What Could You Learn Today?

I want to share some fun sites with everyone today. I found some magazines and news sites, and others full of games and activities for kids. I believe in life-long learning; if I wasn’t always learning new things, I would be bored silly. Science and similar disciplines constantly evolve; languages are living things which change over time. Some of the things I learned in school about geography and genetics are already obsolete, and I like seeing where research and innovation are taking us.

Since I have kids in school, I also like keeping an eye out for great sites that encourage kids to be curious about science, engineering and other fascinating subjects. Games and videos are fun ways for kids to get extra study-time in. It’s been shown that it can be extremely beneficial to study in different ways and in different places to improve memory retention and recall. ( NY Times Article: Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits )

Here are reviews of five sites covering Math, Science, Engineering and Language Arts/Reading:

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eGFI (Engineering, Go For It!)

eGFI

This interactive magazine showcases careers like Engineering, Computer Science and Chemistry for middle and high school students. The site is creatively designed and fun to explore. It shows kids how the things they study can grow into incredible careers designing new products and materials. They can meet real students and engineers and read about the things they are creating. There are lots of links to help plan their education and find scholarship support as well.

I’m adding a link to one particular article I found on this site. It’s about 3-D printing, one of my current favorite subjects. My hubby recently became a certified technician for one of these printers, and my inner geek is über-excited about this kind of technology. I even have a copy of the gargoyle shown in this article sitting by my computer right now; it was a gift he brought home from his training seminar. Read more about 3-D printing here: http://students.egfi-k12.org/printing-in-3d-from-toys-to-organs/

The Discovery Channel & Discovery Kids

Discovery News is one of my favorite sites to check for info about animals, science and the world. Their site is full of articles and photos for all ages about things like space, technology, history, animals and more. Discovery Kids has lots of games and fun activities. They even have a section of videos and games devoted to yucky science, which can be a fun way to introduce science to reluctant kids.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy

This site is a powerful resource for studying Math from basic Arithmetic to Calculus, Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. They have over 1800 video lectures available for all kinds of different subjects. While Math is the primary focus, there are also lessons about Science, History, Finance and more. This is all free to use and community supported. Khan Academy was founded as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization by MIT alum Salman Khan, who started recording his lessons as a way to help his cousins with their studies. His philanthropy is inspiring and I love the way he uses digital media to distribute his knowledge globally. They are adding self-paced testing for the subject matter designed by their users. I highly recommend this site to any student who feels they need extra help with their Math studies.

National Geographic & National Geographic for Kids

National Geographic has been full of fascinating articles and gorgeous photographs for as long as I can remember. I know as a kid I loved looking though them any time I was at the doctor’s office! Their online sites are just as much fun to visit. They are full of beautiful images and great information for adults and children. Their kids’ site features games, videos, stories and activities to encourage young explorers.

Scholastic & The Stacks (Scholastic for Kids)

The Stacks @ Scholastic

Reading was one of my first loves, and there’s little I enjoy more than losing myself in a new book. My family and my husband’s family are full of voracious readers. Books have a special place in my heart and I had to share at least one site about books in this list. The Stacks is packed with tons of great books and games based on popular children’s series like Deltora Quest and Goosebumps, even Captain Underpants. A person who enjoys reading can learn anything in the world. There’s information about everything available, almost all for free and online; but if you can’t read, you can’t benefit from it.

I hope you enjoy exploring some of these sites, and I look forward to hearing about fun places you’ve found online. Do you know a good museum site, or a site devoted to a special branch of study? Maybe one of your kids showed you some fun games they heard about at school? Share your links in our comments section, and have fun learning something new!

Geargoyle

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Life As We’ve Never Known It Before

Mono Lake, California

Mono Lake, California (Photo Credit: Michael Gäbler)

NASA announced an exciting discovery today at NASA TV. I wasn’t able to watch the entire thing, but it was amazing. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, an Astrobiology research fellow at Menlo Park, shared her findings about a microbe called GFAJ-1 in the family of Gammaproteobacteria. This microbe is able to live in a phosphorous-free environment by substituting arsenic for phosphorous within its biological systems, even within the backbone of its DNA. Never before have we seen an organism capable of living without one of the six primary elements of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur).

Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s team discovered this bacteria living in Mono Lake, California, but its remarkable abilities really force us to re-evaluate our study and search for life both on our planet and within the greater universe. As a huge fan of both science and science fiction, I’ve always felt it was somewhat naïve for us to assume that life would only arise under the exact conditions that we ourselves find comfortable. I expect that as our ability to explore outer planets improves, we will discover many more surprises where living things evolve to thrive in wildly exotic environments. Studying the far reaches of our own planet such as deep-sea lava vents and toxic saline lakes will help us revise our definitions and understanding of what life can be, and I am looking forward to many more great discoveries to come.

You can read NASA’s official press release here:
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/dec/HQ_10-320_Toxic_Life.html

Geargoyle

Donate Your Brain to Science Today!

Donate Your Brain

As amazing as computers are, there are some things they can’t do as well as human minds. Visual processing and pattern recognition happen so quickly and on such an unconscious level for us that it’s practically a superpower, and it can take years to teach a computer how to even begin narrowing down false-positive matches and the like. Our scientific computer-driven tools are burying us in data that could take generations to sift through for useful discoveries. With all that in mind, I love seeing how today’s scientists are teaming up with game designers to crowd-source research to those of us with free time to give.

I’ve participated in distributed computing projects like SETI@home and BOINC off and on for years, donating processing power from my home computer to crunch data-sets for all kinds of projects and research. As satisfying as that is, it is a very impersonal kind of donation. All you need to do is install some software, choose the projects and let it run. I know my donations were valuable, but I didn’t feel very involved. The newer generation of ‘Citizen Science’ projects are putting the data into volunteer’s hands in a more direct and exciting way.

Click below to read my reviews of three Citizen Science sites I enjoy!

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