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Screen-free STEAM Games

Cyber Attack game extreme close up

The skills of problem solving, critical thinking and creativity can be taught through STEAM learning experiences using robots, apps and technological gadgets, but how can we continue to provide children with opportunities to develop these STEAM skills without needing to use these technologies?

In this blog, we explore five games that support STEAM learning that can be conducted at home or school that do not involve technology or screen time.

 

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

Age: 8+
Players: Single or collaborative game play
40+ challenges per game

The Code Programming Game Series contains three games that were created by Mark Engleberg, a teacher and former programmer for NASA. These games are designed to build the skills needed to learn key coding concepts. They allow students to work through over 40 challenges from beginner to expert level. Each of these games develops students’ understanding of problem solving and computational thinking. All three games in this collection are screen-free, unplugged coding experiences.

Featured Products:

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

On the Brink

On the Brink Coding Game challenge booklet and box spead out on table

On the Brink teaches procedures and problem solving skills through its single or multi-player game. The aim of the game is to use your problem solving skills to program the robot to move along the different game boards using the coloured control panel and movement cards. Each panel on the control panel has space for two movement cards which you need to program to move the robot from start to finish.

On the Brink Coding Game. Movement Cards spread out on table

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Movement cards (grey = beginner, yellow = advanced)
    • Control panel
    • Robot character

 

Featured Product:

On the Brink

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

 

Rover Control

Rover Control game spread and box on table

Rover Control teaches control structures and problem solving skills through its single or multiplayer game. The aim of the game is to move the rover from start to finish. The rover can only be programmed to travel on the coloured paths. The game board has been wiped off the coloured paths, and players must use the clues to redesign the path and program the robot character to move it from start to finish for each mission.

Rover Control Game on desk

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Solution booklet
    • Game boards – Terrain cards x 4 (beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert)
    • Whiteboard markers with erasers (red, green, blue)
    • 2 x rovers (yellow, purple)
    • Tokens that include (charging station, data upload, and rover start and end discs)

 

Featured Product:

 Rover Control

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

 

Robot Repair

Robot Repair Game on on table

Robot Repair teaches logic principles which are a key part of programming. The aim of the game is to fix the four broken robots by connecting colours and wires on each of the game cards through the clues given on each mission challenge.

This game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instruction manual
    • Solutions booklet
    • Game boards
    • Tokens (power cells, on/off and true/false)

Featured Product: 

Robot Repair Game

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 


Pixel Plezier

Pixel Plezier game box on table

Age: 5+
Players: Single or pairs

Pixel Plezier is a puzzle game that helps students develop their understanding of binary code by creating pixel characters. Binary code represents text, computer processor instructions and any other data using a two-symbol number system consisting of ‘0’ and ‘1’ from the binary number system.

 

Pixel Plezier game complete set on table

Within the kit there are 8 puzzles to create and solve. This is a great activity to have students complete on their own or working collaboratively in pairs. Each kit contains 8 puzzles and 4 coding mats (2 boards 7×7 and 2 boards 6×6).

Extension
Using this template, students can extend this game by creating their own Pixel binary code for others to solve.

Download: Pixel Plezier Template

Featured Product: 

Pixel Plezier

 

Cyber Attack Board Game

Cyber Attack game box and board on table

Age: 6+
Players: 2-4

The Cyber Attack Board Game supports students in developing their understanding of cyber safety and how to act and behave online. It follows the format of traditional board games with question cards related to digital problems that students may encounter online. If students get the answer correct they can either proceed forwards two places in the game or can move an opponent back two places. If they get an answer incorrect they move two places back.

Cyber Attack game close up

Extension
This game can be extended by having students create their own question cards. This personalises the game, particularly if you have certain rules at school or home related to using a device and how to act and behave online.

Featured Product:

Cyber Attack Game

 

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

 

 Featured Products: 

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

On the Brink

Rover Control

Robot Repair Game

Pixel Plezier

Cyber Attack Game

 

 

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What Does STEM Mean In Early Childhood?

Child moving beads around a wired maze

The term ‘STEM’ is often a grey area for educators and parents alike. What exactly is it? How do I incorporate it into my curriculum planning or home? What resources do I need to help me do this?

Well, STEM refers to the integrative exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The focus on STEM in early childhood has grown dramatically over the years with the rise of technology and an increased understanding of the importance of these areas for life and careers of the future (think problem solvers, explorers, creative thinkers. Think building resilience in kids to create resilient adults).

So how do you incorporate STEM into your little one’s world? You may be surprised to realise that you are probably already doing this every day. Have you ever cooked with your child at home or with children in the classroom?

