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The Operation Wonder Blog

Check out recent events, the latest in the world of STEM, STEM book recommendations and much more. Curious about something but don't see it below? Check out our Instagram for more pictures, ideas and information!

Virtual Pop-up Parties!

With all the changes happening in the world right now, there’s one thing that shouldn’t change - the opportunity to connect with each other and have FUN. It feels like no matter where you look, one thing after another is being canceled - but the joy of celebrating shouldn’t be one of those things. We want to be there to help you bring joy and wonder to it all - presenting our Virtual Pop-up Parties!

Posted on 
April 22, 2020
  by
Operation Wonder

STEM in Action : Counting on Katherine

We are so excited to bring you a math activity that’s perfect for kids of all ages! We know a lot of parents are looking for fun, meaningful content for their kiddos and this activity has a little bit of something for everyone. This STEM Storytime is based off our signature Wonder Hour event, and is full of exploration, opportunities for extension and creativity. As we hear Katherine Johnson say many times in the story, “you can count on me!”

Posted on 
April 1, 2020
  by
Operation Wonder

STEM in Action : STEM Activities to try at Home!

We have talked to so many families over the last few days and heard the same thing - we will take all the help we can get! In light of all of this COVID-19 craziness, we know that families are looking for easy and fun activities for kids that will help to bring some structure to this uncertain time. We wouldn't be more excited to help! Over the next couple of weeks, we will use this space to share a bunch of fun, interactive and easy STEM activities for families to try! In a world that feels confusing and uncertain to kids, having something consistent to look forward to can make all the difference. We will post each of these activities one at a time, just click on the images below to get a PDF or blog post filled with resources!

Posted on 
March 16, 2020
  by
Operation Wonder

STEM in Action : DIY Leprechaun Trap

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to share a fun way to put STEM in action at home, with a fun kids engineering challenge! The tradition of building a leprechaun trap goes back many generations in the United States - although interestingly enough it’s not as wide-spread of a tradition in Ireland! At homes and schools all over the country, you’ll find kids putting their engineering skills to the test as they design a trap that will capture the mischievous leprechaun before he can wreak havoc on their houses. We love any opportunity to put STEM in action, so we’ll start with a fun STEM Storytime and then share some ideas for creating your own leprechaun trap at home!

Posted on 
March 12, 2020
  by
Operation Wonder

STEM Books We're Loving in March!

Books are such a major and magical part of childhood. Reading can help enhance a child's imagination and creative thinking. This is why storytime sessions can be found all over Chicago and have been incorporated into school programming for youth. Reading a book to your child is also one of the easiest activities you can do. Here are some books that you can pick up at your local bookstore or library this month that celebrate women in so many ways.

Posted on 
March 3, 2020
  by
Lauren McSorley

STEM in Action : Make your own Balloon Launcher

In February, we featured a collection of some of our favorite STEM-focused books written by Black authors. One of my personal favorites is Whoosh!, which tells the story of Lonnie Johnson, the man who invented the Super Soaker. Growing up in the 90s meant summers full of water fights, and the Super Soaker was the BEST. I was so excited to find such a wonderfully written book all about the inventor and his challenges. It was also the perfect excuse to put STEM in Action by creating a kids engineering activity connected to the story. We recently featured this story during Wonder Hour, our STEM storytime, and we’d love for you to join in on the fun below wherever you are!

Posted on 
February 27, 2020
  by
Mary Hanna

Behind the Game : Rocket Launch

When it comes to planning STEM activities for large groups, we’ve got a couple of tricks up our sleeves. If you didn’t know, STEM Game Races is actually the kid-focused sister company of Escape Room Races, our corporate events offering. We were getting a lot of interest in a portable escape room option for kids and figured, why should adults get to have all the fun? The only difference? We knew there was something extra we could add to the kids event to really make it soar. Solving puzzles and figuring out secret codes and breaking into locks is amazing - but if the story is about an alien who is stranded on earth, wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually launch to his home planet?! 

Posted on 
February 24, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

STEM Books We're Loving in February!

Celebrating Diversity with our children is so important in today’s World. Black History Month is a great opportunity to explore diversity and teach our children (and maybe ourselves) something new.If your kids are in school, chances are their teachers have worked really hard to incorporate lessons, books and activities to highlight diversity this month. I am always so impressed with the creative, thought-provoking and hands-on activities teachers incorporate into programming for youth! Here are a few books that stood out to us this February and are related in so many ways to STEM programs for schools and Black History Month. 

