Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys

As parents of middle school age children, I am sure you have long been aware that the toys that we choose to buy for our kids can make a difference in their development. Being presented opportunities to see, play with, and experience specific materials present different challenges, require different skill sets, and cover a variety of different learning areas.

Classic Toys to Challenge Middle Schoolers

Educational toys encourage specific learning areas such as literacy, math, science, and music. Games and puzzles teach strategic thinking skills and encourage laughter and social awareness. They also bring family and friends together to make wonderful memories that will last for years to come.

I love classic toys for many reasons. One of things that I have discovered is that these timeless classics continue to captivate people of all ages.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netThe Amazing World of YoYoing by Erik Everson, age 13

One amazing hobby (and potential) profession is yo-yoing. There’re all sorts of variations and styles. The five main styles are:

1) String Tricks
2) Looping
3) Two-handed String Tricks
4) Off String
5) Freehand

String Tricks is the most popular style and the style I will focus on today. What makes it so unique you ask? These aren’t traditional yo-yos that most people grew up with. These are known as non-responsive yo-yos, which means they do not come up with the tug on the string. The ones that come up with a tug on the string are called responsive yoyo’s.

What makes yo-yos that are non-responsive so unique is the string can touch the yoyo in many more variations without accidentally coming back up to the hand. This makes your trick variation possibilities expand so much more.

Well then, how do you get it back up, you ask? The basic way to get the yoyo back up is to put a layer of string into the yoyo. Most of the time this trick is called “the bind”. If you’d like to see this performed, search on YouTube under, “How to Bind with a Yo-Yo”.

Competitions happen around the world. It’s amazing to see how many people are have taken up this hobby/profession. If you’d like to see some amazing performances of String Tricks here are some names to look up: Gentry Stein, Zack Gormley, Paul Kerbel, and Brandon Vu. These are just some of the many amazing yo-yoers.

In conclusion if you decide to join me on this amazing journey you’ll have the time of your life. Remember not to take it too seriously, it’s yo-yoing.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netCubing with Pizzazz by Jeffrey Varga, age 11

I first discovered the Rubix Cube in 2014 when I received a classic cube in my Christmas stocking. I played around with it a bit over the holidays but I never got further than solving the green side so I gave up. My parents told me that was far as they ever got, too.

I didn’t think too much about it until several months later when I saw a video on YouTube where someone solved it in under 30 seconds. I thought to myself, That’s cool. I want to to be able to solve the puzzle like that. So I searched for ‘how to solve’ videos on YouTube and began to practice the algorithm.

There are 43 quintillion possibilities, but only one correct solution. Knowing how to solve a Rubik’s Cube it is nearly impossible without a little help. When it comes to solving the Rubik’s Cube, t is really simple, you just have to follow the steps and you will be solving the Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes (yes, that quickly!).

I am now a cuber and my best time is 21 seconds. I can also solve the 2×2, Pyramix, and 3×3 Cuboid Shape Shifter (pictured above). My favorite cube is the 3×3 MoYu HuaLong because it feels like butter when you turn it.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netLego

The history of Lego spans nearly 100 years, beginning with the creation of small wooden toys in the early 20th century. Manufacturing of plastic Lego bricks began in Denmark in 1947, but since has grown to include factories throughout the world. Today, the company is an iconic brand.

Founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, the word “lego” is derived from the Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”. The word “lego” also means “I put together” in Latin, and “I connect” in Italian.

For decades, Legos were mostly something kids played with and adults stepped on barefoot in the dark. The Lego universe has been expanding rapidly in recent years, however, with the opening of colorful retail stores, a continuous stream of specialty parts, architecture and city sets, and alliances with the “Star Wars” franchise (amongst others).

Clearly something has clicked — Lego recently became the world’s biggest toymaker. With the popularity of the Lego Movie, it is of no wonder that many teens and preteens are jumping into the foray and trying their own hand at Stopmotion videos.

Playmobil 

In 1974, Horst Brandstätter introduced the iconic Playmobil plastic figurines and toy sets to the market. They are now a staple in kids’ rooms in around the world. The simplicity of the figurines stimulates the children’s imagination and creativity.

The Playmobil brand is typically thought of a toy for younger children, like Lego, the simplicity of the figurines and the variety of sets makes it a wonderful resource for their Stopmotion videos..

fischertechnikFischertechnik

Fischertechnik is another German brand with a strong presence in the toy market. The company’s toys are used in education to teach about simple machines, as well as motorization and mechanisms. The company also offers computer interface technology, which can be used to learn the theory of automation and robotics.

