Quercetti Marble Roller Coaster – Intelligent Play

A year ago, my kiddos took part in a summer science camp that focused on engineering and technology.  One of the many manipulatives or activities they had access to during the week was an elaborate marble run manufactured by an Italian company called Quercetti.  I was not previously familiar with the product or the company but each day the kids returned home, they talked so much about the marble rollercoaster, I knew I had to learn more.  marble run

The Quercetti company started in the 1950s from a vision and determination of founder, Alessandro Quercetti. Today, the second Quercetti generation enthusiastically carries on the family business under its original principles: making toys that speak kid’s language and that address their natural developmental needs.

The Quercetti rail system is a great product that introduces the child to a love of learning and builds upon that foundation for a lifetime of creativity. Students increase their own knowledge through self-initiated experiences.

I love that the kids are experimenting with different size marbles and how they affect speed.  Their play elicited questions that opened up opportunities to talk about surface area, volume, and Newton’s laws of motion.

 This is a great tool for math and engineering minded kids

The  Quercetti Skyrail Mini Rail Rollercoaster allows kids to build fantastic marble runs with suspended tracks up to 8 meters long. It has been specifically designed so that marbles of different sizes and materials can be used.  The design prompts kids to make interesting observations, while experimenting and discovering the world of physics (speed, gravity, centrifugal force, friction) and to intuitively understand its fundamental principles. We started with the Mini Rail system but additional expansion sets are also available including motorized elevators and pulleys.

I was not compensated for this review.  I purchased this product myself because it appealed to me and it fit our current curriculum.  The opinion shared here is honest and is solely my own.

Dixit: A New Favorite Board Game

We are a family that loves to play board games. Many of our favorites are games that are less commonly known to the general public.  I’m not sure why that is .. but my guess it is because the games we play and enjoy most are not available at national box store chains.  Rather they are sold at independent game stores.  Of course, they are available online as well but we’d rather support the local guy when possible.
The most recent addition to our larder is Dixit. We received the original version as a gift this past summer and have enjoyed playing it on multiple occasions.  Each player at his turn plays the storyteller. He chooses a single picture from his hand of six and tells a short paragraph, a sentence, or even a single a word connected to his picture.  Then each player chooses one of his pictures that best matches the story.  The cards are then mixed up and placed on the table face up.  Each player then bets upon what picture was the storyteller’s.

The munchkins absolutely love this game.  It is suggested for ages 8 and up but younger children can be successful as well as there is no reading required.  The illustrations are fabulous … even inspiring us to create our own, though expansion card sets are available.  Another great thing about this game is that the cards can be used as story prompts and thereby integrated into your language arts curriculum.

Pay It Forward

I recently was one of the lucky three that got to play along with Kylie at Our Worldwide Classroom in a little Letter Box Love.  When the parcel arrived all the way from Australia, I knew immediately who was sending it to me (Kylie had emailed me to let me know it was on the way).  The munchkins were overjoyed, “What is it?  What is it?!”  I opened it immediately and pulled out our surprise gift …

Two matching tea towels and a wooden boomerang!  The colors match the decor of my kitchen perfectly!  It was kismet!  So … now it is my turn. 

So you wanna play?

You really do, don’t you?!

The one and only guideline for the Pay It Forward fun is that as a recipient you must also Pay It Forward.

Ok … well all you need to do is comment on this post stating that you would like to join in the fun. I don’t have a large following so I’ll give everyone about two weeks … until April 13th to reply.


You must make sure that you either leave an email address in your comment or that I can easily find your email address through your profile. Then once the lucky 3 are chosen I’ll post here and will email the lucky 3 also, then it’s just a matter of waiting and keeping an eye on your mailbox.

There are also no rules about what you can and can’t send. Just think of something to brighten someone’s day. My gift certainly did that for me!

So you wanna play?

BarCon 2009

Every year since my daughter was an infant, we have been participating in a fun-filled weekend of games and chaos to celebrate friendship – many of which are life-long relationships. It all started 6 years ago when our friend Bar was reminiscing about the fun he had playing games with his friends when he was growing up. He had enjoyed a few game nights with friends and thought to himself, “How can I make this happen more regularly? How can I bring in friends who have since relocated to other parts of the country?” From this simple inquiry, he developed what we have come to call BarCon (Bar’s Convention of Games & Friendship).
BarCon is essentially the traditional game night expanded to cover the entire span of Labor Day Weekend – Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon. The first couple of years, most of the participants were single or DINKs (Double Income No Kids). Only two families had children – us (Sweetie was nearly a year old during the inaugural event) and one other family ( 2 boys who were then 8 and 11 years of age). By the third year, we had evolved to have several families with infants.
With the exception of the first year, BarCon has always had a theme. In 2005, it was “Movie Monsters”. The years that followed have showcased Pirates, Aliens, and in 2008, “The Good, The Bad, The BarCon”. This year the theme was Zombies – perhaps the most appropriate theme yet, as by the end of the weekend, with little sleep and the plenitude of alcohol, many of the die-hards are in fact zombie-esque. BarCon Bucks have been awarded for those who come dressed in costume and this year, we enjoyed our first costume contest. Spidey (pictured above with Buddy) was without a doubt the best zombie I’ve ever seen.
To add to the uniqueness of the event and due in part that many of the participants are computer engineers, a website was developed where participants are required to register for the event. The popularity of BarCon has grown so quickly that staffers have had to cap attendance to ensure there will be enough food and gaming tables for everyone. Upon arrival, participants are given goodie bags that have been filled with personalized M&Ms (it is always a surprise to see whose face will be profiled), protein bars, stickers, BarCon Bucks (for the auction), and other fun toys and goodies related to the theme. Name tags are included and come in handy as Bar has invited not only life-long friends but new acquaintances and work colleagues as well.
Throughout the weekend, participants earn stars and BarCon bucks for participating in games, winning games, hosting activities, bringing food and snacks, doing chores (taking out the trash, going to the store for more ice, beverages, etc.). An auction table is set up whereby an array of games, books, DVDs, etc. related to the theme are up for bid. The silent auction comes to a close on Sunday following a spectacular BBQ when the winning bids are announced.

