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Here Are Some Sneaky Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning at Home

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Written by Aaditya Tangri, Co-Founder & CEO of Kalebr Americas and Founder of STEAMathalon

There is a common misconception that the traditional notion of ‘education’ is something that only happens at school, but the evidence tells us that the home environment is one of the most powerful influences in a child’s development. Think about it this way – children only spend half their waking hours in school during the academic year. This means much of the learning is still being done outside the school gates.

Yet without the textbooks and library, why is home an ideal place to learn? As a start, in many cases, it replaces the traditional, row-by-row directive teaching format and instead provides an interactive, anxiety-free, and often joyful environment that by its very nature encourages play-based learning and discovery. Learning at home really refers to anywhere that isn’t the classroom – the local park, holiday resort or, indeed, the kitchen counter or great outdoors. Children experience countless learning encounters in these external environments, and parents and carers can amplify the learning benefits by guiding the direction of at-home play and discovery.

Studies reinforce that we must strive for educational environments infused with fun to support the mental well-being and positive learning outcomes of young ones. The truth is, when we erase joy and comfort from learning, we distance our learners from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, may become anxious, bored or distracted. They simply aren’t engaged. This is where the beauty of at-home learning further reinforces itself.

In fact, scientific neuroimaging studies have revealed when students are engaged, motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely between neurotransmitters and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. Therefore, home provides the perfect positive environment for happy and stress-free learning, even when the kids don’t realize it.

Beyond the brain sparks, at home learning is also the perfect playground for building twenty-first-century skills. These skills are a hot topic in education today and for a good reason – some even call them the new building blocks for learning. Children will need to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive global landscape, and at the same time, they’ll have to collaborate with other individuals from all over the world. Creativity and innovation will be highly valued alongside solving challenges with clear communication. While schools are beginning to make the shift toward 21st-century teaching, there is a lot that parents can do to foster these skills at home, too.

Help your kids learn and thrive beyond the school gates through play-based activities that the whole family can enjoy.

Problem Solving and Creativity
In the future, complex problems that we can’t even conceive right now will be everywhere. With societal advancement, there will be more manageable conflicts that may be more complicated and varied. To get ahead in a competitive world, a child will need to be able to think critically, to observe, analyze, and come up with smart solutions to a variety of dilemmas. The more we focus on a child’s ability to devise effective solutions to real-world problems, the more successful they will become. Furthermore, creativity is the process of imagining what can be done, the skill that every changemaker needs. Parents can encourage original thinking by getting children to identify a problem or question, then brainstorm solutions, invent a plan and put it into action.

  • Lava Floor. Create an obstacle course indoors, outdoors, or both, and have the kids get from start to finish within a time limit without touching the ground. Scatter props throughout the path such as a broomstick, bike or rope to serve as possible tools along the journey. Kids can work independently or collaborate to make it to the finish line. This game is all about identifying pathways, creating solutions, innovation, perseverance, teamwork and time management.
  • Destination Alphabet. Pick a destination on the map beginning with the letter A and move alphabetically around the map with as little distance as possible between each successive town/destination. As they go, kids use a calculator to figure out distances between their alphabetically ordered itinerary of towns, with the winner coming up with the shortest distance from A to Z. This is a simple but highly engaging game useful for encouraging kids to use math, geography and their problem-solving skills to come up with effective answers.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Write the letters of the alphabet on small pieces of paper and place them in a hat. Ask your children to draw out five letters, and then search the house and garden to find items or things beginning with that letter. This is a great game that encourages creative thinking and can be played almost anywhere. It’ll also keep your kids occupied for a long time.
  • Eye spy with my little eye. While out and about, or even at home, challenge every family member with this classic game that requires creative observation. Encourage the kids to look for more obscure objects and compliment them on the things they observe. This game helps kids learn how to be more attentive and even encourages lateral thinking.
  • NPA – Number Plate Acronyms. Whilst sitting in traffic or driving long distances, get rid of boredom by asking your kids to come up with each imaginary words for each number plate that belongs to cars on the highway. This is a useful little exercise to get them to think out of the box and is always accompanied by plenty of laughter and cheer.

