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STEM | News

Combat Summer Brain Drain with Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' and Sophia.org

Sophia.org and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" have joined forces to offer a bevy of free learning activities designed to entertain and keep young minds sharp over the long summer months. Students visiting the social education website this summer can enter a contest—the Sophia Summer Challenge—for a chance to win an iPad. The site features fun science experiments kids can do at home, and info on what's happening with the latest Mars Mission.

Using the Internet and digital resources to engage students just makes sense, said Nye in a telephone interview with T.H.E. Journal. The veteran science educator and former Disney/PBS television host acknowledged that the Web is where today's students are spending their time.

"Kids today are looking at screens on their smartphone, tablet, computer, television, up to seven hours a day," said Nye. "We want to take advantage of that. Since that's where they're spending their time, that's where we want to engage them. Take a few minutes of those seven hours and keep your academic proficiency up."

The Sophia Summer Challenge, an online contest designed to reinforce math skills, kicked off last week. Students, ages 13 and up, can view tutorials and complete short quizzes within one of the site's math-focused learning pathways to be entered into a drawing for an iPad. The math learning pathways include basic math, Algebra 1, geometry, calculus, and statistics. Sophia will give away one iPad each week during the contest period, which ends July 29, 2012.

Also found on Sophia.org is a library of Bill Nye science demonstrations. Students can learn how to grow mold, create tornadoes in their kitchens, listen to their heartbeat with a homemade stethoscope, and more from the interactive demos.

"I have always believed that we need to take science out of the textbook and make it interactive and fun," Nye said. "With just a few items around the home, kids can see science in action."

Nye is also CEO of the Planetary Society, a Pasadena, CA-based organization founded in 1980 for the purpose of advancing space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Nye and Sophia plan to push out news and demonstrations focused on the latest Mars mission to get kids excited about the Curiosity rover, which launched last November and is expected to land on the Red Planet in early August.

"The science demonstrations will be associated with observing Mars—what we call astrobiology," explained Nye. "They'll look at what we suppose are the requirements for life on another world."

Sophia, owned by Capella Education, is a teaching and learning website offering content, quizzes, and more than 25,000 tutorials developed by educators and experts.

To enter the Sophia Summer Challenge or view educational tutorials, visit Sophia.org. For news and updates on the Mars Science Laboratory or the upcoming Planet Fest, visit the Planetary Society Web site.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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