All posts by bholton

Shiver me timbers! It’s Talk Like A Pirate Day

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Ahoy, Challenge Island mateys! Did you know September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? There are plenty of ways to celebrate this silly, seas-sational holiday with STEAM-tastic fun. Be sure to check your local Challenge Island for field trips or schedule a themed birthday party for an extra splash!

Looking for at-home activities for your seafaring family? Scholastic has a treasure trove of ideas, including:

  • Hide “Buried” treasure: Hide pirate’s booty somewhere in your home or even in your backyard! Create a treasure map with clues for your kids to follow.

  • Create a pirate dictionary: Use this template to create your own pirate lingo! You can also use real pirate terminology to teach your kids how to truly talk the talk.

  • Read a pirate-themed book: There are tons of kid-friendly books on deck. Try How I Became A Pirate, Pirates Love Underpants, or Pirates Don’t Change Diapers.

  • Discover your pirate name: What’s your pirate name? Follow the simple steps from Magical Childhood and make name tags.

  • Draw or paint a Jolly Roger: All you need is a sheet of white paper and some crayons, markers or paints for this fun art project. Channel your inner pirate picasso and create your own Jolly Roger (pirate flag)!

At Challenge Island, kids will engineer their own wind-powered pirate ships. They’ll work together in Tribes to create a functional mast and sail for the ship using a variety of possible materials, then in full scientific fashion, they’ll test, evaluate and improve the  ship. Together, the Tribe will use creative and artistic skills to name and decorate their pirate ships before a final “Race to the Treasure!”

For more information or to sign up locally, contact us!

Solar S’mores for the Solar Eclipse

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Get ready for the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017! The total solar eclipse will be visible across the entire contiguous United States, making this a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about our solar system and our sun’s energy.

You can harness solar energy with a DIY oven project from NASA. Reward yourself after your hard work with a batch of delicious Solar S’mores. No campfire required!

Check out these fun, decorated versions from blogger Desert Chica!

You will need:

  • Cardboard box with attached lid. Lid should have flaps so that the box can be closed tightly. Box should be at least 3 inches deep and big enough to set a pie tin inside. (Hint: A pizza box works great!)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Glue stick
  • Markers (so you can decorate your oven!)
  • Tape (transparent tape, duct tape, masking tape, or whatever you have)
  • Stick (about 1 foot long) to prop open reflector flap. (Use a skewer, knitting needle, ruler, or whatever you have.)
  • Ruler or straight-edge
  • Box cutter or Xacto knife (with adult help, please!)

How to make solar oven:

  • Decorate your cardboard box with fun colors and patterns to make the oven a work of art!
  • Using the straight edge as a guide, cut a three-sided flap out of the top of the box, leaving at least a 1-inch border around the three sides.
  • Cover the bottom (inside) of the flap with aluminum foil, spreading a coat of glue from the glue stick onto the cardboard first and making the foil as smooth as possible. Line the inside of the box with aluminum foil, again gluing it down and making it as smooth as possible.
  • Tape two layers of plastic wrap across the opening you cut in the lid—one layer on the top and one layer on the bottom side of the lid.
  • Test the stick you will use to prop the lid up. You may have to use tape or figure another way to make the stick stay put.

Put the oven to work:

  • Set the oven in the direct sun, with the flap propped to reflect the light into the box. You will probably have to tape the prop in place.
  • Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes.

To make S’mores, you will need:

  • Graham crackers
  • Large marshmallows
  • Plain chocolate bars (thin)
  • Aluminum pie pan
  • Napkins!

Get cookin’!

IMPORTANT! Note that unlike most recipes, our s’mores have the marshmallow UNDER the chocolate. That’s because, in the solar oven, it takes the marshmallow longer to melt than the chocolate.

  • Break graham crackers in half to make squares. Place four squares in the pie pan. Place a marshmallow on each.
  • Place the pan in the preheated solar oven.
  • Close the oven lid (the part with the plastic wrap on it) tightly, and prop up the flap to reflect the sunlight into the box.
  • Depending on how hot the day is, and how directly the sunlight shines on the oven, the marshmallows will take 30 to 60 minutes to get squishy when you poke them.
  • Then, open the oven lid and place a piece of chocolate (about half the size of the graham cracker square) on top of each marshmallow. Place another graham cracker square on top of the chocolate and press down gently to squash the marshmallow.
  • Close the lid of the solar oven and let the Sun heat it up for a few minutes more, just to melt the chocolate a bit.


For step-by-step diagrams, head over to NASA’s Climate Kids website. You can find plenty of other activities and games by becoming a Climate Kid.

Don’t forget to tune into the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21!

Build a 4th of July Rocket!

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Whether you need a 4th of July activity with your kids or just want ideas for summer fun, building a rocket is a Challenge Island approved activity that you can do yourself.

You will need:

An empty water bottle

Thin straw

Wide straw


Make the launcher:

Hold the thin straw about an inch down into the mouth of the bottle.

Wrap a ball of clay about the size of a quarter around the bottle opening, sealing it tightly.

Squeeze the bottle to make sure no air escapes.

Make the rocket:

Seal up one end of a wide straw with a small ball of clay.

Place the open end of the straw over the thinner straw on the launcher.

Blast off!

Wrap both hands around the bottle and squeeze sharply in the middle.

Your rocket should fly through the air!

Challenge Island Summer Camps
This DIY rocket and tons of other kid friendly activities are a part of Challenge Island’s STEAMtastic summer camps and afterschool enrichment programs. It’s not too late to sign up! Some Challenge Island locations are still offering sign-ups for camp, and back-to-school is around the corner.