#HurricaneHarvey Relief Efforts

Harvey Recovery

Today we want to dedicate our blog to focus on  #HurricaneHarvey relief efforts with a focus on education.  We have seen many heroes during this very difficult time and have been inspired to see how people –  from local businesses, NFL stars, celebrities, to teachers – are coming together.

Hurricane Harvey’s Relief Efforts for Education

As we look at these efforts, we can’t forget that school districts across Texas and Louisiana are managing major issues as students prepare to head back to school.  As this Newsweek article points out, schools are going to face many challenges, including delays.  These districts, including Houston ISD, Corpus Christi ISD, and many others had to act quickly, and are providing critical support in various ways, including keeping their communities informed.  One example of this is Houston ISD providing updates via their blog.  These districts are also providing updates via social media.  Houston ISD announced that all students will be able to receive three free meals per day this school year and Corpus Christi ISD shared guidelines on how PTAs can provide support.

Efforts to Help Schools

There are many efforts focused on education.  One that caught our attention is the “Hurricane Harvey Teachers in Need” Facebook group, in which teachers are coming together to adopt classrooms. We also are seeing organizations such as our partner ALAS raising funds in support of these communities.

Celebrating Everyday Heroes

We commend everyone coming together, including many of our employees who are supporting Save the Children

If you know of any other efforts to help schools or kids, please share in the comments section below. Also join us in thanking the first responders, individuals, teachers, administrators, groups, and businesses that are providing critical support.


Rural Schooling and the Effects of Educational Technology in the Classroom

The population centers up in the Adirondack Mountains don’t feel like towns, at least not to me. It feels more like the houses had been shaken out of the mountains like crumbs off a tablecloth, landed haphazardly in the valleys, and were then inhabited by people with the fortitude to build homes amid the area’s beauty. Having lived in upstate New York for nearly my entire life, I am familiar with the Adirondack Mountains, and I love them dearly.

But only occasionally does it dawn on me how different daily reality is there versus where I grew up, in suburban Albany. Cell phone signals are hard to come by up in the Adirondacks. A trip to the grocery store could mean a 40 minute car trip – one way. School districts are spread over very wide distances, and although they comprise kids from numerous towns and villages, class sizes sometimes don’t reach above single digits. It’s a different way of life, certainly.


During a recent road trip through the Adirondacks, I happened to pass through a town where a friend teaches high school English. I had known he worked in a rural area, but I was nonetheless struck by the remoteness of the school location. My friend faced a rough, long commute each day – and so did his students. Many students lived a long ride away from the school, braving often-snowy conditions and questionable mountain road maintenance. It is a trek to get to school. To get anywhere, really. A student who has to drive one hour to reach a bookstore, theater, or library has limited options when it comes to resources with which to supplement their education. With few classmates, after school activities and other enriching extras enjoyed by peers in more populated areas may also be denied these students. It’s a beautiful area, but not one without problems, especially if you’re a young person in a town without much going on.

Schools in settings such as this could benefit considerably from the implementation of digital educational technologies such as those offered by Genius Plaza in their classroom or in an after-school setting. It is a way to access materials to supplement classroom activities and projects, and maybe delve into new subject matter in which the student has an interest. Additionally, for students who don’t have reliable internet service at home, the online resource available at school might be one of the only ways in which a student can gain valuable digital knowledge and experience. And of course, the more tools with which students can learn, and engage with technology, the better.

In addition to helping students better understand their official lessons and hone their core skills, digital educational technologies can also be a lifeline for students who crave additional stimulation and engagement, or those who simply feel more comfortable in front of a screen than engaging out loud in a classroom.

Many times, digital technology is written off as fluff – as something that is nice to have, but is not a vital educational resource. But students who lack resources in their communities, due to a rural location or an underfunded school, might not even know what they are missing. The happenstance of their location should never hinder a student’s ability to achieve their highest potential. The internet has the power to connect students to the world. We cannot choose where were are born in this world, but we can have a say in where we end up – and proper tools can help. All students deserve that chance.


