Well…here we are. It’s the 2020-21 school year, and my school is starting completely digital. All of our students will be learning virtually, and the teachers at my school are reporting to the building and teaching from our classrooms. When I heard the news, I was relieved but also disappointed. ~It’s okay to be both.~ I was relieved because of the safety aspect, but I was disappointed because I love teaching with kids in my classroom. I mean that’s why most of us started teaching right? We did it for the kids. On top of that, I teach Science and LOVE doing hands-on activities and labs. Some students come into my classroom with a love for Science or a strong dislike for it, and I mean STRONG. Introducing Science in a fun way is one of my favorite things. In the digital world, Science looks completely different, but it can still be fun and engaging.
I was introduced to Merge two years ago in 2018. The Merge Cube paired with the Merge Explorer App uses augmented reality and virtual reality to explore Science concepts in fun and engaging ways. I remember rushing to Walmart and buying one. I brought it to school the next day, and showed all of the other 6th grade Science teachers and my teammates. We then decided to use some of our Science money to go to Walmart and buy all the Merge cubes they had! At that time, we used their app to explore space and the different planets. My students LOVED it and freaked out when I showed them how to use it. (They also loved taking selfies with the solar system!)
Fast forward to 2019, and I couldn’t wait to show my students the Merge Cube for our Astronomy Unit. I designed a “scavenger hunt” for them to complete while exploring the solar system. I came up with some questions they could answer while using the Merge Cube. This is what the “scavenger hunt” looked like:
- How many Earths could fit inside the Sun?
- Name the Inner Planets:
- Name the Outer Planets:
- Besides Earth, which planet is the most explored in our solar system?
- Which planet is the smallest in our solar system?
- Which planet is the largest in our solar system?
- Which two planets rotate backwards?
- Name the planets with rings.
- Which one is more dense: Jupiter or Earth. How do you know?
- What is column A describing? What is column B describing?
Again, their faces were priceless when I showed them how it worked!
Then it was the 2020 school year. Astronomy is one of my favorite units to teach, but we went digital before we got to this unit. I was bummed that my students wouldn’t be able to use the Merge Cubes. Then Merge came out with a paper cube, and I was ecstatic! I sent the link to my students and had them download the Merge Explorer App. We used the Galactic Explorer Topic Card which is free in the app. (This was an optional activity since it required a printer.) If you want to use it for this upcoming year, you can print some and have students and parents pick it up from the school if they’re coming for other supplies, or you can mail it to the students that need it. I had a parent email me and say that their child couldn’t wait to show them when they got home from work! (In the pictures below, I’m using the paper cube.)
When you return to work and start having meetings about what resources you’re going to use, I really believe Merge is so beneficial for Science teachers. I would propose using money from your curriculum team to purchase a Merge Account. (There’s a school-wide option for a subscription and an individual option.) You can unlock a free trial, and see how it works. Once you get your Merge Account, you’ll have access to the teacher dashboard, which has activity plans that go along with each topic card. They also took the different topic cards and matched them up with every state’s standards. That was so cool to me. You search for your state and your grade level, and the document shows you which topic cards would work best. Remember the paper cube is free, and there are always certain topic cards in the Merge Explorer App that are free! Check it out for yourself, and let me know what you think!
Head over to @merge on Instagram to enter their giveaway to win some merge cubes and a subscription!