Families Giving Back. Ways to Give Thanks.

Families Giving Back. Ways to Give Thanks.

It’s that time of year again! The leaves are falling, turkey is to be had, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Now is the perfect time to turn your family’s attention away from football and the big feast and figure out ways to “give thanks” and give back to the community. Often times, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget about those who are less fortunate than us. Sit down with your family and brainstorm various ways that your family can come together and give back to those in need.

To get the ideas flowing, we’ve jotted down some wonderful ways that your family can start to give thanks. Does your family already have a way that they give back and give thanks each year? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Let’s hear all the great ways that My Virtual Academy helps the community now and all year!

Fundraise for a charity

We’re all familiar with the Salvation Army bell ringers that are at storefronts during the holidays. They are hard at work in the frigid temperatures to raise money for those in need. Your child could do theGive Back Money spare change same! Now, we don’t mean have your children ring bells or ask strangers for money, but maybe leave flyers on your neighbor’s doors stating that you are doing a bottle and can drive with the money benefiting a charity of your choosing. Or, you could go door-to-door asking for donations from those neighbors that you know. They also could ask bring up their fundraising endeavor to relatives and see if they will contribute.

Another fun, creative way to fundraise is to have your kids make holiday cards that they could sell individually or as a bundle of 5 or 10, with the money going towards the charity. Sometimes people like to feel that they are getting something in return for a donation and this would be a creative way to do so. If you choose to fundraise, please always make sure an adult is present when going around your neighborhood. It helps keep everyone safe and lets the homeowner know it’s a legit fundraiser.

Clothing and/or food drive

How many of us have old clothes lying around or clothes that their teen rapidly grew out of during their umpteenth growth spurt? Yes, us too! Why not hold a clothing drive? Shelters are ALWAYS in need of clothing, toiletries, shoes, food, etc. There are a ton of shelters, so all clothing sizes collected could certainly be used and appreciated. You would be surprised at the amount of clothing that people would donate to your cause when they hear you are collecting it. It saves them a trip to the thrift store and helps them thin down their closet!

In addition to clothes, food is of utmost importance for those in need. Collecting canned goods and other non-perishable items is easy, as most people have some that they don’t mind giving, especially during this holiday season.

Making and delivering meals

Volunteering in soup kitchens is a great thing and those kitchens always appreciate the extra help, but everyone and their brotherfamily breakfast volunteers there during the holidays. You’ll be tripping over other volunteers while you’re there so why not take your good intentions but redirect them to those surrounding you that might need a warm meal too? If you know of someone who might have handicaps that make it hard to make a meal or is elderly and could use some assistance, why not make a little extra at mealtime and make them up a plate? They would be happy to have the warm meal and the relieved burden that they didn’t have to worry about what to cook that night for dinner. Have a relative or neighbor who might be lonely? Why not invite them over to dinner? A hot meal and friendly conversation goes a long way and could make their day.

Handwritten notes of thanks

‘Tis the season for “giving thanks” so why not put the pen to paper and write a note of thanks? Have each person in your family write down people who made an impact on their lives or who simply did something nice or thoughtful that deserves recognition. The list could include teachers, coaches, mentors, tutors, siblings, parents, bosses, neighbors, etc.

You can either make the cards out of paper at home or purchase blank cards inexpensively at your local arts and craft supply store. Have each person pen a thoughtful letter giving thanks to that person in their life. Then, simply drop them in the mail with postage or hand-deliver them for an extra personal touch. We often think of things we wish we had said to someone once they are gone, so take this as a golden opportunity to let them know how much they mean to you.

November is a wonderful kick-off to the holiday season so start the season off right by lending a hand. Getting your kids involved teaches them from their youth that helping others in your community is an outstanding thing to do. After all, we know what they say, “it takes a village.”

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Scavenging for All Things Fall!

Scavenging for All Things Fall!