Una alimentación saludable, una mejor calidad de vida

Los resultados arrojados en un estudio realizado en Chile a estudiantes de 16 años, muestran cómo una nutrición balanceada y saludable impacta positivamente en el rendimiento escolar.

Muchas veces podemos pensar que una dieta saludable significa que gastaremos más en el supermercado, pero no es así siempre y si esto fuera así, ¿no sería esto una buena inversión?

Una buena alimentación además de los beneficios que pueda traer a nuestros niños en el rendimiento escolar, tiene un beneficio para su salud, y es algo que en particular para mí no tiene precio.

Cómo mamá muchas veces no sabemos por dónde comenzar o se puede creer que nos tomará más tiempo la cocina, pero es cuestión de crear una rutina que nos funcione y no complicarnos con recetas. Quizá en lugar de comprar arroz blanco, compres arroz integral o compres quinoa; en lugar de usar mermelada para el pan uses crema de cacahuate; si compras pan blanco para los sándwiches puedes comprar pan integral incluso algunos contienen proteína y cereales; en fin puedes encontrar varios sustitutos saludables.


Nutrición balanceada


¿Cómo debe ser la alimentación de un niño en edad escolar?

Debe ser completa, variada, adecuada, sabrosa y divertida. Quiero decir que debe contener proteínas, fibras, grasas, vitaminas y minerales necesarios para la edad y que tenga acceso a los alimentos ocasionales en algunas situaciones. Es importante reducir el consumo de sal, harinas y azúcares.

Seguramente a algunos niños no les gustan ciertas verduras o  frutas, no tienes que estar peleando con ellos, invítalos a probarlas, si no les gusta seguramente hay otras que sí.

Cuando veo  que a mi hija algo no le gustó la próxima vez le pongo miel, crema de cacahuete o un poco de chocolate y la mayoría de veces funciona, creo que lo importante es no obligar a los niños sino invitarlos a que prueben  y que sea algo rico y divertido para ellos. Nunca he discutido con mi hija por comida, siempre busco maneras de convencerla jugando y le permito que ella elija qué comer (obvio ofreciéndole opciones saludables).

Recuerda que comer saludable y tener actividad física trae muchos beneficios para la salud de toda la familia.

Mira estos videos junto a tus hijos, es una manera divertida de aprender sobre los beneficios de algunas frutas.

Conoce a la zanahoria
Conoce la pasa
Conoce a las judías verdes
Conoce el brócoli

Back to School Traditions

 New Traditions

One of my favorite new traditions for back to school is seeing my Facebook feed full of photos of my nephews and friends’ kids returning to school. Thank you Malu, Magdalena, Rosemary, Laura, and Patty for letting me share your photos.


back to school back to school traditionsback to school traditions

back to school traditionsback to school traditionsback to school traditions


That is why I loved the DIY videos that our teams created in English and Spanish.  

This year, I also found many images from educators and administrators on Twitter celebrating and preparing for the new academic year.  Some of my favorite ones were from Carolina Quesada, Cristina Silerio, Houston ISD Español and Eagle View Elementary School.

Importance of Back to School Celebrations

As I looked at these posts, I began to think about why this is important, and found this piece from EffectiveTeaching.com, which speaks about why the most important day to celebrate is the first day of school.  We want students to understand the importance of education, and celebrating the first day is a touchstone, positively impacting students in the long-term.

Creating and Starting New Routines

In addition to the celebration, this is a time when many parents begin or restart routines.  We thought this blog from Triad Moms on Main provided some great insight on the importance of back-to-school routines, and my colleague Erika wrote a letter to Kindergarten Parents that reinforces sticking to the basics at home when kids begin school.

I asked family and friends about their own traditions, in addition to the photos.  My sister lets the kids decide what they want for dinner the night before the first day of school.  My good friend Laura takes her son Nico for ice cream after the first day of school so they can talk about his new class, teacher, etc.


 back to school traditions

What traditions do you have? We would love to see your photos and learn about your traditions and routines – please share in the comments below!

Education-related News Updates and Resources August 25, 2017

Following you will find our news updates for the week ending August 25, 2017.  We also want to know what education and parenting articles or blogs you are following and reading.