Collaboration and Communication
The most successful companies know how to hire the best people and get them to work toward a common goal. Children must now possess the ability to collaborate seamlessly in both physical and online spaces and find ways to work with real as virtual partners all over the globe. This is why projects and games are good opportunities to teach children the importance of teamwork. As they work together, children learn self-control, diplomacy, empathy, and time-management.

  • Charades. The classic game of communication requires kids to act out a famous person, movie or everyday object using signs and successfully reveal the title within a short time period without uttering a word or giving away any names to their team members who must guess correctly. This game teaches kids to select the most relevant information and use their body language and creativity to effectively convey an idea, encouraging observation and perception among the participants. It’s also an effective way to build confidence.
  • Jenga. Build up the blocks into a tower and then take turns to carefully remove the blocks one by one. Kids must work together to keep the tower standing for as long as possible, whilst being mindful about selecting the right block to minimize damage or any kind of instability in their tower. Jenga is great for encouraging communication by offering instructions and recommendations to everyone as they collaborate to produce the best possible outcome together.
  • Tin cup and a string. Have the kids create a (non-electrical) acoustic speech-transmitting device made up of two tin cans, paper cups or similarly shaped items attached to one end of a long taut string or wire. Have them test its acoustics by sending messages to each other across your home or even in the backyard. This activity teaches them about a form of mechanical telephony, where a sound is conveyed through vibrations either via a liquid or solid medium before being reverted back to its original form as a sound.. This is perfect for encouraging scientific thinking, innovation and relies on physics as well.

Tech Savvy
Sure, you turn to your child for help when you set up a new smartphone, but the ease with operating gadgets isn’t the same as understanding the best practices for effectively using them. Getting children in front of devices like laptops or gaming tablets tends to get a bad rap, but the ones that encourage children to pick up skills like coding or thinking in 3-D are great for positive education. The next generation must become tech-savvy and learn to judge the validity of several streams of information while navigating different social media platforms at the same time.

  • Become social media collaborators. Team up with your kid to create a family blog or a social media page, where you can post photos, updates and even accomplishments s. Work together to create content, edit information and engage with your friends and family. This will not only improve your child’s writing skills but help them prepare for the future when they’ll have to work on reports and presentations.
  • Get gaming. Video games aren’t necessarily evil. They help kids learn how to create objects or even entire cities and virtual worlds through coding. They’re great for building tech and spatial skills and can even help children with special needs develop several skills. Games are a blend of entertainment, engineering, creativity, and social media skills.

Fortunately, every parent can hone these essential abilities through cool activities and games that make long make long car trips and weekends go by quickly as kids learn the skills they need to be brilliant 21st-century learners.

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Pop Culture Show Popcon Middle East Comes to Dubai in November 2022

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Dubai will be hosting its first edition of PopCon Middle East (PopConME) from the 10th  – 13th  November 2022. Promising the ultimate weekend, PopConME will showcase the best in Movies, TV, comics, graphic novels, anime, cosplay, and much more. In partnership with Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), Speedy Comics, and Alanza Trading, PopConME will take place at the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC), Expo City Dubai, featuring exclusive workshops, movie screenings, Cosplay gaming competitions, and much more.

PopConME will be running as part of Dubai Esports Festival (DEF 2022) taking place from the 9th – 20th November 2022, the most exciting esports and gaming event in the Middle East, and a trend-setter for the region’s gaming industry which is set to cement Dubai’s position as a year-round global hub for esports and gaming.

“We are excited to introduce PopConME to Dubai. I have been a fan of comic books since I was a child and have been entrenched in the community from an early age. This is a dream come true for a true geek like me. I want this convention to have everything and more my geek heart desires.” said Amer Rashed Al Farooq, Deputy CEO, Speedy Comics Group, the region’s number one destination for vintage comics and pop culture collectibles.

This festival will give fans the opportunity to celebrate their favourite celebrities, meet like-minded people, and indulge in the world of fantasy all under one roof. Comic book geeks will get the opportunity to meet and greet their favourite talents up close, attend exclusive workshops and buy one-of-a-kind merchandise at the Artist Alley. Packed with interactive zones and activations PopConME will host its own People’s Choice Cosplay, Dungeons & Dragons, Pokémon/Yu-Gi-Oh Card Competitions.

