Summer Fun in Northeast Chicagoland

We can become nostalgic about summer vacation. If you think back on your own, this was a time of exploring and developing your independence. Times change but children do not.

TechStars camps help your children continue this tradition by introducing children to new things while having fun.

First and Second grade students learn Video Game and Puzzle Design. Students CREATE their own interactive Video games, puzzles & quizzes in this cool class! Working with a partner, customize the game’s “designs,” add challenges and levels of difficulty, then share them with the class . At the end of the program, games created are able to be downloaded to flash files (.swf) from our Cloud to challenge their family & friends!

This age group can also learn the basics of Minecraft. This class has them learning to work together in a virtual but protected world. They will interact with each other to accomplish goals, all under the supervision of the teacher with no outside players. This is a safe way for children to learn about virtual teams and Minecraft fun.

Older students can also learn more Minecraft skills in this protected realm. Redstone introduces electrical concepts, (the students believe they are just crafting). Modding is an introduction to coding, and how small changes can make a big difference.

Speaking of coding and programming. We offer a wealth of classes on the topic. Block-based options including Scratch are used to programming different robots depending on the class. If your child is more advanced or ready to take on more challenging platforms, we have classes that use Python and HTML.

If your child is more creative, be sure to check out our offerings that include video game design with Sploder!, Roblox or a special one where student program using an xBox controller! Storytelling is also explored through digital movie-making and claymation.

Check out our home page for links to your local community center to see what we are bringing to your neighborhood this summer!

Allowing Children to Learn

While researching topics for this month’s blog post I read the following in the article STEM education myths in early grades by VIctoria Clayton published March 25, 2019 on District and it really made me think.

a 2016 study that found kids show up for kindergarten with uneven exposure to science, technology, engineering and math. That gap—which can dog students through middle school—is so real that researchers can more consistently predict future academic achievement based on preschool math abilities than on early reading or attention skills.”

If we look at our post Inspiring Girls into STEM ,  We see that according to a Microsoft study 73% of girls wanted to improve when they grew up. Most children will find their place in the world the more they explore it. This means letting children get their hands on their world earlier. As parents and educators we need to step back and let children experience what they are learning. We don’t mean letting them touch the hot stove, but digging up things, counting pine cones, searching the stars, watching dinosaur videos on YouTube, and building LEGO towers over and over. By doing these things we allow our children to experience and learn about STEM in a natural way.

Children want to learn, they just don’t necessarily want to be taught.

In an article written by Grant Piros on March 27, 2019.  Sparking Change in Teaching Practices for Edutopia. Org He resported on a Twitter survey he did about  the moments that caused teacher to change their practices, most of the answers he responded to were those that were moved to let students learn, instead of teaching. The quote that will grab educators and parents came from a fourth grader show saidI did not really enjoy all the talking you did. I enjoy more doing than explaining. I think that next year you should think about letting us figure some stuff out ourselves.”

At times, the learning that this student is talking about can look like play. If they spend “screen time’ playing a variety of video games are they playing or are they learning game mechanics. Yes a teacher could stand at the front of a classroom and discuss the differences between a platformer game and and adventure game, and our teachers do this to a point. But a student is not going to really understand the difference until they get in there and get absorbed in a game to know the difference.

Inspiring Girls into STEM Education

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 2014 on 18% of Computer Science graduates in the US were women. It is imperative that we encourage girls to study the STEM fields. In less than 10 years the US will need 1.7 million more engineers and computer scientists. The AAUW states that this “strengthens the talent pool and leads to better creativity, innovation and productivity” . See  “Solving the Equation Quick Facts”.

Why aren’t there more girls entering STEM fields? According to in an article by Talia Milgrom-Elcott (Sept 11, 2018),  “A study conducted by Microsoft found that 72% of the girls polled said it was important for them to have jobs that directly helped the world, but only 37% thought of STEM careers as being creative or making the world better.”

We have always presented out classes in an explorer and discover environment. We do this by giving students plenty of time to experiment with the platforms we are using to introduce any concept, from spelling and counting with preschoolers, to robotics and programming with older students. (Click here for our Summer Flyer 2019) Often creativity and inspiration comes during these points in our classes.

As parents we know that a wild interest can be spurred in children from unexpected places and they should be exposed a variety of topics, using a variety of media, to inspire them and to broaden their horizons for their future.

Dr. Warren Buckleitner of The Children’s Technology Review has given the app Women Who Changed the World a fairly high rating. The app was developed by LearnyLand($2.99 on iOS) and is for ages 7-up.

Eight strong female role models are highlighted in this well designed high-quality, interactive experience. The interactions, quiz questions, reading, audio and graphics all combine into solid interactive book experience. The history lessons are recommended for children of both genders. The text is narrated in clear English, and the stories give you the chance to control the central characters. You can “fly” Amelia Earhart’s plane, answering short multiple choice questions, and testing your historical knowledge.

The website A Mighty Girl has a variety of things that you and your children might enjoy. They recently shared a variety of downloadable posters celebrating diverse women role models in STEM. If you visit the 70 Books to Inspire Science-Loving Mighty Girls you may end up with an overflowing Amazon shopping cart.

If you would like more information on this topic we recommend that you visit The National Girls Collaborative Project at 

STEAM Conference

On Wednesday, February 13th we participated in the Lincolnshire-Prarie View School District 103 Learning Fund Foundations first STEAM Conference.

If you are not familiar with STEAM, this includes the traditional STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, with the addition of Art!

This event provided almost 250 students with the opportunity to participate in many activities including coding games and robotics.

Head on over to the district’s Facebook page to see some great photos of the evening CLICK HERE.

We have included a copy of the event’s press releast for download STEAM Conference Press Release.

CES through the eyes of an expert

Last month we talked in this blog about the Consumer Electronics Show and why we as parents and educators should care about it.

This month we wanted to take a look at what was presented at the show. Our resident Children’s Technology expert Dr. Warren Buckleitner of the Children’s Technology thought were ‘pretty cool’. Included below are videos so we can see the show through his eyes and get his insight into the show.

  1. My Waymo Self Driving Car video lets you see what your autonomous car sees, as it sucks up the information from your town’s streets to make itself smarter. 

  1. The Wall by Samsung lets you build screens out of HD 6 by 8 inch blocks. This could have huge implications for classrooms or libraries. Why? You can make your big screen match your space, rather than the other way around. 

  1. Philips Avent Smart Baby Bottle is one of several cool baby gadgets I sent to the mother of my Grandson (aka my daughter). She’ll never use such a thing because she doesn’t even have a microwave. But this bottle can send information about the liquid inside the bottle to your smart phone via bluetooth, so you can check the temperature or track amounts and feeding times.


What are you most excited to see in your home in the future?

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