When fall finally rolls into town, we’re all ready for it! The dog days of summer have come and went and we are ready to start nestling down in our cozy sweaters and fall boots. It’s also a time when people love to be outdoors. The beautiful leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall, the air is crisp and fresh, bonfires are to be had and chili is to be made. It’s the perfect time of year, especially in Michigan! To get your kids outdoors and active when the weather starts to dip, why not entice them with a fun fall scavenger hunt? There are all types of things they could look for and places to go do them. You could explore a nature center, a metro park, or even simply your own back yard. Not only will the kids learn about science, but you can also incorporate math and maybe learn a bit about history too, depending on where you decide to hunt. Encourage kids to really take in the beauty and nature around them and look at things with a keen eye. You may want to pack along binoculars, bug catchers, and magnifying glasses so they can observe what they see. Sometimes all it takes is looking at something in a different way to spark a love of nature in someone! Also, make sure to bring along a pencil for checking off the found items and a little Ziploc bag to bring home found treasures! Scavenger hunts can be fun for all ages, too. Even the tiniest of kids can forage around looking for easy to spot things. As your children get up in age, make the hunt harder and include things like certain types of leaves, hard to find nuts or berries, and different types of animal tracks. It really is a fun event for all in the family, regardless of age! We’ll provide links at the bottom to free printable scavenger hunt pages for your younger children, but if you have children that are older in age, don’t fret because there are plenty of ways to get them immersed in the outdoors too.

Middle Schoolers

As the parent of a tween, it can sometimes be a challenge to get them motivated and off the video games or phones and into the outdoors. If there’s something else that we know about tweens, it’s that they love to eat, so pack some of their favorite foods and hit the road. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon of your adventure! Drive a little bit to a new state/metro park where there is lots of room to roam and places to discover!Hiking with family Next, try to look for new things, like fox tracks or unique birds that are native to that area. Kids this age will get bored if you make the scavenger hunt too simple. Asking them to look for harder to spot items will make your exploration that much more fun. If you have a tween who is resistant to the idea of a scavenger hunt, then take the lead and point out interesting or unique things along your walk. This will get them learning about their environment in a more subtle way. Have activity trackers? Another way to get your middle schooler interacting with the outdoors is to put those puppies to use and have a good, old-fashioned competition! See who can get in the most steps by taking different paths to the creek or who can get their heart rate pumping when choosing the hilly trail instead of the flat, lower level trail. Hiking is a sure fire way to build up your appetite so take a minute to meander over to the lake or a favorite spot you found along your path and have a picnic lunch. If you’re by the lake or pond, you could discuss what type of fish you think are in there, how different species affect the balance of the pond, and perhaps you could even discuss the types of boats you see on the water and why people chose to cruise on a kayak or sailboat versus a speed boat. The opportunity to learn and engage your child is everywhere you look when you are outdoors. Nature is your classroom and everything provides a learning experience!

High Schoolers

Getting your teens out for a fall nature hike is a bit easier than it is for those in the tween years. Often times, they are up for the exercise and enjoy a change of scenery. Offering to bring a friend or two along never hurt either! Instead of having a print out of things they are looking for, keep your teens involved by stopping to point out things along the way that you find interesting or that they could research. For instance, if you find a patch of unique greenery, ask them if they know what it is. If they don’t, you could encourage them to bring out their cell phones, do some detective work, and determine what it is. Same goes for determining what type of trees are in their forest around them. Are the leaves broad or narrow? Soft or needle-like? Is the plant they see poisonous or okay to touch? Can they identify a bird just by their song? The questions about things they will encounter are vast and by asking them to research and find out the answer, everyone will be learning! Leaves in the forest

Keep an eye out for the following and try to get your high schooler to identify them:

  • Berries
  • Trees
  • Birds
  • Plants
  • Rivers and where they flow
  • Various types of seeds or pods
  • Animal holes or homes
You can learn things in any environment and at any age! The world is a great place to explore and there are many parts that remain unknown. Getting your child engaged and interested in the world around them will help them care for and protect our planet and is a great thing to do. Have little ones and are looking for free printable scavenger hunt ideas for the fall? Check out these pages for great, easy-to-follow hunts for you child: We have a passion for learning and would love to help instill that in your child too! If they are in grades 5-12, we would love to discuss how virtual learning could help your child. Please click here for more information. The staff at My Virtual Academy looks forward to hearing from you!
Spooktacular STEM Projects to Try Today!

Spooktacular STEM Projects to Try Today!

There are tons of projects that you can do from home all year round that teach kids STEM, but with any holiday come new, exciting projects that are sure to keep your child entertained while learning a thing or two! Check out these Halloween themed STEM projects that are sure to have your child’s wheels spinning and creative juices flowing.