Posted on 
February 17, 2020
  by
Lauren McSorley

Event Spotlight : Wonder Hour at Purple Monkey

While we love our signature Space Escape event, we knew that Chicago was ready for more STEM-focused activities - and Wonder Hour was born! Wonder Hour is our very own STEM Storytime, where we dive deep into a story and then work together to complete a related STEM Challenge. Our very first Wonder Hour event was this past Friday at Purple Monkey and we had THE. BEST. TIME!

Posted on 
February 14, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

STEM + Reading ... Introducing Wonder Hour!

As a teacher, I was always drawn to the units and lessons that provided my students with a deep dive into their learning - they were fun, hands-on and super memorable. This resulted in a lot of project-based learning experiences, where kids worked together to create something that would demonstrate their understanding by teaching others. Even a simple read aloud often evolved from a quick picture book during snack into a full-blown STEM Storytime. The sad reality was that this happened less and less throughout my teaching career, as the standards and mandated curriculum always took precedence over the creative units of study. When we talked to families in the Chicago area, we heard that the same thing is true for them too! There’s a huge push for creative, play-based learning in early childhood, and it seems to fade away as a priority kids get older when there are so many kids activities to choose from. So we have an idea…

Posted on 
February 10, 2020
  by
Mary Hanna

Event Spotlight : St. Andrews STEM Takeover

We were thrilled when the PTL at St Andrews School in Park Ridge reached out about bringing our STEM Game Races Space Escape event to their school. The only catch - the school serves students from three-year-old preschool all the way through eighth grade. How do you create an event that is fun, engaging and just the right level of challenge for everyone? Challenge accepted!

Posted on 
February 4, 2020
  by
Mary Hanna

Meet the Team : Lauren

Here at STEM Game Races, we know how to combine hard work, creativity and fun into a one-of-a-kind event. But how does all the magic happen? Meet the SGR Team, starting with Lauren!

Posted on 
January 24, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

Upcoming Events

Want to join us for an event and see what all the fun is about? Check out our upcoming events in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs!

Posted on 
January 23, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

Event Spotlight : Sophia's Birthday Party

We always get excited when we have the opportunity to create a STEM-focused event - it’s basically our favorite thing ever. But what makes it extra special is when we get to bring our events to celebrate a birthday! There are so many different birthday party ideas for kids, that it can be overwhelming, to say the least. We know that parents have a million things on their plate and the last thing you want to do is plan a DIY STEM birthday party. That’s where we come in :)

Posted on 
January 23, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

STEAM - Creative Classes for Kids in Chicago

Winter is here and I am sure you have done every at home activity you can think of with the kids. Maybe this week, get bundled up and get out of the house to treat your kids to a creative afternoon at one of these awesome Chicago art studios for kids. Here at STEM Game Races, we know that flexing your creative muscle is so important! From pottery wheels to paintbrushes, there is something for everyone at these venues and who knows maybe you can get your arts and crafts on as well!

Posted on 
January 15, 2020
  by
Lauren McSorley

Behind the Game - STEM Puzzle Design

One of the most exciting parts of creating a STEM Game Races event is designing and testing the STEM puzzles that make up our event! But you might be wondering how we come up with all of our puzzle ideas? Or maybe you’re curious about the STEM skills you’ll put into action during the game? Or maybe you’re wondering how we make the puzzles a great fit for everyone? We’ll spill all the details below…

Posted on 
January 9, 2020
  by
STEM Game Races

DIY STEM Activities for Winter

I don’t know about you, but having kids in Chicago during the Winter is rough! It may be sunny and blue skies, but there is no going outside for a good chunk of the year. It's easy to find places for kids to run out their energy indoors, but what can you do to help them use their brain on these chilly days? STEM activities are a great way to get kids off the iPad and using their hands to engineer new and creative things.

Posted on 
December 20, 2019
  by
Lauren McSorley

Event Spotlight : Solorio Academy STEM Computer Science Family Night

When Solorio Academy reached out to us about having a STEM Game Races event at their first ever Computer Science Night, we couldn’t have been more excited. Solorio Academy High School is a pretty incredible place - and we were so honored to be a part of their community event! We set up our Mini Mission, where each team works through a set of challenges. These puzzles aren’t easy but the Solorio teams knew that just like their daily school work, patience, teamwork and grit would be their keys to success. 

Posted on 
December 13, 2019
  by
STEM Game Races

Meet the STEM Game Races Team : Mary

Here are STEM Game Races, we know how to combine hard work, creativity and fun into a one-of-a-kind event. But how does all the magic happen? Meet the SGR Team, starting with Mary!

Posted on 
December 12, 2019
  by
STEM Game Races

What's Grit Got to Do with It?