Featuring a line-up of some of the biggest international talents, PopConME has already confirmed the attendance of Nightmare on Elm Street actress Katie Cassidy, who is also known for her portrayal of the demon Ruby in the fantasy horror series, Supernatural and Black Canary in Arrow. Also confirmed to attend are CW Supernatural Kevin Tran and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency actor, Osric Chau, and voice actor Ray Porter best known for his portrayal of DC Comics Villain, Darkseid in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

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3D Printing

Abu Dhabi-Based Khalifa University Develops 3D-Printed Glasses to Help Correct Colour Blindness

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Khalifa University of Science and Technology, a consistently top-ranked research-intensive university based in Abu Dhabi, has developed a new method to manufacture customized glasses using 3D printing that could help people with colour blindness. Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) is an inherited ocular disorder that manifests itself by limiting the retina cones’ ability to transmit the whole spectrum of colours.

With red-green colour blindness being the most prevalent form of CVD, the most common way of dealing with everyday difficulties is by wearing tinted glasses. Now, a team of researchers from Khalifa University has developed lenses using transparent resin mixed with two wavelength-filtering dyes to provide a tinting effect. To customise the lenses and make them as similar as possible to commercially available products, the team used two dyes – one blocked the undesired wavelengths for red-green patients, while the other filtered unwanted wavelengths for yellow-blue patients, with volunteers for both groups attesting to the lenses’ efficacy.

Even though glasses based on this method are commercially available at present, they are not comfortable for wearing, nor optimizable. However, the Khalifa University research team has developed its own frames for the lenses, using 3D printing to optimize the frames for comfort and usability, making them as close as possible to regular glasses.

Dr. Haider Butt, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Khalifa University, said, “Our results showed that 3D printing had no influence on the wavelength-filtering properties of the dyes. In fact, the dyes remained unchanged as they were integrated with the resin and 3D printed. When we compared the optical performance of our glasses with commercial glasses for colour blindness, our results indicated that our 3D-printed glasses were more selective in filtering undesired wavelengths than the commercially available options. They have great potential in treating colour blindness, and their ease of fabrication and customization means they can be tailored to suit each individual patient.”

The glasses underwent several tests to address toxicity, durability, and longevity concerns. These tests included storing the glasses in water for over a week to analyze whether any dye would leak and leaving them out in the open under ambient conditions for another week. The glasses exhibited tensile strength and flexibility, proving their stability and long-lasting properties.

Khalifa University’s research outcome presents an opportunity for people with color blindness to mitigate their inability to distinguish between shades of certain colours that could restrict them from working in fields where color recognition is critical, in addition to carrying out everyday tasks. The research was funded by organizations from Abu Dhabi, including real estate developer Aldar Properties, and Sandooq Al Watan, a social initiative.

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Emirates Mars Mission Tracks Martian Dust Storms

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The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is returning a number of unique observations of Martian dust storms, providing an unparalleled depth of information and insight into the way in which these storms evolve and spread across huge swathes of the planet.

Hope provides a powerful platform to observe details of the structure and variability of the Martian atmosphere.  Coordinated observations made by the EXI camera and the EMIRS infrared spectrometer characterize the thermal state of the surface and lower atmosphere and provide details of the geographic distribution of dust, water vapor, and water and carbon-dioxide ice clouds over time scales of minutes to days.

The EXI camera system collects images at three visible and two ultraviolet wavelengths – providing a multispectral “weather satellite view” of Mars.  The color composites presented here are assembled from images taken through EXI’s blue, green, and red filters (centered at 437, 546, and 635 nanometers).   These images are “calibrated” products that have removed many of the artifacts introduced by the camera system and also provide the observation geometry information to allow for mapping.  The contrast has been adjusted to enhance the visibility of the surface and atmospheric features.

EMIRS is an interferometric thermal infrared spectrometer (operating in the 6-40 micron wavelength range) that complements EXI in characterizing the lower atmosphere of Mars. EMIRS measurements are used to determine the distribution of lower atmospheric constituents such as dust, water ice, and water vapor (presented here as optical depth – related to the number of aerosols suspended in the atmosphere).

