes a printable activity sheet that parents and kids can work on together before they move on to the next topic.  Also each section concludes with an online test that measures a student's comprehension of their grade appropriate material and provides parents with an assessment.  Parents can block children from moving on to next unit of material until a satisfactory score has been achieved.



Rainforest Journey's online educational portal will work with any computer or handheld device that can connect with the Internet.  It's lessons are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and the New York State Science Standards plus each lesson includes a non-fiction reading passage to promote literacy. To further assist with reading skill development each of the learning sections provides parents with a Lexile score and word count to assist with measuring a child's abilities.

To prevent children from considering the educational aspects of Rainforest Journey as being boring or burdensome, lessons include video clips and photographs specifically selected to pique a child's curiosity.  Brilliantly colored amphibians, bug eating plants, camouflaged predators, distorted fungi, and rhinoceros-looking insects will wow and intrigue kids into wanting to learn more.



My son's favorite animal is the jaguar and he was just thrilled by the photos and video of this ferocious feline when we came upon them.



It is nice that you can select a specific grade level from K - 5 so that you know the material is relevant and relatable to the child using a Rainforest Journey.  My twins are beginning readers and their teacher has asked parents to make sure students read for 30 minutes every night after school.  With  pages that feature one line sentences crafted for first grade aged children to read this was a perfect opportunity to get in their reading every night while enhancing their interest in nature, conservation and science.



An annual subscription to Rainforest Journey is normally $50 per grade level.  So for example using the program for one child in first grade would cost just $50 for twelve months access. But say for example you have multiple children in kindergarten, third grade and fifth grade and want to customize the complexity for each of their individual learning levels that would be a $150 subscription fee.  Unless you use this special code ETLN2015 which will provide new subscribers to Rainforest Journey with a 50% discount on their order! This is a limited time offer and I'm not sure when it will expire.

Before making a decision, CLICK HERE to take a walk through Rainforest Journey to get an in-depth overview of the activities and resources provided through this educational tool.  Check out samples of the five lesson units as well as compare how the kindergarten version differentiates from the fifth grade.  Take a few moments to watch a video orientation that explains the program and its merit.  Note that a Rainforest Journey isn't fun and games meant to amuse kids but rather a serious educational tool which utilizes interesting topics and visuals that entice children to be enthusiastic about learning. Put those cold winter days where your kids may be trapped in the house to good use with a Rainforest Journey.

Monday, February 1, 2016

WILD KRATTS: AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURES

 ** A Geek Daddy received the featured product for free **
dvd
My son rushes to get dressed and eat his breakfast every morning so he has some time before school to watch his favorite show Wild Kratts on PBS KIDS.  This animated television series follows the adventures of the Kratt brothers, Chris and Martin, as they go into the wild to save animals from over-the-top villains or real world based situations that threaten creatures in their native habitats.  Shows include the duo donning special "power suits" that allow Chris and Martin to mimic the special abilities of animals, fish and birds to save the day in animated sequences plus incorporate live video segments featuring the brothers with wild life that they educate the audience about.   Wild Kratt's has really sparked an interest with my son in learning about animals and their natural habitats.

Our family has an upcoming adventure we'll be embarking on soon and my son is excited to be able to watch in the van during our long road trip the Wild Kratts: Australian Adventure DVD that PBS Kids recently released on January 5th.  The TV-Y rated Wild Kratts: Australian Adventure DVD has a run time of 60 minutes and includes two television show episodes Koala Balloon and Kickin' it with the Roos plus a special bonus adventure called Platypus Cafe

Episode 1: Koala Balloon

Martin and Chris must protect a young koala stranded in the Australian Outback, and help him get back to his eucalyptus forest habitat. On their quest to return the adorable animal home, the brothers discover lots of interesting facts about how animals are specialized to their own environment.

Episode 2: Kickin’ it with the Roos

When Chris and Martin meet up with a mob of red kangaroos, they get their car keys stolen by a joey and have to figure out how to get them back from the tricky little guy. As they jump into the life of the roos to search for the missing keys, the brothers realize that animals live in different kinds of social groups and they have important behaviors that keep the group together and safe. But everybody wonders just how safe this search has become, when Chris and Martin get tangled up in a kickboxing match with the dominant male and caught in the middle of a dingo attack.

Bonus Episode: Platypus Cafe

On a kayaking expedition in Australia, the brothers encounter one of the world’s most unusual creatures: a platypus mother with her eggs. But unscrupulous endangered animal chef, Gourmand, plans on adding the platypus eggs to his menu. Chris and Martin must harness the special electromagnetic “sixth sense” of the platypus to save the eggs.

dvd

Australia has such incredible animals and landscapes that combined with the comedic exploits of the Kratt brothers is sure to entertain and educate most kids.  You can pick up your own copy of the Wild Kratts: Australian Adventure DVD from the Shop PBS online store.