When it comes to teaching kids how to solve problems or persevere through challenges, we hear the same question - How?! We totally understand - and we see versions of this in every STEM activity we do with kids. A challenge is presented and it’s either met with excitement, anxiety or often a healthy mix of the two. As we dive into each of these questions, we’ll find that teaching grit just takes time, patience and a lot of celebrating along the way!

Posted on 
November 25, 2019
  by
STEM Game Races

Event Spotlight : KidCreate Studios

Here at STEM Game Races, the best days are the ones we get to spend with kids! We love the excitement on their faces when they solve a puzzle and the thrill when their rocket FINALLY hits the target! All of this, and so much more, happened when we teamed up with KidCreate Studio for an out of this world collaboration! 

Posted on 
November 21, 2019
  by
STEM Game Races

Eco-friendly gifts for the whole family this holiday season

The holidays are full of fun, family, food and gifts. It really is a magical time of year. It is also a time of year that has a very large environmental footprint.

Posted on 
November 20, 2019
  by
Lauren McSorley

6 STEM Gifts Your Kids Will Love this Holiday Season!

Holiday season is upon us! Finding gifts for your kids and your extended family can be fun at the start but quickly becomes overwhelming and expensive! Don’t buy gifts that will be in the garbage in two weeks time, buy something interactive and educational that will keep kids attention. We have done the hard work for you - here are 6 STEM based toys that kids will love this holiday season!

Posted on 
November 19, 2019
  by
Lauren McSorley

The 4Cs of STEM Series : Critical Thinking

For a STEM activity to move beyond just another team-building activity, we need to think about the rigor of the tasks. Critical thinking tasks can (and should!) look very different for different kids, depending on their age, the objective and the amount of support available to them! The best way to think about critical thinking is that is requires a person to pause, think about everything they know (and what they don’t know yet) and then develop and execute a plan to see the task through. For adults, critical thinking can happen at work, when faced with a difficult decision or when working on a Sudoku puzzle; anything that forces us to slow down and think counts!

Posted on 
November 16, 2019
  by
Operation Wonder

The 4 Cs of STEM Series : Creativity

So far, we’ve chatted about the types of communication skills needed for success in STEM, the importance of collaboration and the role that critical thinking plays in persevering through a STEM challenge. As we wrap up our series on the 4Cs of STEM, our focus will be on the element you are probably most familiar with - creativity!

Posted on 
November 16, 2019
  by
Operation Wonder

The 4Cs of STEM Series : Collaboration

In order for kids to be able to collaborate effectively, they rely on solid communication skills. Sharing their ideas in a way that makes sense to others, along with actively listening to their teammates allows collaboration to happen. Just like our own endless Google Docs and miles long email chains, we practice what we preach when it comes to collaboration! Parents today see the value in being able to work together and be sure everyone’s ideas are included because it’s a part of our everyday lives. The old motto “no one is smarter on their own than we all are together” totally rings true here.

Posted on 
November 15, 2019
  by
Operation Wonder

The 4Cs of STEM Series : Communication

We know that solid STEM activities pack a whole lot of learning into an experience that feels like just having fun. One of the ways we know an activity is great for our kids is because it asks kids to share their thinking with each other in order to solve problems. Communication is SUCH an important life skill and virtually every career we can think of relies on thoughtful, efficient and respectful communication in order to achieve success. To dive into exactly what this means for our kiddos and how we can help support their growth, we’ll break it down!

Posted on 
November 14, 2019
  by
Operation Wonder

The Scoop about STEM

There’s a lot of buzz about how kids learn best. The lingo alone can be overwhelming - STEM, hands-on, 21st century, technology-driven, personalized, project-based and so much more. We know that figuring out exactly how your child learns best is one of the most challenging, important and rewarding parts of being a parent and we want to help you unpack some tools for the journey.First things first - Why does school seem so different than when we were kids?!

Posted on 
  by
Mary Hanna

STEM in Action : Build a Bridge!

This STEM in Action challenge is all about bridges. We are going to hear a story about the Brooklyn Bridge, which is located in New York City and it is one of the most famous bridges in the world. And do you know how the engineers tested to make sure the bridge was strong enough for cars and people to cross? The answer is pretty WILD!

Posted on 
  by

Top 5 BEST Parts of Virtual Events for Kids

Over the last few months, we have been invited to more Zoom calls and Facetimes and Hangouts that we can count - all in the name of social distancing. When this new reality started to present itself a few months ago, we heard loud and clear that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation - woo hoo! Virtual classes became the new norm almost overnight - from singalongs and storytimes to workout classes and so much more. But it can be hard to tell - are virtual events worth the screen time for kids? Let’s break it down.

Posted on 
  by
Operation Wonder
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