Recent Posts

Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours

Ivory soap experiment | Popcorn Soap in the microwave!We’ve got mixed feelings about GoldieBlox, but we love how it’s making everyone think about how science play can be fun. If you’re looking for ideas on how to engage kids in exploring the world around them, check out some of these ideas from the thread Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours.

Looking for ideas for STEM toys for holiday wishlists? Check out the thread: Wishlist: STEM Toys, or hop directly over to Amazon to read our Listmania list STEM Toys for Girls and Boys.

Simple STEM Activities

  1. Find a stream, and have a leaf race
  2. Catch fireflies
  3. Making paper air planes
  4. Yeast+water in soda bottle with balloon on top (balloon blows up)
  5. Soap in the microwave (check out the difference between Ivory soap and other brands)
  6. Growing salt crystals
  7. Put unopened/tight mushroom on paper until it opens up and release spores
  8. Make a pH indicator: cook red cabbage, add baking soda to some of the juice, vinegar to another jar
  9. Build a marble run out of toilet paper tubes
  10. Sprinkle salt on ice cubes, add food coloring
  11. Experiment with different soap bubble recipes
  12. Soak an egg in vinegar

Looking for more ideas? Got your own ideas to share? Check out the thread Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours.

Image credit: Ivory soap experiment | Popcorn Soap in the microwave! by GoodNCrazy

Affiliate notice: all links are affiliate links, and help keep our servers running! Read the rest of our disclosure notice to learn about our other affiliate relationships.

read more

GoldieBlox: Up With Girls (sort of)

We’ve had some discussion of GoldieBlox on the forum recently, but that conversation moved on and I’m finding myself still obsessed with the topic. On the one hand, I think the idea behind the ad is awesome! I had been having a hard time figuring out how GoldieBlox would be a toy that would be engaging over a long period of time of creative play, and the ad certainly directly addresses that point. And I love that my daughter has spent more than 6 hours over the last few days building her own Rube Goldberg machine.

But I am also interested in the views from this blog post on Fake and Real Student Voice

I like much about this video. I like the message. I like the way it’s shot. I like the girls. What I don’t like is the perception that this is the girl’s invention. It’s not. These girls are likely no more into inventing and making than most girls their age. While I might be able to look past that, and I can, I don’t like the perception that this is authentic as it suggests. Which raises the larger question of authentic student voice.

Somehow it seems even more disingenuous when I realize that the engineering team for the GoldieBlox ad is primarily male. If you watch the Making Of videos on YouTube, that’s the single thing that jumps out at me most. That, and watching the kids be coached on how to jump up and down in girly excitement.

For a palate-cleanser: a group of middle school girls build their own damn Rube Goldberg machine themselves.

I am not planning to buy GoldieBlox for my kids– mostly because every time I look at the toy itself, it seems very expensive for a very few pieces of plastic machinery without a huge amount of creative play options. If I did buy it, it would not be for the toy itself, but more like a charity donation to encourage women in STEM, and there are probably better ways for me to do that. But my kids have, love, and play with regularly:
Wooden blocks
Toolbox and wood scraps
Ropes, elastic (good for engineering and sewing), yarn, ribbon,
Science/nature kits with binoculars, magnifying glasses, notebooks, butterfly nets and cages, and a handful of field guides

They also have Snap Circuits and a toy chemistry set, neither of which were as popular as I’d hoped, mostly because they seem to like open-ended toys like blocks more than kits like Snap Circuits or GoldieBlox.

A while back, I put together a holiday wishlist including things like pulleys and tire swing swivels (the swing mechanics are part of their Rube Goldberg). I’m going to go back through it this year, and see what other “simple machines” accessories I can add to their collection. And I will be thankful (though apparently also grumpy) that the GoldieBlox ad has renewed their interest in simple machines.

Anybody else have strong feelings about GoldieBlox, encouraging STEM in our girls, the intersection of ideals vs. real world (WTF, seriously, if you are making a viral ad AND releasing a “making of” that will certainly also be shown to little girls, you can’t find a 50-50 gender balance in your engineering team?), or even parody vs. unlicensed music pirating for their theme song? Join me on the topic Goldie Blox, feminism, STEM, and an all-male engineering team.

Affiliate notice: all links are affiliate links, and help keep our servers running! Read the rest of our disclosure notice to learn about our other affiliate relationships.

More about the video: Grape Girls Rube Goldberg Project, May 2013, PVJH

read more

Affordable Care Act: What does it mean, and what to do next?

Health Insurance Marketplace, Affordable Care Act | 2013-11-19 11-12-59If you’re someone who was fervently supporting the Affordable Care Act, and you’re now neck-deep in frustrating web applications, what do you do?