Did you see this story focused on how Sen. John Kennedy spent his summer as an 8th grade substitute teacher?

We have seen many stories about the “benefits of a bilingual education.”  That is the title of one story we read this week.  For us, there is no question about the value, but reading stories like this  helps validate our commitment to celebrating bilingualism.



This week we also read a blog by Brandon Johnson titled “Why you Should Build a Twitter Professional Learning Network,” which includes some great tips regarding Twitter.  We would love to hear how parents and educators are using Twitter.

We are currently reviewing the report “Why All High School Diplomas are Not Created Equal” from The Alliance for Excellent Education. You can find it here.

This week our colleague Erika Taylor wrote a blog post titled “Dear Kindergarten Parent”, which we wanted to share again as a great resource.  We invite you to follow our blog, with insights for parents and teachers.  We have posts in English and Spanish.  This blog post from Paola Hernandez focuses on how to empower students by reteaching, and this one, in Spanish, focuses on how to prepare for the last year of high school.  We also have one from Jesica Chavez regarding the importance of art at home.  We hope you find these of value.

News Updates week ending August 25, 2017


Join our #GeniusTalks Twitter chat on Tuesday, August 29th at 3 pm to share insights and tips for educators!

Finally, we love to share inspiring stories on our social media platforms.  We invite you to follow our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.  For Spanish, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.







Incorporar el arte en el hogar

Albert Einstein afirmaba que la creatividad era fruto de la inteligencia emocional. El hombre al plasmar en cada acto creativo una pequeña parte de su inteligencia no hace sino liberar parte de  áreas importantes de su cerebro.

Como ya hemos hablado en otros artículos del blog para Genius Plaza es importante la incorporación de las artes en la educación.

Pero no sólo es importante añadirlas al currículo escolar, sino también incorporarlas en el hogar.

Algunos investigadores estamos afrontando una auténtica crisis creativa. «El significativo descenso de la puntuación en fuerza (física) desde 1990 indica que, en los últimos 20 años, los niños se han vuelto menos expresivos en cuanto a sus emociones, menos enérgicos, menos habladores y verbalmente expresivos, menos cómicos, menos no convencionales, menos vitales y pasionales, menos perceptivos, menos aptos para relacionar cosas aparentemente irrelevantes, menos sintetizadores y con menor probabilidad de ver asuntos desde otras perspectivas». Esta fue una de las conclusiones de un análisis de medidas creativas realizado por Kyung Hee Kim partiendo de los datos recogidos de casi 300,000 adultos y niños estadounidenses. En el momento social que nos encontramos es fundamental el desarrollo de la creatividad. 


Como mamá es importante que mi hija aprenda a expresar sus emociones, a desarrollar habilidades y acercarla al arte.

arte en el hogar

No se requiere  invertir mucho dinero para realizar actividades que ayuden a tus hijos a acercarse al arte, además estoy segura que ustedes también lo disfrutarán. Por ejemplo: puedes escuchar o ver un concierto de música clásica (previo pueden leer sobre el compositor). Otra actividad puede ser pintar con acuarelas, pueden crear figuras con plastilina, pueden buscar alguna obra de teatro; en ocasiones hay algunas gratuitas o de bajo costo.

Las artes enseñan a los niños que  los problemas reales suelen tener más de una solución posible, que es necesario analizar las tareas desde diferentes perspectivas, que la imaginación es una  poderosa guía en los procesos de resolución o que no siempre existen reglas definidas cuando tienen que tomar decisiones.

To All Kindergarten Parents

Dear Kindergarten Parent,

As summer comes to an end, many of us find ourselves in new territory.  We have a child entering kindergarten (cue sobbing parents everywhere).  Now, as a mom of three and a former elementary school teacher, I have to affirm that the first day jitters don’t only happen at home.  Teachers both old and new see the new school year as a fresh start.  The classrooms are ready with freshly sharpened pencils, neatly aligned crayons, and bright unused markers.  The glue sticks are sticky as ever and the first few weeks of lessons have been mulling over in the teachers’ minds all summer.  There are new posters on the walls and lesson plans neatly filed in a plan book.  The teachers are ready for the routine, and for the fresh faces to walk through the door.  The kindergarten teachers are especially excited, as they have the privilege to be the first teacher that our kids have ever had.  They are ready to love our children and watch their progress from the beginning to the end of the year.  The physical, social, emotional, and academic progress is always a sight to be seen.