Think about all of the STEM moments that were happening:

Adding a cup of flour / oil / water = Maths (capacity and volume)
Adding an ingredient one by one, such as three eggs = Maths (numbers, counting and one-to-one correspondence)
How are we going to get the eggs out of their shell? = Engineering
Mixing different ingredients and observing the outcome = Science
Using senses to see, touch, smell, taste and hear = Science
Was the recipe from a book or was it from an online source? = Technology
Placing the mixture in the oven and watching it rise = Science
How many cupcakes did we make? = Maths

Twelve baked treats with numbers one to twelve written on top

Think about when your little one has a bath. Are there toys that sink and float? What about a cup that they fill up and pour out. These are all STEM moments.

Do you go on nature walks and explore? Play with loose parts and make patterns or create structures? Do you value box construction play? Do you have blocks in your classroom or home? STEM moments! Have you seen children looking for butterflies? Counting petals on a flower? Building a cubby house? STEM moments!

Child moving beads around a wired maze

Do you have toys with magnets? Have you ever built a marble run? Do your children build with Lego? STEM moments! Have you ever tried oobleck / playdough / kinetic sand? Do you have a tinker table in your classroom or home? Compost bin or worm farm? Light table? Torch?

Child picking up bells with a large magnet

Featured Product:  Colourful Bells

 

STEM! STEM! STEM!

Often, without us even realising, the intertwined relationship of these disciplines is occurring and children are learning and developing through play. Have you ever observed a child building a block tower? They will often count the number of blocks used and measure the height of the tower against themselves: “The tower is taller than me!” That’s engineering, maths and science entwined right there.

One to twelve numbers made up of marbles and bolts

Whilst STEM is occurring naturally within a quality early childhood classroom setting through open-ended play opportunities and resources, STEM based activities may be intentionally planned at times too. For example, after reading The Three Little Pigs story, children might be encouraged to try and build a house of their own design from sensory materials such as recyclables / loose parts / blocks that can withstand the force of the wolf’s huff and puff (aka a fan). Beebots are often a part of schools’ curriculum planning and this may take on not only a coding role but also additional STEM elements.

A STEM construction using toilet paper rolls and straws

Recently, we adopted silkworms into our home as ‘simple pets’ (full disclosure – 100 silkworms who are extremely hungry and need to be fed mulberry leaves constantly are not as ‘simple’ as I had anticipated). The language and learning around this was phenomenal and probably the reason you will find silkworms in a lot of Kindergarten classes around August and September every year.

Silkworms moving around green leaves

Not only was it a great science-based project but we also spent time looking online and in books for information on how to care for them. We counted how many we had and added numbers as new silkworms were cocooning each day, we spoke about how we could help them find a space to cocoon (as they need to spin off something, usually a corner – our solution was to cut cardboard tubes into small cylinders and place around the box for the silkworms to cocoon inside) and so much more.

Silkworm cocoon close up

During the early years, children spend much of their time playing, however in an early learning environment the planning, scaffolding and intentional teaching that occurs is shaping those little minds and they are actually LEARNING THROUGH PLAY.

The blocks aren’t out only for fun. The opportunities for STEM learning while playing with blocks are endless. Not only are the children developing mathematical skills through engineering with 3D shapes, developing an understanding of quantity, number sense, spatial awareness and geometry, block play also develops science skills through the properties of materials, stability and balance.

Playing with loose parts offers children the opportunity to explore different materials, build and construct, use their imagination, count and make patterns, test density and stability and so much more.

Child stacking colourful counters

Featured Product: Stackable Counters

 

STEM in early childhood is occurring every day through observation, exploration, investigation, experimentation and most importantly – PLAY. “Play is not a break from learning. It is endless, delightful, deep, engaging, practical learning. It’s the doorway into the child’s heart!” ~ Vince Gowmon

How do you Incorporate STEM into your classroom ? We’d love to hear from you!

About Brea

Brea Brand is an experienced teacher who is currently completing her Master of Education in Early Childhood. She has extensive experience working with young children, from working in schools, childcare centres, as a nanny and tutor as well as with her own three young children. Brea is passionate about learning through play and the social and emotional development of young children.  Follow @wonder.and.awe for play and learning inspiration for both school and home.

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What Is A Makerspace?

Tools and equipment on desk for a makerspace activity

What is a Makerspace?

A Makerspace can be any space in your school where students are able to come together to design, experiment, invent, craft and create. Makerspaces typically have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) focus, but can be tailored to apply to learning across all subject areas. Continue reading “What Is A Makerspace?”