I get why the ACA is important, but goddamnit, it really looks like my premiums are going to, at a minimum, double (after the tax credit) for coverage that has a 40% higher deductible.  But it is also nearly impossible for me to decipher what my potential costs might be without entering a fuck ton of somewhat sensitive information to even look at rates on my state’s marketplace.  I am an intelligent, internet-savvy person, and I cannot for the life of me muddle through this shit to compare what’s available and figure out what it might actually cost me.

Yeah, probably that. Spend hours (or days, or weeks) sorting through your options, and try to figure out how to piece together the coverage you need. Fortunately, this is exactly the sort of situation that the hive mind can help out with:

…have you checked to see if you are eligible for subsidies?  It goes up to 400% FPL, which is around $80,000 for a family of 3. This subsidy calculator from kaiser foundation is easier to use than most of the Exchange websites, and they are generally a good info source.

Just want to make sure that both kinds of subsidy are on your radar. At 200% FPL you have a premium cap of between 4 and 6.3% of income, and if you buy a silver plan you also get out-of-pocket cost supports such that the actual deductible on those plans may be lower. This latter bit isn’t talked about much. But see here:

Got a question to ask? Trying to make sense of the policy or the practical implications? Check out the discussion on The American Healthcare Debate thread, and join in the Q&A.

Image credit: Screenshot

read more

Salary Negotiations: Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse


What do you do when you’ve put in your time on the resume polishing and interview prep– and the offer you get is not what you were hoping for?

One of the things I learned in a negotiation class is to make sure that you start any negotiation with a target point (the best package of terms you could hope for) and a resistance point (the lowest you’re willing to take). Write it down, and keep it in your mind as you negotiate. And make sure you don’t sell yourself short on the target point – many people set it too low and leave money on the table. This blog explains the concept reasonably well.

Got your own salary question? Need a pep talk as you prepare for negotations? Check out the thread Make me an offer I can’t refuse (or salary negotiations) (log in first, it’s in the Work and School section of the forum)

Want more suggestions? If you’ve got your geek hat on, you might enjoy this guy’s take on negotiation , which walks you through the whole process with a series of scripts. Need a pep talk to remind yourself why it’s important to negotiate? Check out the site Women Don’t Ask— what happens when women don’t negotiate?

First and foremost, they earn much less money than men over the course of their careers. We calculated that just by not negotiating her first job offer—simply accepting what she’s offered rather than negotiating for more—a woman sacrifices more half a million dollars over the course of her career. This is a massive loss for a one-time negotiation—for avoiding what is usually no more than five minutes of discomfort—and it’s an unnecessary loss, because most employers expect people to negotiate and therefore offer less than they’re prepared to pay. And far more men than women negotiate their first offers. Since men also negotiate more than women throughout their careers—or negotiate more aggressively—the financial losses to women can be truly staggering.

In addition to the financial consequences, women often advance more slowly than equally qualified men because men are more likely than women to ask for prestigious assignments, volunteer for opportunities that will give them more visibility, and pursue raises and promotions that they think they deserve. Women, in contrast, often expect that hard work and high quality work will be recognized and rewarded without their asking. And this is frequently not true. Because they don’t ask to be considered for the opportunities and advantages for which men ask, they often aren’t recognized for the good work they do and don’t progress as fast or as far in their careers as their talents should take them.

So check out the links in this article, or drop by the discussion Make me an offer I can’t refuse (or salary negotiations), and ask your own questions or give some advice yourself. SPOILER: people posting to this thread are likely to get that extra salary they were pushing for. It’s a fun read just for the good news.

Image credit: 09-mar-11 by sashafatcat

read more

The Best Kids Books Never Written

Go the F**k to Sleep: Adam Mansbach, Samuel L. JacksonWhen you are sick unto death of rereading Go the F**k to Sleep, check out the thread The Best Kids’ Books Never Written. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired to write your own best-seller. And Samuel L. Jackson can narrate.

Here are some highlights:

  • If You Look Up While We Rinse Your Hair Then Water Won’t Get On Your Face- The Toddler Book of Strange But True Facts
  • Because They Have Germs On Them, That’s Why
  • The Toilet Has No Teeth: Why It’s Okay Not To Share Your Toothbrush
  • You Are Not Actually A Butterfly, So Your Coat Will Not Crush Your Wings
  • Thomas the Train is Scrapped Forever.
  • Ann Coulter’s Guide to Life for Little Angry People
  • When the Shit Literally Hits the Fan
  • How to Unschool Your Toddler Using Methods from the Nation’s Finest Penitentiaries.
  • Licking the Subway Pole: A Guide to Self-Immunization
  • Where Do Bitches Come From? A Child’s Guide To People Who Suck
  • Your Parents Are Boring and Mean: Why You Can’t Get a Potbellied Pig, A Solar Car, or a Zombie Graveyard.
read more