The company first began as a fastener manufacturer, but in 1965, Artur Fischer invented a building block system for a toy set initially intended as a Christmas novelty gift for engineers. The construction toy’s popularity took off and soon hit the shelves in toy stores across Germany and later the world.

Fischertechnik’s success even pushed Lego to introduce its own line of educational toys at the end of the 1970s. The new division “Lego Technic” included gears, axles, pins, and beams in addition to the simpler brick-building properties of traditional Lego sets. These popular building sets provide hands-on experience with simple machines and engineering concepts. With the STEM II kits, kids can even learn computer programming.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netMy Little Pony

Originally a favorite amongst little girls, the revamped incarnation of the “My Little Pony” franchise has drawn a cult following of teenagers and even grown men. The Pony world includes art, video games, music, T-shirts, and fan fiction — created by fans and based loosely on the canon but jumping off in unorthodox directions.

It wasn’t long before my teen daughter mentioned that she was devoted to the My Little Pony TV show, which airs on Discovery Family. The truth is she more than mentioned it. She watches it all the time, racing through her homework to catch an episode before bed. She has even created several OCs (original characters).

Linking up at Junior High Junction

Engage Kids in Computer Programming with Fischertechnik

I received this product in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

computerprogrammingWhy limit your child’s exposure to computer programming to just a single hour annually?  Fischertechnik provides the materials and curriculum support to engage students in basic computer programming skills year round. 

Last month I shared how excited we were to discover the Introduction to STEM I Kit in my post Play and Learn with Fischertechnik. We have since spent weeks building the various models and discovering how everyday technology and simple machines actually work.

How Does It Work In Our Homeschool?

When the Introduction to STEM I & II Kits arrived at our home, we immediately opened all of the materials and of course Jeffrey was SO excited to just BUILD something. I let him experiment with all of the pieces for a few weeks and he built model after model. It wasn’t long before the models he was building caught the attention of his older sister. She wanted in on the fun as well.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we sat down with our cousins (the more the merrier!) and installed the software. This was as easy as putting the disc in the computer.

I promise.

programfischertechnikComputer Programming with Fischertechnik

The girls jumped right in and immediately began to CONSTRUCT a merry-go-round model without any problems. The instructions took them through the process step by step. The process is very achievable for this age level.

They then spent a little time with the software and soon figured out the basic PROGRAM to get the wheel to operate a series of simple commands. The ROBO Pro light software programming is drag and drop, so it’s very easy to learn! A sample is given on screen as well as in the accompanying guide book.

After the model had been built, it was time to CONTEMPLATE why things worked they way they did and for further experimentation. Once the girls were familiar with what each of the different buttons did, they were ready to begin experimenting in all kinds of ways.The curriculum guide provides suggestions for assessment questions to aide students in reflecting on the process.

Finally, students are invited to CONTINUE their learning with more experimentation and a challenge to build and program more complex models and interactions.  My daughter is now motivated to learn MORE.

The Introduction to STEM II kit allows elementary classrooms of different ages to enter the exciting world of STEM and learn the basic skills of computer programming – an exciting activity for young people. 

fischertechnikMaking the Investment in Fischertechnik

If your child is interested in engineering and computer programming, I strongly suggest you invest in Fischertechnik products.

While the cost may at first seem high (the kits begin at $99), you receive a versatile set of bricks, sensors, motors, and a USB connection, along with the software and teacher’s guide. This enables your student to build the 12 models, but from there the creativity is LIMITLESS.

The Introduction to STEM I kit contains 500 pieces with instructions for building 40 different models in all. Students can build a centrifugal governor, manual transmission, block and tackle, wind turbine, a beam balance, and so much more.

The Introduction to STEM II contains 200 additional fischertechnik parts, including:

  • ROBO LT Controller (USB interface/USB power supply)
  • ROBO PRO Light software
  • An XS motor
  • 2 lights
  • A lens tip lamp
  • Photo-transistor
  • 2 switches

Of course, my kids love the models they have made with the instructions, but they also loves to be creative. They have now begun experimenting with the variety of components.

The beauty of this is that they are thinking through problems and solutions; asking good questions. Skills that will serve them later in life.

Interested? Order a free sample activity kit today! 

Finishing Strong #67

Welcome to Finishing Strong! Here, homeschooling families with middle & high school kids come together to collaborate and share tips, encouragement, and advice.