Sweetie considers BarCon to be a national holiday – and the other boys (pictured above) say it comes in just behind Christmas in terms of fun! We wouldn’t miss it for the world. 🙂

Which Wings? A Word Families Activity

I came across a great activity in a Mailbox magazine I picked up at the library last week. Essentially it was station activity that provides an opportunity for learners to create a list of words with similar sounds or spellings. As teachers & parents of young learners, these are typically referred to as word families. For example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the “at” sound and letter combination in common.

Utilizing the Word Families chart from Enchanted Learning and the creative idea from Mailbox, I created a simple game for Sweetie to discover the word families on her own. Here are the steps to create the game:

  1. Using red construction paper, I traced out a circle shape several times.
  2. I then stacked several sheets together and cut out the circles.
  3. The circles were then cut in half to create half-circles.
  4. On one half, I wrote the word endings (-all, -ink, -ore…. )
  5. On the opposing half, I wrote the beginning sounds (st-, m-, b-…. )
  6. **Optional: I then created one slightly larger black circle with a half circle on one side to which I glued a pair of craft eyes.

Sweetie then played the game with me – I assisted her in sounding out the blends (a skill she is still working on). Here are the steps to play the game:

  1. Select one word ending (one right wing) and place a beginning sound (one left wing) next to it on the black template.
  2. Sound out the word and if it makes a true word, write it down on a piece of paper.
  3. Then select another beginning sound, continuing in this way until all the beginning sounds have been used.
  4. At that point, select a second word ending and proceed in the same way.

As I opted to create a wing for every word in the word family chart at Enchanted Learning, Sweetie created a words lists for only 2 families. It would have taken a long time to do all of them. I was thereby very pleased with little time was invested in creating this activity whereby its return will be great.

Sweetie and I are also putting together a variation for Buddy, using a simple picture on one wing and the starting letter sound on the opposing wing.

Sons of Norway Picnic

We attended the Sons of Norway annual picnic yesterday afternoon and had a wonderful time. Just the kiddos and I as DH had made plans to fly RC planes with his buddy. He has also told me that he is expected to socialize, mingle and work with people as a part of his job… on the weekends and evenings, he is very tired (his job is intense and stressful) and prefers to just relax, do whatever chores need doing, and invest his free time in his family and personal interests.

I understand what he is saying… where he is coming from. He is a very social person. When we are together, I rely upon him to get conversations started. I am generally very quiet in large groups… I’m really quite shy when I don’t know anyone. It is actually beneficial that I attend these functions on my own as it forces me to open up and engage others in conversation. The only drawback is that it is difficult to do this when I must also watch the kiddos.

We haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet everyone – I know only a handful of the other members. One woman I met today, Priscilla, is originally from England. When we returned home and I was glancing at the lodge newsletter I discovered that she is a marathon runner and was recently inducted into the Distance Runners Hall of Fame. She won the Boston marathon in …. and hold many Masters records. I wish I had known this at the time I met her – I would have loved to talk more and even to ask for her autograph! I will certainly seek her out at the next gathering.

When we first arrived, Sweetie had brought along a cross-stitch project she had just started. She got to work on it right away and many of the older ladies were intrigued and impressed that Sweetie was doing it on her own. One woman asked her her age and Sweetie said she would be 6 next month. “Oh. You’ll be starting school soon. Where will you go?” The woman inquired. “I homeschool.” The woman smiled and said, “You are very blessed.” Sweetie replied, “Yes. I am lucky.” The woman then looked at me and with a smile asked, “So I would guess she is at the 3rd grade level?” I answered, “In some subject areas, nearly so.” Sweetie announces, “I love math! I’m starting a 2nd grade book soon!” Shortly after everyone had eaten, the games began. The social committee members had done a spectacular job organizing everyone and getting everyone involved. I was impressed with not only the variety of games but also with how everyone participated. The games were very simple and brought everyone to riotous laughter.

The games started with a Water Balloon Toss. The kids loved this and soon, the adults were joining in on the fun. It turned out to be a great way to get everyone up and motivated as it was a rather humid afternoon. The group was then divided into two teams. Between the teams were two sawhorses with a 2×4 laid across the top and secured with vise-grips. Each team then took turns attempting to strike a nail with a hammer while holding it with just one hand (the little ones were given an exemption from this rule). The first team to get the nail all the way through was declared the winner. We played several rounds of this game (I’ll call it Hammer Relay) – it was a huge hit!

Another game involved teamwork, as pairs had to work together to move two planks across the playing field. This game was appropriately called Troll Feet and illustrated upon the planks were the painted red toes of a troll. The highlight of the day, though, was undeniable a Rubber Boot Toss whereby participants, divided into two teams, raced one another to fling an adult man’s rubber boot through your legs and up and over your backside (you had to bend over to do this). The goal was to get the boot to go forward ahead of where you were standing, but this took a little getting used to. My first attempt sent the boot about 20 feet behind me which set my team back a huge margin. We managed to catch up but were not able to make up the difference in time.

We all had a great time – particularly the kiddos. We look forward to future gatherings. I would like to get more involved – we’ll see what opportunities may develop.