OMNI Magazine — Free Online!

Those who remember OMNI Magazine, a science and sci-fi publication that spanned two decades, you’ll be happy to know you can find the full archives online at to share with your children as they explore not just science, but recent history and can explore the development of the last decades of innovation, as well as some incredible science-fiction shorts!

Edwin the Super Duper Otter

English: A pair of otters.

English: A pair of otters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seattle Aquarium just published an ebook available for free either for your ereader or as a .pdf.  As a fan of otters, this is an especially adorable book dealing with self-doubt, and includes both charming illustrations and real life video clips from the animals at the aquarium.

Check out Edwin the Super Duper Otter and download learning materials for free!  ^_^


Mmm . . . now I’m hungry for a cake made of sea urchin, clams, and crab.  Nom!

More Free Online Courses

Educación, más que 9 letras y un acento

“A people without education is a people easy to fool.” (Photo credit: jpazkual)

I’ve been a big fan of Khan Academy‘s free online lessons in mathematics, sciences, and a growing body of liberal arts (including Vi Hart’s “Doodling in Math Class” courses).   My best friend recently sent me links to two more sites:

Udacity is a site providing free courses in math, sciences, and programming, while Code Academy focuses entirely on computer programming languages, getting online students working in the chosen code from the outset.

And while I continue to appreciate (and even use these sites), I’ve been longing to find online liberal arts courses as well, especially history, art, architecture, and music theory/practice.  My boyfriend found a site with a long list of available online courses, some as videos, some as audio files, and others with a multimedia mix.  Open Culture provides a list of 500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.  It includes archaeology, architecture, philosophy, ethics, etc.  A few of the classes I’d seen before (e.g. MIT’s Open Course Ware classes have a greater diversity than one might expect, and includes a Building with the Landscape class my daughter and I want to learn from together to help us build a miniature hobbit house for our garden), but most of them are new to me, and come from schools such as Oxford, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley.  There’s even a series of free music courses provided by Berklee College of Music.

Considering my daughter’s now becoming interested in, and is showing maturity enough to handle, specialized courses in topics for which I have limited knowledge, this is a great opportunity for us both to learn shared interests together, and to explore individual interests separately.  For example, we might take a language, architecture, or music theory course together, but you can bet she’ll be more interested in biochemistry and cryptography, while I’ll want to dive into mechanical engineering and linguistics.

With these courses, we can explore complex lessons at our own pace, choosing to take one class a season, or three or four at once.  It also lets us discover whether we’re willing to commit to lengthy study in a given field without wasting thousands of dollars on tuition to figure it out.  These are resources that, when combined with books and discussion groups, can give a rewarding educational experience honoring the notion that every individual learns at a different pace, and can be interested and capable of learning any subject at any age.

A Free Resource: Crash Course

I just discovered another great educational resource (free!) on YouTube.  While I don’t want all of our lessons to be based in digital or video, I know supplemental multimedia really help my daughter better understand a concept.  It’s just the way her visual-kinesthetic mind works: if it has pictures or involves touch, we’re good.


Crash Course is a clever, informative, silly, and sometimes a bit naughty* growing collection of educational videos across two series: one is led by Hank Green and presents concepts in Biology, and the other is World History, as explained by John Green.  In case their last names and shared good looks weren’t clue enough, they’re a pair of witty, knowledgeable brothers.  They’re also known for their other vlog works: Brotherhood 2.0 and the VlogBrothers (including Truth or Fail).

I’ve only watched the first video of each series, but I’m already a huge fan.  I can’t wait to start showing these to my daughter tomorrow, and determine how we best want to incorporate them into her current education!  Even better, the first World History video ties in with her on-going ancient civilization work, AND it talks about the start of agriculture, which ties in with our gardening and my farming research.

Let me know if these videos are already part of your experience, and how you use them, or if you’re new to them like we are, what your thoughts are.


*By “naughty”, I’m referring to the slight hint at sexual activity in the first Biology video, titled, “That’s Why Carbon is a Tramp“.  While this is no problem for my family, I know there are some families who aren’t yet ready to share the details about sex and/or human reproduction with their children.

FoldIt – Solving Puzzles for Science


Image via Wikipedia

RawStory featured the story about online gamers who helped crack enzymes in the same family as the AIDS virus. It refers to a program called FoldIt, still in beta at the time of this post, that I had never heard of before. Apparently, my partner had tried it for a short time, but hadn’t mentioned it. This sort of gaming is a new and growing phenomenon wherein gamers used their problem-solving energy in virtual worlds to help solve real world problems.

I mentioned this before when I first heard about Evoke. After nearly a year, I still haven’t received confirmation from them, but my status still reads as pending approval. In the meantime, I’m going to give FoldIt a shot, and encourage my daughter–and her 11 year old, elastic brain–to do the same.  Even better, FoldIt works with Windows and Mac platforms, so we can both play on our respective laptops.

Vanished! Mystery Science Project from M.I.T.

MIT in conjunction with the Smithsonian and other museums will be holding a two month project/interactive game with students online* between the ages of 10 1/2 – 14 (on the Smithsonian web site, it says 11-14).  The sign up page reads:

An environmental disaster has taken place on Planet Earth and we need your help.

The Smithsonian Institution and the MIT Education Arcade invite all scientists-in-training ages 10 ½ to 14 to log onto VANISHED and help decipher clues that unravel one of the world’s biggest mysteries.  An online/offline interactive event, VANISHED is an eight-week episodic quest that will transform you into principal scientific investigators who must collaborate to find the answers.  You will race against time as you solve games, puzzles, and other online challenges; visit real museums; collect samples from in and around your homes; and even partner with some of the Smithsonian’s world renowned scientists and investigators, to help unlock the  true secrets of this catastrophe—before it’s too late.


I just helped Daughter sign up for this interactive science mystery project which begins on April 4th, and wanted to get the word out to any other parents or teachers who work with children around these ages.  It does appear, based on the FAQ after sign up, that younger and older participants are able to sign up, but it will primarily be geared for those within the specified age range, and their work will be what provides researchers with the data they need.

For more information or to sign up visit

*The online forums and games will be linked with real life activities to do around the home or school, and to optional live events held at select museums.