These new experiences can be so exciting for our blossoming kids and eager teachers, however, it can be slightly more terrifying for us parents.  Will our kids be challenged?  Will they be nurtured?  Will they make friends?  Will they tell someone if they have a problem?  These are questions that parents around the globe are asking of our teachers.  As a mom sending her second child to kindergarten this year (with one more entering next year), I have more assurance and confidence in myself, my teachers, and my kids than I did the first time around.  But, of course the concerns are still there because every child is different, and after all, we are sending our babies out in the world.  (How will they survive without us all day?!)  I do know more about what to expect and what I can do as a parent to make this a successful first year for my child. Here are a few things I have learned.

Don’t stress on what they don’t know.

More than any other grade, kindergarten students enter school at all different learning levels.  Some have been to preschool, while others have never set foot in a school.  Some can read, while others don’t know the alphabet.  Obviously, the more they know, the easier the content will be, but ALL students will make progress, no matter where they start.  

Advocate for your child.

No one knows your child better than you. Be assertive and be prepared to talk with the school regarding anything that will make your child unsafe such as allergies, health issues, emotional issues, etc.  Don’t ever feel that you are being pushy or annoying.  WE MUST ADVOCATE FOR OUR KIDS.kinder classroom

Stick to the basics at home.

For many kids, going to school is their first time without parent assistance.  Going to the bathroom on their own, dressing themselves, opening lunch items, and washing hands can be tricky and stressful events for them during the day.  Packing lunch items they can open on their own, encouraging independence with the bathroom, and self-care are all things we can do at home to make them more successful.

Prepare for exhaustion.

Our babies will be tired.  Expect meltdowns, short tempers, lack of motivation after school and extra cuddles (it’s not all bad).  It is a long day for the new kindergarteners, and the new schedule is going to be a lot for them to get used to.  Limiting after school activities is a good idea, at least for the first few months, until they get accustomed to the new schedule.  Also a prompt bedtime and a good night’s sleep does wonders for a child’s temperament.  Our once napless children may start taking naps again.  They have been busy at school, so having a less stressful and flexible schedule at home may ease their exhaustion…and moods.


I want to wish all your babies good luck on their new adventure.  It is emotional, so don’t be ashamed to cry tears of simultaneous joy and sorrow as we watch our kids enter this next stage of their life.  I know that when my kids get home from school each day, I hug their little bodies tighter from missing them.  Enjoy their excitement and innocence as they embark on their new adventure.  When you feel nervous or scared, especially the first few weeks just remember…the kids will be all right.

Un año difícil, con organización lo lograremos


12.º grado es el último año antes de comenzar la universidad. Es un salto de obstáculos continuo, un año duro, tanto para ellos como para nosotros como padres, pero que entre todos podemos hacerlo más llevadero si lo afrontamos con ilusión y actitud positiva.

Principalmente, y debido a toda la cantidad de cosas que hay que  hacer durante este curso, lo más importante es la organización. Debemos tener claro qué debemos hacer, cómo y cuándo, porque eso marcará el rumbo de nuestros hijos de cara a este futuro que se les avecina de forma inmediata. Los aspectos fundamentales en los que debemos enfocarnos en este curso son los siguientes:

  • Preparación de los exámenes SAT y ACT.
  • Aplicar a las universidades.
  • Visitar las universidades.
  • Becas de estudio y ayudas complementarias.

Exámenes SAT y ACT

Los exámenes SAT y ACT son dos tipos de exámenes que la mayor parte de las universidades piden como requisito a la hora de aceptar a los alumnos que aplican. Ambos exámenes son muy similares, la única diferencia es el ámbito de conocimientos que evalúan. El SAT  está enfocado en la capacidad de pensamiento crítico, razonamiento matemático, y habilidades de escritura del estudiante, mientras que el ACT mide el conocimiento de información en cinco áreas, que son inglés, matemáticas, lectura crítica, ciencias y escritura.



