The goal of any educator should be to make learning fun. A few weeks ago, Brilliant or Insane came up with a list of 9 Inventive and Fun Activities for Learning. This week, we have extended that list of great educational games, apps, and activities. Every item on the list is packed full of fun learning ideas that won’t break the budget.
For students interested in the stars and the universe, Exoplanets is an excellent educational app. Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars outside of our own solar system. The app is developed and maintained by a professional astronomer and offers visually stimulating and interactive views of the universe. Users can fly around planetary systems, explore constellations, and see what the night sky would look like from a distant planet. The app is updated frequently with new discoveries. The entire Milky Way is open to exploration with just a tap of the finger.
8: Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest
Ok, this might sound a little gross, but there is a lot of educational value. Younger students can learn about measurements. For added challenge, this activity can be paired with a physics lesson. How do factors such as angle, force, height, and gravity affect the seed’s distance? Use a piece of chalk or string to mark the “firing line” and record the distance for each contestant. The lesson can also be tweaked into a math lesson as students gather data and graph the results.
7: Great Reads for Tweens
Not long ago I wrote an article for Brilliant or Insane about the 6 Great Books for Tween Boys. However, reading is one of the most important tools for learning and those six books are only a start. A great way to foster reading habits for both boys and girls is to use the free app Great Reads for Tweens. This innovative app gives readers the power to track books they’ve read or want to read. Readers can also get book suggestions based on helpful categories like “female protagonist,” or “animal characters.” This app is sure to steer students toward books they will love, not to mention promote a life-long love of reading.
6: Egg Drop
Have students work in teams to save an egg from breaking as it falls. Students might try to devise a soft landing or a mechanism to guide the egg to the ground. This simple activity can be modified to fit the age or level of the students as needed. Use a shorter height with a lot of soft materials for younger students. For students needing more of a challenge, increase the height and difficulty level. This could be a full scale physics project or a simple team building exercise. Either way, it’s a marvelous activity to teach collaboration and problem solving.
5: Potato Clock
Use the magic of science to power a clock using potatoes. This is another fun and engaging experiment for young learners. The materials are inexpensive and easy to find. Instructions that explain how to do it and why it works are available online.
Numbler is game not unlike scrabble or a crossword puzzle, but with numbers. It’s only $0.99 in the App Store. Players can challenge other players online or compete against the computer to sharpen their math skills in this addictive game.
3: Preserve Wildlife Tracks
A great way to get students interested in the natural world is to spend some time outdoors looking at wildlife tracks. Students can learn to identify different animals based on their tracks and they can preserve those tracks in a plaster mold. New Mexico State University has a downloadable PDF document to help with this process.
Duolingo is an app designed for iPhone and iPad that helps students learn languages. It’s completely free and there are many languages to choose from. The best part is that is makes language acquisition into a game that can be played with friends. The app is highly rated and was Apple’s 2013 app of the year.
1: Sid Meier’s Civilization
Parents are always skeptical that a computer game could be educational and fun, but Civilization really is both! The game requires long-term strategy as players take a historical civilization and guide them into flourishing modern societies. Game play does not follow a historical timeline, as players are free to choose the direction their civilization will take. However, players still learn a considerable amount about history, sociology, and other topics. They build cities, trade with other nations, develop technologies, forge diplomatic relations, and spread culture and religion. Perhaps the best thing about the game is that it isn’t focused on violence as much as cultural evolution. Players can wage wars but they should weigh the morality and the prudence of that decision first.
Think we missed an activity that should have been on this list? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Brilliant or Insane contributor Forrest Miller is a writer and an educator, specializing in ESL. He is from Oregon, currently living and teaching in China.