Magnetic Slime

Slime is all the rage these days and kids always seem eager to learn new ways to make this gooey, slimy, gross concoction. That’s where magnetic slime comes in! It’s super stretchy and squishy and does some pretty cool tricks, thanks to the addition of the magnetic element.

magnet

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup Elmer’s glue
  • ¼ cup Liquid starch
  • Disposable bowls
  • Craft sticks
  • Disposable gloves
  • 2 tablespoons Iron Oxide powder
  • A really strong magnet

Here’s what you do:

  1. Put the liquid starch into a disposable bowl. Add the Iron Oxide powder and stir until well blended.
  2. To the bowl, add the Elmer’s glue and mix really well. It takes a while to incorporate, but just keep stirring.
  3. Put on your disposable gloves and now mix the slime with your hands. Knead well until it’s thoroughly mixed. If you get any black solution on your hands or arms, wash it off right away as it can stain.
  4. To rid any excess liquid from the slime, dry it gently with paper towel. Once the excess liquid is removed, you no longer have to worry about your hands turning black. It only happens in the liquid state. Once you’ve completed this step, it’s ready!

Try moving the magnet slowly over the slime and watch it dance and rise to the magnet. It’s really cool and your kids from elementary through middle school will enjoy this activity! (Just watch out for little tikes because magnets pose a choking hazard)

Pumpkin Catapults

Who doesn’t love trying to fling something across the room? Just about every kid I know would love to challenge their family or friends and see who can build the better catapult and toss their pumpkin the farthest. Get the challenge started!

pumpkins

Here’s what you need:

  • Various size rubber bands
  • Plastic teaspoons
  • Masking tape
  • Fat popsicle sticks
  • Mini candy corn pumpkins
  • Mini real pumpkins

Here’s what you do:

You child(ren) can use the various objects listed above to build their own catapult. As a suggestion, look up images of actual catapults on the internet so they can pay close attention to how they are crafted. They will probably notice that catapults have a strong, triangular base, require a wedge, and will need an arm to hold the pumpkin.

Once their catapults are built, have them do trial runs starting with the candy corn pumpkins and then take turns launching the real mini pumpkins. Have them measure the distance that each person achieved and then crown a winner!

Pumpkin Castles

This is a great, fun little activity that even the littlest school-aged kids can do. It only requires to things (three, if you include a little bit of patience!) and is perfect for kindergarten and first graders!candy corn

Here’s what you need:

  • Toothpicks
  • Candy corn and pumpkins

Here’s what you do:

Put the toothpicks in one bowl and the candy in another. Working alongside your child, show them how to construct a castle by using the candy to hold the toothpicks in place. You can show them how to make squares for the base, triangles, pyramids, and cubes. Then, let them have at it and let their imaginations run wild! You’ll be surprised at what they come up with. The best part is at the end, they get to eat part of their creation!

Mutant Eggs

This experiment is so neat and with the added last step, makes it a fabulous, intriguing Halloween project!

mutant eggs

Here’s what you need:

  • Eggs
  • Mason jars or any tall glass
  • White or cider vinegar
  • Corn syrup
  • Green food coloring

Here’s what you do:

  1. Place the raw eggs into the jars and fill it with vinegar. You can loosely cover the jar if you wish and then leave it on the counter for 24-48 hours.
    • Did your child notice any observations when the egg was submerged in the vinegar? Little bubbles formed because the carbon on the egg and the vinegar reacted, causing carbon dioxide bubbles.
  2. After the time is up, remove the eggs from the vinegar jar and make your observations! The egg no longer looks like a traditional egg. It’s more of a rubbery, balloon-like membrane. Gently rinse off the egg.
    • Ask your child what happened to the shell. The shells of an egg are made up of two chemical elements: calcium and carbon. They stick to each other and form calcium carbonate crystals. Vinegar is very acidic and works to break apart the crystals so the shell dissolved and left us with that cool, rubbery membrane.
  3. In a clean jar, place the rinsed eggs and pour in enough corn syrup to submerge them. Add a few dots of green food coloring. Place the jar carefully in the refrigerator and let it sit for 24 hours. What you are left with are slightly shrunken, green mutant eggs!
    • What did your child observe in this step? The egg has shriveled! The membrane let water molecules pass via a process called osmosis. Since corn syrup has almost no water, the water moves out of the egg and into the corn syrup, causing the egg to shrivel up.

We think your kids will have a spooktacular time making these fun and easy Halloween themed STEM projects!