Es muy importante prepararse estos exámenes con antelación y no dejarlo para el último momento. De esta forma nuestros hijos podrán ir seguros de que van a lograr el resultado esperado.

Para hacer estos exámenes hay que registrarse antes. Por lo tanto, es de suma importancia saber las fechas de solicitud y de realización de los mismos, ya que si no se aplica a tiempo el coste de cada examen se incrementa. Existe la posibilidad, para las personas que no pueden permitirse pagar este coste, de una ayuda económica para poder hacerlo.

Aplicar y visitar  las universidades deseadas


Una de las cosas fundamentales en todo este curso es tener claro las universidades a las que va a aplicar nuestro hijo, ya que esta decisión lleva asociada muchas otras después. Lo recomendable es hacerlo lo antes posible, para poder organizar después todo lo demás cuanto antes. Octubre es un buen mes para hacer esta solicitud, ya que después debemos recibir las esperadas contestaciones. Si realizamos estas solicitudes en el mes de octubre, alrededor del mes de diciembre empezarán a llegarnos las contestaciones. Recuerdo hace unos años, en nuestra época preuniversitaria, cuando íbamos varias veces al día al buzón a ver si teníamos respuestas. Ahora las cosas han cambiado, y estas contestaciones llegan por correo electrónico. En cuanto tengamos las contestaciones podemos empezar a organizar las visitas a las universidades, aspecto también muy importante en este proceso,muchas familias organizan estas visitas incluso antes de aplicar.


Para poder visitar los campus de las universidades debemos concertar citas previas antes, ya que estas visitas consisten en mostrar a los futuros alumnos tanto el curriculum de los grados que van a cursar, como el lugar donde van a vivir durante estos años, algo fundamental para que ellos puedan personalmente conocer todos estos aspectos tan importantes para su futuro inmediato.

Becas de estudio y ayudas complementarias



Una de las mayores dificultades para todas las familias cuando nuestros hijos llegan a la universidad es afrontar el increíble gasto que esto conlleva, por ello ésta es otra de las cosas que debemos organizar en este último curso escolar previo a la universidad.

En cuanto sepamos la universidad donde nuestro hijo va a estudiar podemos aplicar a todas estas diferentes ayudas que se nos ofrecen. Las becas escolares de las diferentes universidades se basan fundamentalmente en el expediente académico del alumno, por ello las calificaciones deben ser lo mejores posibles para poder optar a ellas. Otra ayuda gubernamental, independiente de la universidad donde el alumno vaya a cursar, es la FAFSA. Este tipo de ayuda tiene en cuenta el coste de los estudios y la situación económica familiar.


A pesar de todas estas ayudas la mayor parte de las familias no llegan para poder asumir todos los gastos que un curso universitario significa, por ello deben recurrir a créditos bancarios, que contribuyen a ello.

  No dejar las cosas para el último momento es lo más importante de este curso escolar. Organización, desde el principio hasta el final, esa es la clave para el éxito en esta etapa.


Don’t Miss the Great American Eclipse!

Great American Eclipse


A total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States on Monday, August 21st. It begins around 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., depending on where in the country you are. The total eclipse will only be viewable from within the “path of totality,” but most parts of the U.S. will be able to see a partial eclipse.

During a Total Eclipse, Several Things Happen at Once

When you’re in the direct path of a total eclipse, several things happen at once. The moon completely covers the sun, and the air temperature drops about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The horizon becomes vibrant with the colors of the sunset, and the sky fills with stars. Depending where in the world you are, crickets may start chirping and birds may become suddenly louder or quieter. Bugs and mosquitos may emerge, and spiders may destroy their webs. Humans will look to the sky and watch this spectacular and rare event through the index-card-sized screens of their phones instead of with their eyes. Because the moon’s shadow moves at about 2,000 miles per hour, most solar eclipses only last for two or three minutes.

