Tag Archives: homeschool science

Innovators Tribe: Engineering Review

If you are interested in helping your kids explore and develop their engineering skills, then you might want to check out the online courses from Innovators Tribe

Innovators Tribe currently offers 3 hands on courses for kids who want to learn to design, create, and build.

Thinking Like An Engineer 

Thinking Like An Architect

Thinking Like A Carpenter (coming soon)

We were recently sent a 2 year subscription to Thinking Like An Engineer for the purpose of this review.

Thinking Like An Engineer

Online Course

Interactive Lessons

Activity Guides

Design Software

Online Support

Thinking Like An Engineer is taught by Wayne Kroeplin, an experienced engineer and educator.  This is an “Introduction To Engineering” course designed for kids in 6 grade through 12th grades.  This course qualifies for highschool science credit, (check with your specific state for more info on highschool transcript requirements).

Thinking Like An Engineer is an online self paced course with 30+ hours of interactive lessons broken into 6 units.

  • Unit 1 – Introduction to Engineering
  • Unit 2 – Introduction to 3D Computer Design and Solid Modeling
  • Unit 3 – Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Unit 4 – Engineering Bridges
  • Unit 5 – 3D Computer Design
  • Unit 6 – Nano-Engineering

Thinking Like An Engineer includes 38 interactive lessons, 10 design and build challenge activities, activity guides, online support, and 3D design software, etc.  With the subscription to Thinking Like An Engineer, we were also sent a bonus course called Thinking Like An Innovator that contained 9 additional lessons plus 3 challenge activities.   Listed below is the course outline for both of these courses.

Course Outline / Table of Contents

Unit 1 – Introduction to Engineering

Lesson 1 :  What is engineering?

Challenge activity: Design the tallest paper tower

Lesson 2 :  Different types of engineers

Challenge activity: Design a paper structure that can carry the most books

Engineering in the News!

Lesson 3 :  Engineering clean water

Challenge activity: build your own water filtration system

Lesson 4 :  14 Grand engineering challenges of the world

Unit 2 – Introduction to 3D Computer Design and Solid Modeling

Lesson 1 :  How to get ideas out of your head (Tools of modern design and innovation)

Lesson 2 :  Introduction to your software

Lesson 3 :  Creating basic objects

Lesson 4 :  Moving and connecting objects

Lesson 5 :  Grouping objects

Lesson 6 :  Edges and faces

Lesson 7 :  Adding, Intersecting and subtracting material

Lesson 8 :  Material properties

Challenge activity:

Lesson 9 :  3D scanning

Lesson 10 :  Rapid prototyping – 3D printing

Unit 3 – Engineering Rollercoasters

Lesson 1 :  Types of roller coasters

Lesson 2 :  Roller coaster design

Lesson 3 :  Energy and a little math

Lesson 4 :  Roller coaster construction

Engineering in the News!

Lesson 5 :  How to become a roller coaster engineer

Challenge activity: Build a paper roller coaster

Unit 4 – Engineering Bridges

Lesson 1 :  An engineering mystery that stunned the world!

Lesson 2 :  5 types of bridges

Lesson 3 :  Parts of a suspension bridge

Lesson 4 :  How to build a suspension bridge

Challenge activity: Build and test your own suspension bridges

Engineering in the News!

Lesson 5 :  Bridges and physics

Lesson 6 :  Famous (and scariest) bridges in the world

Lesson 7 :  Structural engineering (and a little math)

Lesson 8 :  Testing the wind (gathering clues)

Challenge activity: Build your own wind tunnel and test your own model bridge sections.

Engineering in the News!

Lesson 9 :  What really happened that day

Lesson 10 :  Out with the old, in with the new

Lesson 11 :  What engineers have learned

3D challenge: Bridge design software

Unit 5 – 3D Computer Design

Lesson 1 :  Quick introduction to 3D computer design

Lesson 2 :  Introduction and installation of 123D Design software

Lesson 3 :  Learn how to use 123D Design (Tutorials)

Lesson 4 :  Let’s make a car rim!

Design Challenge: Create a piece of furniture!

Lesson 5 :  3D printing (3D what?)

Design Challenge: Make it better in 3D!

Unit 6 – Nano-Engineering

Lesson 1 :  How we see small things

Lesson 2 :  The discovery of a new world!

Lesson 3 :  What is Nano-Engineering?

Engineering in the News!