Finishing-Strong-500x500Finishing Strong is brought to you each Wednesday by the ladies at Blog She WroteEducation PossibleEvaVargaand Starts at Eight. Take a moment to visit each to see what posts we’ve selected as our favorites.

We are ever so thankful to each of you – our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years. We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us.Play & Learn with Fischertechnik @EvaVarga.net

The holidays are just around the corner and if you are like me – you love to give educational gifts. We’ve recently discovered a great new learning toy called fischertechnik – a flexible and innovative construction system built around the unique fischertechnik building block. My son has spent hours building a variety of projects – many of which can be motorized. What we love best about this system is the flexibility. With attachment possible on all six sides and the ability to change the curve direction of some pieces, the fischertechnik provides for more building possibilities. Take a moment to visit my earlier post to learn more about this remarkable new building toy.

Finishing Strong Favorites 

Here are three posts I enjoyed reading last week as well as the most popular one, as always, in the #1 spot.

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Finishing Strong #67 @EvaVarga.net

1. A Homeschool High School Schedule by Sara at Classically Homeschooling

2. Help Limiting Kids Screen Time by Heidi at Starts at Eight

3. Celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson by Tonia at The Sunny Patch

4. Citizen Science by Lindsey at Earth, Sea, and Sky

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Play and Learn with Fischertechnik: Introduction to STEM 1

I received this product in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

When the Fed-Ex truck pulled up and the driver rang our door bell, my son raced to answer the door. He’d been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a cool new construction toy, fischertechnik, since I first shared with him their website the week prior.

My son loves to build and like many children his age is fascinated by robotics and construction. I knew the fischertechnik system was going to grab his attention and pull him into the STEM concepts we have so enjoyed.

Play & Learn with Fischertechnik @EvaVarga.net

Open the World of Technology

fischertechnik is the flexible and innovative construction system built around the unique fischertechnik building block, which allows attachment to all six sides. fischertechnik is used widely in schools around the globe to enable students to explore, hands-on, STEM concepts such as Mechanics, Statics, Pneumatics, Renewable Energies, Electronics, and Robotics.

I am excited to share with you the recently released pair of new products called the fischertechnik Education “Introduction to STEM” I & II. These sets are specifically designed for introducing students in grades 2 thru 5 to STEM concepts and methodology, with the focus on simple machines, and an introduction to robotics and programming.

fischertechnik Introduction to STEM I Kit

Jeffrey immediately began to sort the 500 pieces into the compartments provided within the sturdy storage box (I love this!). As an experienced builder, he knew the time he spent organizing at the start would save time searching for a piece later.

“The pieces are so cool, Mom! They connect on all sides, you can change some around, and they lock in place. These are better than Lego!”

As he continued to sort, I scanned the detailed, full-color 170 page instruction booklet and shared with him some of the projects he could build: a manual transmission, block and tackle, wind turbine, a beam balance, and more.

He was immediately drawn to the merry-go-round, one of the more complicated projects, and construction was soon underway. The Introduction to STEM I Kit is a great introduction to how simple machines work.

Play & Learn with Fischertechnik @EvaVarga.net

Activities & Curriculum

As an educator, one of the things I love best about the Introduction to STEM I Kit is the curriculum. The standards based curriculum provides everything you need to conduct the various lessons; from activity sheets and step-by-step instructions, to rubrics for assessment purposes. For classroom teachers, the education materials are laid out by grade level and establish a quick look at the goals and models to be constructed.

Having traveled quite extensively, we have had the opportunity to observe windmills in many locations (Maui, HI; Tehachapi, CA; San Francisco, CA, and most recently on the island of Mykonos, Greece). The optional project based research activity was the perfect way to integrate Jeffrey’s real-life experiences with STEM concepts.

Play & Learn with Fischertechnik @EvaVarga.netWindmills transform the motion of the wind into rotary motion that humans use to accomplish work. We discussed the windmills we had observed and how each had been designed for specific work.

The wind turbine project described in the enclosed instruction manual requires students to turn a crank which causes the blades to turn and thereby move wind. The problem is to reverse the energy process from the wind turbine project. Utilizing the education materials I had downloaded as a guide, I challenged him to remove the crank and design a method of attaching gears or pulleys to transfer the power to another device. He loved the challenge!

I am confidant kids will love building the models, performing the activities, and then taking it apart to build another project. Join me next month when I share our experiences with the fischertechnik Introduction to STEM II Kit.