Valuable Moments for Scientists


The rarity of total solar eclipses makes them valuable moments for scientists. We still don’t know much about the effect eclipses have on animals, insects, and plants. Scientists encourage people to observe the area they will be viewing an eclipse from. What animals might be in that area? Are there any slow moving creatures like ants or spiders that would be easy to observe? Though most people may not be able to conduct research with the same level of standards and methods as scientists, an eclipse is a chance for anyone to make discoveries and observations.

If you will be within a few hours of the path of totality, you should make the trip! Not only is it such a spectacular event that some people become “eclipse chasers” and fly all over the world to witness the phenomenon, but it’s also incredibly rare that it will happen to pass through where you live. On average, any point on Earth will experience a total eclipse once every 375 years, and no one can afford to wait that long.

Viewing The Great American Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

If you plan on observing an eclipse, make sure to use proper viewing glasses, which your local library may offer for free! They are thousands of times darker than sunglasses, so unless you plan on wearing 2,000 pairs of sunglasses at once, wearing multiple pairs of shades will provide no protection. Be careful, and avoid permanent damage to your eyes! If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole viewer with a cardboard box, paper, and aluminum foil. To do this, make a small rectangular hole in one side of the box. Tape aluminum foil over the hole, and poke a small hole in the foil with a pin. Tape the piece of paper on the inside of the box opposite from the hole, and hold your mini-projector up so that the sun’s light passes through the pinhole and projects its image onto the paper! The only time it is ever safe to look directly at an eclipse without glasses is during the few minutes of a total obstruction.

Watching the Great American Eclipse

Few astrological events are as dramatic or observable as eclipses, and anyone who has seen one will urge others to make the trip to the path of a totality. You can find out how close you will be to the path of totality on nasa.gov. Just make sure you use genuine eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer! Don’t miss out on this rare and beautiful event that will have everyone looking to the sky.

Education-related News Headlines and Resources August 18, 2017

Changing it up! 

Today our weekly news and resources recap will be a little different. We will be sharing some resources that we think will help teachers and parents, as well as other news.

Resources for Teachers and Parents

Earlier this week we posted resources for Charlottesville, and we invite you to review and add more info here: it.ly/2w2h8NA  and continue to follow the hashtag  #CharlottesvilleCurriculum

Next week, a huge focus will be the #solareclipse2017. There are many great resources, including these from NASA, and NSTA.org , or you can see if your local library is hosting an event. There are many more resources available, let us know if there is one you recommend.


SXSW and SXSWEDU #panelpicker – vote yes for our panels!

Thank you NIBLETZ for selecting our panel as one to vote for! http://www.nibletz.com/events/sxswedu/panelpick-geniusplaza

Our other panels include:

Leveraging Tech to Drive Positive Health Behavior

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are the poorest segment of society, with 21 percent of US children living below the federal poverty level. Johnson & Johnson partnered with Genius Plaza, an ed tech platform providing co-creation tools to young leaders in Title I schools, to address these disparities. During this dynamic presentation, they will share their experiences on how their work has changed their own behavior and has empowered their peers locally and globally. Vote YES here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/78681

Why Diversity in Tech is Still an Uphill Battle

As much as technology has been driving disruption across industries and sectors, it seems to be years behind when it comes to diversity. Can real change in diversity and inclusion really happen? Can they be accelerated in Silicon Valley and STEAM careers in general? The format for this conversation will be a candid discussion about the challenges, what is not working, and what programs are having an impact. Vote YES here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/78202

Biases and Barriers in the Education Pipeline

The biases and barriers across the education pipeline continue to impact diversity in STEM careers. In this mentor/student conversation, we will discuss how access to innovative programs can drive change. The session, led by The Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) mentor Regan Patterson, will include presentations from a SMASH student, and a dynamic discussion on barriers and key information for pursuing careers in STEM. Vote YES here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/78818

Some Genius Plaza News

We are proud to be a part of Project Include – learn more in this article on the gains made in the first year.

Language Magazine covered the unveiling of our new English-language course, read the story here.


Are you following our blog?

Here are some recent posts in English: Empowering Students to Teach, The Power of Early Math and in Spanish: Cómo hacer tareas de matemáticas más rápido and 7 beneficios de leer libros electrónicos.