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BrainNook: Virtual Learning World for Elementary Students

What it is: BrainNook is a virtual world for kids where they can develop math and English skills while playing in the free online playground.  There are over a hundred education games packed into the BrainNook virtual world, all of them are based on foundational math, English, and grammar concepts.  The math games cover concepts from single digit addition to 3D spatial visualization.  English games cover everything from building simple sentences to counting syllables.  The games are all woven into a fun virtual world that students can explore and unlock.  BrainNook also strengthens students reading, reasoning, decision-making skills, analysis, and computer literacy.  Students choose a character (alien) and name, when they enter BrainNook for the first time, they are dropped onto Earth where their spaceship has crashed. They are greeted by an earthling named Bella who teaches them how to navigate the world, and earn stars by playing games. The stars that are earned can be used to buy back spaceship parts.   Students can travel to several locations within the virtual world that are based on real-life regions of the Earth  Students learn about each region through trivia, question popups, and local artifacts. In each world students can play math and English games with other players in the safe online environment. As they build up their skills, new worlds will be unlocked and they can buy items from the local market or work on assembling their spaceship by assembling puzzles.  The games in BrainNook are scaffolded so it adjusts to students ability level as they progress.  Games can be played individually or in head-to-head competition. Because this site is geared toward elementary students, no personal information or personal messages are included in the virtual world. How to integrate BrainNook into the classroom: BrainNook is a brilliant virtual world for elementary students in first through fifth grade.  The virtual world allows students to learn and practice math and English skills at their own pace, and at their own unique level.  The games are great for building and reinforcing foundational learning skills.  Because the game progresses as students do, students could continue on in their virtual world throughout their elementary school experience.  BrainNook is ideal as a computer lab activity or in a 1 to 1 situation.  If you don’t have time to use BrainNook as a virtual world for each student, consider signing up for an account yourself that can be used as a class account.  Review the games that match up with skills students are learning in class and have the whole class play the games using an interactive whiteboard or on classroom computers as a center.  Make sure to tell parents about BrainNook, this is a fun way for students to get extra math and grammar practice at home. Tips: If students sign up for an individual account, they will need a parent’s email address validated before play.  BrainNook also has a school account option that you can learn about here. Please leave a comment and share how you are using BrainNook in your classroom.

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NASA’s Be a Martian

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 22-02-2010

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What it is: I have always been intrigued by space exploration.  NASA’s Be a Martian feeds this intrigue by giving an up close view of Mars exploration.  Here students can virtually explore and learn about the human-robotic partnership that makes virtual exploration possible.  Students can become citizens (this requires them to create an account) or explore with an “Anonymous Tourist Visa”, which is how I explored.  Students can send virtual postcard messages to the Spirit Rover in her new home.  After composing their own message, students are taken to a virtual Mars where postcards with messages rain down.  Students can click on a postcard to read what others around the world have written.  In the map room, students can watch a video detailing the history of mapping and learn how NASA scientists map today.  Students can become virtual map makers by matching up map image fragments, and counting craters.  In Two Moons Theater, students can watch videos starring NASA scientists, explorers, and Mars.    Students can ask and vote on questions that they would like to see answered in the Polling Place.  In Tourist Mars Atlas, students can explore the surface of Mars and learn that there is more to Mars than a giant expanse of tan.   

How to integrate NASA’s Be a Martian into the classroom: Feed your students curiosity about space exploration and Mars with this great interactive environment.  Students have the opportunity to learn about the work that NASA scientists do, practice their observation skills in map making, and learn some great history about space exploration, and map making.  I really like that NASA has included a place for students to ask and vote on questions that they would like answered.  What a neat way to help students understand that we don’t have all the answers and that scientists ask questions, explore, and experiment to learn more.  I think that younger students (primary elementary) would really enjoy the crater counting activity.  Do this activity as a class using an interactive whiteboard/projector or individually as a center.  This will help students to look for detail and practice counting together.  Older students will enjoy trying their hand at mapping Mars and learning more about the history.  Have students learn about the Spirit Rover and her job on Mars before sending a message.  Some of the postcards include location information, it might be fun to track the locations of the postcards in Google Earth with placemarkers.  Then, explore Mars using Google Earth or Google Space.  The Google tools complement this site nicely.

Tips: There is an impressive contest section on NASA’s Be a Martian site, the deadline for entries is April 16, 2010.  The contest challenges us to come up with videos about Mars, interactive software or games, or write an efficient image processing application.  NASA is including us all in the exploration of Mars.  These challenges would be outstanding for older students to take part in…talk about authentic learning!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NASA’s Be a Martian in your classroom.

Comments (5)

What an excellent way of teaching and learning about space. Way cool!

This looks like a great site to use in the classroom or at home for kids who enjoy space. In my child’s school, they have a “Project Fair” each year and this would be a great idea to help with a project dealing with space.

Authentic learning indeed! It’s wonderful when entities like NASA encourage kids to become involved. AND acknowledge that we certainly don’t have all the answers.

This looks like so much fun. I’m so annoyed that these tools are available to these kids and I was stuck with poorly copied images from an out of date textbook. Great find and share.

I know, I am always bummed that I didn’t get to learn with these tools when I was a kid. That is probably why I geek out about them so much now…gives me a chance to learn like a kid!

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