Summary – What do I do now?
Links for additional research in the world of engineering
High school offerings and career pathways


Thinking Like an Innovator

Lesson 1 :  The 6 steps of innovation (A tragedy at sea)

Lesson 2 :  What is a problem?

Lesson 3 :  What is an idea?

Challenge activity: Brainstorming!

Lesson 4 :  How to create more ideas

Lesson 5 :  Brain Games!

Challenge activity: Mental fitness

Lesson 6 :  4 Poisons to innovators

Lesson 7 :  The secret ingredient

Lesson 8 :  How to make money!

Challenge activity: Solo cup

Lesson 9 :  Woman Innovators

Check out this short video for more information about Thinking Like An Engineer course from Innovators Tribe:

Our Experience:

We have only had this course a few weeks so far and all I can say is wow!  This course is a wonderful way for kids to explore the field of engineering in a hands on way.   Their time is divided between spending some time at the computer watching the lessons or designing, and other times actually creating different challenge projects.  I am thrilled this course can be listed on my kids highschool transcript and can help them meet those requirements for graduation, while at the same time learning practical knowledge and skills that will help them as adults.

Each time my son sits down to work on his course, he is able to work independently and progress at his own pace.  He logs into his program, watches the video lesson, then proceeds to the challenge activity if there is one for the lesson.  Some of the lessons have challenge activities, and some do not.

My son has finished the first four lessons and challenge activities in Unit 1 and is currently working in Unit 2.  I have primarily focused this review on his experience with Unit 1.  His favorite part so far has been the challenge activities.   There is a course outline / syllabus and a basic materials list that you can download and print.

For the first unit challenges, we gathered materials from around the house, and picked up a few at the local store too: pencil, paper, scissors, clear tape, ruler, measuring tape, masking tape, a small construction level, recycled soda bottles, measuring cup, spoon, water, dirt, coffee filter, rocks, sand, etc.

The Challenge Activities kids get to do include designing and building: various towers, structures, water filters, and more.  The Design Activities kids get to do include:  roller coasters, bridges, Rube Goldberg machine, and learning to design with 3D CAD software.

This is a great opportunity to learn about engineering.

Here are some of the hands on challenge activity projects my kids have been building:

Challenge Activity Lesson 1 – Design the tallest paper tower as tall as you can using only 4 sheets of paper and 1 foot of masking tape. Try to reach a goal of 5 feet tall that can stand on its own without falling over.

He tried several times to get his tower to five feet, but I didn’t get a picture of all of his attempts.  The tower was difficult to get it to stand straight without it falling over.

He eventually built his base wider and wider for better stability and it resulted in a shorter than 5 foot tower.

He wanted to explore this concept even more, so he tried a different method on his own with four more sheets of paper and 1 more foot of masking tape.  This time he turned his paper into a grid so he could work with it better.  He said he prefers working with blocks instead of circles.

He went with a wider base again to support the upper levels and prevent it from falling over.  This base was tall too.  We discussed that he could have used a shorter base that was still wide.

He came up with a model he liked, that wasn’t as tall as 5 feet, but stood straight without falling over.

Challenge Activity Lesson 2 – Design a paper structure that can carry (support the weight of) the most books.

Again, he chose to work with block shapes for his support structure.

He managed to load 31 books just fine, but on the 32nd book his tower of books collapsed on 1 side.

He made various structures several times to try different systems to see which design could support the most books.

Challenge Activity Lesson 3 – build your own water filtration system.

This was a fun experiment.  My son used a plastic bottle, cut in half, and covered the pouring end with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band. Then he added a layer of small pebbles, and two layers of sand to create a water filtration system.

Next, he mixed dirt into water in a measuring bowl and stirred it with a spoon until most of the dirt dissolved into the water.  Then he slowly poured the dirty water into his filter system.

He was very pleased when the water coming out of the homemade filter was clear and all of the dirt was gone.

This is an excellent lesson for kids and adults of all ages.  There is a shortage of clean water in this world.  There are people in in various places who don’t have clean water to drink, to cook with, or to bath in. Many people die from diarrhea from bacterial and parasite contamination they get from dirty drinking water.  Knowing how create a water filtration system could save your life someday.

He would definitely want to make a few modifications to this homemade filter before actually drinking this water.  If left as is, he could use the clear water by boiling the water to kill any pathogens before consuming it.   Or if he had access to add a layer of charcoal to the bottom layer, and a layer of grass to the top layer of this filter, and possibly even use a bandanna or tee shirt as the first layer the dirty water is poured through before it enters the filter system, would help to get the water as clean as possible.