In addition, Mars surface temperatures and atmospheric temperature profiles up to 50 km from the surface are measured.  For the figures shown here, EMIRS data are averaged over an individual orbit of the Hope spacecraft (a time span of about 55 hours) to construct “globes” of dust optical depth (shown as shades of red, overlaid on a 3D map of surface elevations; these “globes” are centered at 4°N latitude, 100°E longitude).  The warming of the suspended dust by sunlight leads to increased atmospheric temperatures, which are also detected by EMIRS.

Rapid evolution
Starting in late December 2021, EXI and EMIRS monitored a rapidly-evolving regional dust storm as it expanded to a size of over several thousand km.  A series of EXI and EMIRS “globes” are presented here (orientated with north to the top), documenting the growth and dissipation of the storm over nearly two weeks.

The prominent dark “shark’s fin” feature in the EXI images is known as Syrtis Major. In this area, thin deposits of dark basaltic sand cover the surface of a gently-sloping shield volcano.  To the south, the tan circular feature is the Hellas impact basin (the largest crater on Mars – about 2300 km across, and up to 7 km deep) – often shrouded in dust and water-ice clouds.  In both the EMIRS and EXI globes, a green star marks a “reference location” (an 85-km diameter impact crater) to visually aid tracking features in both data sets.

On 29 December 2021 (EMM orbit number 153), EXI captured a fully illuminated disk of Mars nearly centered on Syrtis Major (image center: 24.6°S, 81.1°E). It was mid-winter in the southern hemisphere (Ls = 149°).  As is typical for this season, the atmosphere was relatively clear, with only thin water-ice clouds visible over the plains to the east of Syrtis.  As is also typical, Hellas appeared to be filled with tannish dust clouds, obscuring deposits of surface ice mantling the southern portion of the basin.  The EMIRS observations during this time confirm the relatively thick dust clouds in Hellas but detect only low amounts of suspended dust elsewhere. This set of EXI and EMIRS observations provides a baseline to compare with the subsequent views of Mars obtained over the following two weeks.

On 5 January 2022 (EMM orbit number 156), EXI obtained this half-illuminated view of Mars (image center: 12.3°S, 94.8°E) — the sun was just setting near the center of the disk.  Apparently forming over the previous week, a massive dust storm (about 2500 km across) was approaching from the east and was partially obscuring Syrtis Major; greyish water-ice clouds are also evident in this storm.  Hellas was completely shrouded by dust clouds.  The EMIRS observations clearly show the high concentrations of dust in the Syrtis and Hellas dust storms, with a “dust haze” extending far to the east.

On January 7, 2022 (EMM orbit number 157), this mid-day EXI observation better reveals the extent of the dust haze and greyish water-ice clouds spreading to the east of Syrtis Major and to the north of Hellas (image center: 22.8°S, 97.9°E).  The EMIRS data reveal the increasing thickness of this diffuse dust haze, suggesting the active lifting of dust from the surface extending at least 4000 km eastward from Syrtis Major.

On January 9, 2022 (EMM orbit number 158), EXI observed a fully illuminated hemisphere centered on Syrtis Major (image center: 22.7°S, 62.6°E).  The dust-lifting has extended to the west, with a discrete multi-lobed dust storm (about 1200 km across) swirling over northwestern Syrtis.  The dust haze is very prominent covering the plains eastward from Syrtis.  Again, EMIRS reveals the extent of the dust clouds – dramatically portraying the increased dust optical depth from NW of Syrtis all the way to the eastern limb of the map – spanning about 1/3 of the circumference of Mars!  Compare this set of observations with the relatively clear conditions prevailing on 29 December 2021!

The final time step is for January 14, 2022 (EMM orbit number 160).  EXI shows a late-afternoon (nearing sunset) view of Syrtis Major (image center: 8.5°S, 117.0°E).  No discrete dust storms are visible; instead, a pervasive dust haze partially obscures and extends eastward from the entire Syrtis Major/Hellas region.  EMIRS data also indicate the thinning of the haze, with the amount of dust significantly reduced.  The continuation of the dust veil to fill the Hellas basin is evident in both the EXI image and EMIRS map.

As the Martian season approaches southern spring, dust storm activity typically becomes more pervasive.  The Hope observatory is a valuable orbiting asset in documenting the location and evolution of dust storms on the planet, giving unprecedented observations and insight into the nature of these storms and their characterisation.

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