howtosmile blog

Zip a Zipper

rube goldberg stamp

Zipping a zipper is simple, right? Not if you're zipping as part of a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. In 2014, teams of students nationwide and internationally will compete to engineer the most complicated, ingenious machine they can to zip a simple zipper. That's the prizewinning goal for contestants in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contests for high school and college and the International Online Rube Goldberg Machine contest for ages 11-14.

AAAS Family Science Days

AAAS loho

No matter how cold it gets outside, science will heat things up during two free Family Science Days February 15 and 16, 2014, as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago. From 11 AM to 5 PM on both days, the whole family can explore interactive science exhibits, learn about cool science jobs, and have questions answered by scientists, all at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Purple Level. Visitors can also hear family-friendly talks about Your Brain on Video Games; Cheetah-Inspired Running Robots; Art Meets Science: Picasso at the Nanoscale; It's Not Magic, It's Science; Future Energy; and much more. 

Young Dinos/Young Diggers

keving terris

On a high school summer field trip, 17-year-old Kevin Terris made the kind of discovery professional paleontologists dream about. In Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Terris noticed a piece of bone sticking out of a boulder. The bone was part of a set of dinosaur toes, in what proved to be the most complete skeleton ever found of a baby tube-crested Parasaurolophus.

Counting Down to 2014


Let the countdown commence! How many months, weeks, days, minutes, even seconds until Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and other special holidays? Calendars, dates, and units of time take on much more meaning when you’re anticipating a special event. In Countdown: Counting with a Calendar, challenge learners to find different ways and units to express the time until a long-awaited event. 

Holiday DNA


When The New York Times asked how she would improve science education, Scientific American editor in chief Mariette DiChristina answered, "We need to make it easy for families to have fun with science — to ask questions about how the world works, and to explore answers together...everyone in the family can learn how, with just some dishwasher detergent and rubbing alcohol, to pull DNA strands out of a banana in your kitchen mixing bowl. Presto!"

Radio's Loh Down on Science Partners with for Nationwide School Contest

Loh Down on Science

Any public school in the U.S. can compete this November in a fun, online science contest with the chance to win a $1,000 cash prize. The contest is produced by public radio's Loh Down on Science in collaboration with One school will win—based on how many of the school's students participate and how often they answer science-themed, multiple-choice "Questions of the Day" (Monday-Friday) at The correct answer to each question, with a fuller explanation and related activity, will appear on the Loh Down on Science website the next day.

Connecting STEM with Children's Books

cloudy with a chance of meatballs cover

Connecting hands-on STEM activities with children's books can strengthen both STEM understanding and reading, while inspiring inquiry and creativity. Many activities were created with children's literature components. Judy and Ronald Barrett's bestselling Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is part of the probability lesson in the When Pigs Fly activity. Learners read the book and brainstorm possible and impossible activities—making predictions, recording data and graphing results.

Spooky STEM for Halloween

spooky raven

Planning a haunted house or spooky lab for your school, your neighborhood, or even your library? Stir some STEM into your special effects! Halloween-friendly activities at can increase the "ghoul factor" to engage learners in exploring mixtures, the immune system, light and vision, acids and bases, energy and more. (Many activities include step-by-step instructional videos.)

Chasing Ice for Earth Science Week


National Geographic photographer James Balog has spent years documenting the melting of Earth's glaciers. His stunning film Chasing Ice uses time-lapse cameras to "compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate." Chasing Ice will be on video and in education versions this fall. For Earth Science Week October 13-19, connect the film to climate change activities at