Even his little brother was impressed he could turn muddy water back into clear water.

It seems like kids are natural engineers.  They love to explore, build, create, and problem solve.  From birth their mind is filled with wonder and great potential. Kids naturally have an optimistic outlook and most of the time they still believe that everything is possible.  Father God is the greatest engineer of all time, and we are created in his image.   No wonder kids are natural engineers!

My son really likes this course and says he enjoys learning from the instructor, Wayne Kroeplin, because he explains everything very clearly and he gives lots of examples.  He is interesting to listen to.  When the course is finished, hopefully he will have reached the goals of what it means to think, problem solve, design, create, and build like an engineer.

Goals kids will be able to reach by the end of this course include:

  • Explain and apply 6 steps of problem-solving.
  • Know how to use techniques.
  • Explain ideas.
  • Explain “solution.”
  • Demonstrate the use of different brain-games that boost innovation skills.
  • Identify the 4 poisons to innovation and their cure.
  • Explain the importance of engineering and problem-solving using real-world examples.
  • Explain 14 grand problem-solving challenges that need solutions.
  • Define: tension, compression, twisting, bending, shearing, torsion, vortices, vortex shedding, aerodynamics, dead load, live load, structural-engineering, girder, truss, friction, potential and kinetic energies, g-force.
  • Give examples of how math subjects are used in engineering: Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Trigonometry, Probability & Statistics, Physics.
  • Demonstrate the correct use of various tools: ruler, construction level, 3D design software, etc

Thinking Like An Engineer is a terrific course.  We are having a lot of fun with it. I would encourage everyone to give it a try.  A great skill to have is to learn how to identify a problem or need that might be in your own home or community or across the world, and solve the need with things we can design and create.  Father God has truly blessed us in his image with an intelligent mind and so much creative potential.

Social Media

Be sure to check out the website and social media for all the latest news and product updates.  There are also some interesting videos on the teacher’s youtube channel and you can get an even better feel for the kind of teacher he is and the materials he teaches.  Right now InnovatorsTribe is running a special sale of 35% off all their courses.  The current sale runs through 11/11/17.

Website (InnovatorsTribe): https://www.innovatorstribe.com/

Youtube (Wayne Kroeplin):  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRZ9sOi8qIKqFH3Z5g7VURg

Homeschool Review Crew

Be sure to check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about using products from Innovator’s Tribe in their home.

Please share.

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

Ready Set Go!  It is time for school you know!

Yes it is time for school to start and we have a fun Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers created by Funtastic Unit Studies to tell you about.  I am sure you will want to include this fun curriculum in your learning adventures this school year.

Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers


Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers

Large book, 201 pages, Soft Cover
For Kids ages 4-13
Retails $16.95

Units Studies:

There are 20 Unit Studies in this curriculum. The first ten chapters are for younger children ages 4-7, while the second ten chapters are for children ages 8-13.  Each chapter is filled with fun hands on science activities that teach science concepts built around a specific theme.


Our Senses
The Human Body
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
Insects and Their Kin
Fun with Magnets
Stars and Planets
Beginning Plants
Animal Ecology
Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
Atoms and Molecules
Chemistry Fun
Force and Motion
Simple Machines
Light and Color
Plants II

Materials needed:

At the beginning of each lesson is a list of the supplies needed to complete the learning activity.  Activities are designed to use common household items, so you won’t need to buy lots of expensive scientific equipment or chemicals.

The END GOAL is to have FUN learning science and relating it to real life.

Screenshot (86)

How We Used This In Our Home.

After looking through the curriculum, we decided to begin with the unit study on learning about Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life.  This chapter has 6 sections and involved about 15 suggested activities and a video plus a materials list.

  • Dinosaurs
  • Herbivores and Carnivores
  • Fossils
  • Extinction
  • After Extinction
  • Recommended Movie

The curriculum is flexible and depending on what projects you do, you can adjust the unit study for the skill level of your kids.  We love unit studies and I have learned over the years, any unit study can be adjusted as needed.   So I decided to make this unit study interesting for all of ages of kids in our family (15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 3) and do this together.  It was perfectly suited to do this with so don’t think you are locked into a certain age range on a given subject.

We did a range of projects and included some simple activities for the younger kids and some more complicated activities for our old kids too.  We completed 10 of those suggested in the book and added about 10 more of our own including creating a lapbook to keep of our fun learning adventure, learning to create our own Dinosaur Zoo in Minecraft and care for their needs in a virtual setting, creating a Dinosaur Feast, taking field trips, and watching several more dinosaur videos.

First we gathered our supplies and read over the lesson in the book.  The lesson is basically 8 pages of activities ideas and supply list.    Next we planned out several activities to reinforce the learning adventure.  Here is some of the fun stuff we did.


Through out this study we watched several dinosaur movies and documentaries.IMG_7852 - Copy

Videos We watched:

The Magic Schoolbus Stegasaurus.

Located this video on Youtube.com

The Best of Discovery Channel Dinosaurs

Located a whole list of Discovery Channel’s kid friendly dinosaur videos on Youtube.com

MineCraft Dinosaurs

Located a video “How to create your own” dinosaur worlds and zoos like Jurasic Park.

A Trip Back In Time To The Beginning

This is a video we made of our visit to the Creation Museum to see dinosaurs last summer.  Link is posted below under “field trips”.

Flash Cards

I found Dinosaur Flash Cards for $1 and bought a couple of sets to learn with.  The set came with 50 different full color illustrated dinosaur cards.  This was such a great buy and worked perfect for our learning adventure.


These had many facts about each different kind of dinosaur on the back of the card.   We practiced learning the different kinds of dinosaurs and categorizing them into plant eating herbivores, or meat eating carnivores.


Then I found a free set of dinoaur fact flash cards online to use in our lapbooks.  We printed them, colored them, wrote each dinosaurs name on them, and cut them out, and created a pocket to keep them in the lapbook.  You can play games with them and organize them by type or size or by what they eat etc.

Math and Measurement

We took Measurements in the yard to see how big the dinosaurs were and then charted the lengths and heights on graphing worksheets.  Our flash cards with lengths and heights of different dinosaurs were portable to take outside and came in handy again!

IMG_8221 IMG_8224 IMG_8225


We created dinosaur dioramas based on what we learned.

IMG_7857 IMG_7859 IMG_7860

Changing Prefixes and Suffixes and Invent and Draw Our Own Dinosaurs

The kids learned a list of 15 prefixes and 14 suffixes.  For example: “Dino” means “terrible” and “saurus” means “lizard” so dinosaur means terrible lizard.   They wrote them out on index cards and learned how combining the two parts gives the description of the kind of dinosaur being described.  Then they made up their own new dinosaurs and drew them and colored them based on what they named them and thought they might look like.


Computer Science Skills VIRTUAL Dinosaur Zoo

The kids created a dinosaur world on MineCraft based on what they learned in the video tutorial.  They built facilities, and had to feed them, water them, keep them safe,  etc in the  “zoo” system they built for them.  They have all kinds of dinosaurs you can raise and care for with different kinds of needs.  Also safety is an issue as you might need to escape from them if your character gets into a situation where you could be eaten. In the tutorial, the fella drops his gear into a pool and in the pool is a large scary croc-dino and it eats him every time he goes in to get his gear / tools so he can progress in the game.  Anyway, it is really fun and creative.

Be a Paleontologist:  Sandbox Dinosaur Dig & Sensory Bin Dino Dig

We did an outdoor dig and a smaller scale sensory bin indoor dig while pretending to be Paleontologists hunting for dinosaur bones.  I printed out a T-Rex skeleton printout with labels of various bone structures for them to figure out some of the main bones.  I buried various animal toys and pretend bones in sandbox for my kids to find.  IMG_7706

For the indoor bin I buried a complete  3D wooden dinosaur puzzle in a mixture of beans and lentils (a mess-free way to represent dirt and rocks).


On top we made a diorama of animals and a stream and pretended a shepherd (played by Woody from Toy Story) discovered a bone near the stream and a Paleontologist (played by a Lego mini-figure) came to search for the skeleton.


Tools: Brushes of different sizes, tweezers, and magnifying glass.  The Lego mini figure also has a pic ax for chipping ways at rocks and dirt too.

IMG_9043 IMG_9044

Using a brush to clean off the bones.


Using the magnifying glass to identify the bones.

IMG_9049 IMG_9052

I will post a separate story with more details and also the re-constructed dinosaur they made with the bones they discovered.


We created lapbooks with lots of fun printables and activities.


I researched the coloring pages and worksheet printables from various sources online.

IMG_8999 lapbook

I will post a separate story with their completed lapbooks.

Fossils and Cooking

Making Fossil Cookies


Our guests left their tracks!


They also took a few hungry bites!


Several more fell into our pit and got stuck and left their fossilized imprints in our dough forever.  Now we will always have a record that they were here.


Creating our own fossil imprints.


Making Dino Poop Protein Balls


Isn’t every kid fascinated with poop?  Well, maybe not, but making edible Dino poop is a lot of fun!   Dissecting this is fun too.  You find “undigested” stuff in their poop (oats and nuts).


Making Dino Speckled Eggs


Edible Dinosaur Speckled Eggs are yummy and a lot of fun to make too!  You can hide baby dinosaurs inside to “hatch” too.

Making food for carnivores and herbivores.


The book suggested making a stegosaurus out of a bagel, cream cheese, apple slices, and carrots.  But we didn’t have bagels on hand, so we made up our own idea for dinosaur themed snacks.   We set out a whole bunch of supplies and the kids designed their own dinosaur feast. They had to come up with herbivore meals and carnivore meals.  They used a paper plate and a knife to create their designs.  They decided to make dinosaurs out of the ingredients based on the category.

Herbivore Dinosaur Plate

We made a stegosaurus with apples, peanut butter, carrots, and olives.  Then made a poop location with celery and blueberries, and a pretzel nest with grape eggs.


We also made a parsley, olive, strawberry tree and a pile of broken pretzel branches for our dinosaur to eat.


Carnivore Dinosaur Plate.

We made a T-REX with cheddar and string cheese and pepperoni, a half eaten victim of ham, string cheese pepperoni and pretzels, and a nest of pretzels and grape eggs.



The kids had a lot of fun playing with their dinosaur food feast.  They invited their dinosaur toys to the party too.

IMG_7917 IMG_7918 IMG_7919 IMG_7931

Science Field Trip #1:

We went to Brown County State Park.  This was a great hands on adventure of exploration. There are two lakes, a couple of mineral springs, campgrounds, horseback riding, and miles and miles of hiking trails and streams to explore.   The park covers 16,000 acres.

IMG_8252 IMG_8259 IMG_8254

Our explorations pertaining to our Dinosaur Science Unit Study involved:

  • Looking at different ecosystems: forest, grassland, water – streams.
  • Looking at different geological formations and rocks.
  • Looking for fossils. Searching for signs of prehistoric life.

Brown County State Park

We enjoyed taking our shoes off and walking through one of the streams exploring the most of all.


It was a fun way to cool off from the heat and humidity of the day.

Hunting for fossils

This was so much fun.  All of the kids really enjoyed themselves.

Science Field Trip #2

Our second field trip got postponed and we are planning to go back again in a few weeks.   We are going to the Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky.  This is considered the birth place of American vertebrate paleontology.  There is a salt marsh there that many prehistoric animals died near by as they came to lick the salty water, and to drink and eat vegetation.  However, because it is so marshy and somewhat like quick sand, many of these prehistoric animals got stuck and died there.  Thousands of bones have been found.  There is a life size display behind the museum, and then many thousands of fossils inside the museum.  We have been to see this before but only saw the display outside and we followed a nature trail that meanders through the marshy landscape.  But we are planning to go again and visit inside the museum.  The indoor museum was closed last time we were there.  They are open 10-4 pm daily and for some reason, the museum was closed the day we went.

Screenshot (85)

Big Bone Lick State Park features life size mammoths, mastodons, sloths, and bison.

Science Field Trip #3

We took a virtual field trip of a real life field trip we did last summer.  We looked through some pictures and videos we saved from that trip.  We call it the Trip Back In Time To The Beginning and you can watch the video posted below.  We visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky and made a movie about the dinosaurs around the time of creation.  It was a lot of fun to go back through our pictures and watch the video of the fun day we had learning hands on about dinosaurs.  They have many life size dinosaurs and skeletons and even some robotic diorama’s set up and you feel like you are right there walking with the dinosaurs.  We also have pictures saved from another field trip from an actual dinosaur dig site we got to visit and museum at the Natural History Museum ad Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee, and our field trip to Dinosaur World in Kentucky.  Someday I hope to make videos from the pictures of our trips to those sites too. The kids really enjoy watching their pictures put into a video like this and tying it all together.  And YES my kids really like dinosaurs!!!

Resources and FREEBIES:

Helpful articles for Homeschoolers:

Two free pdf units from the book:

More freebies:

This is a fun and easy to do science curriculum and we highly recommend adding Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers into your science studies.

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

Be sure to check out what other families on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using Funtastic Unit Studies.

Crew Disclaimer

Please share.