I had the opportunity recently to check out a great new facility in the area. It’s called Zaniac and they have locations all over (definitely check and see if there is one near you!) When I told my daughter that we would be going there, and told her what it was all about, she could not contain her excitement! She started making plans right away as to what she was going to do while she was there (what can I say, she’s my daughter… we’re planner people). Her plans may or may not have included the app she was going to write and the Minecraft Mod she was going to create (she also gets her visions of grandeur from me). I had to let her know that, while I don’t doubt she’ll eventually be able to program her own app, and create her own Minecraft mod… it probably wasn’t going to happen during our visit on Friday night.
We rushed home after her swim practice so she could shower and change and we could be on the road to head up to Salt Lake to visit Zaniac. Zaniac is an awesome new place that encourages STEM education in children and gives them the tools they need to excel in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
As soon as we got to the facility the kids just about all ran over to the wall of computers and started playing Minecraft. Maddie was SO EXCITED to finally be able to play multiplayer (as we don’t allow her to play Minecraft online with other users). While the kids were playing we got to find out more about what they do there at Zaniac. One of the really cool things I found out was that they use tools like playing Minecraft to teach the kids about science. They explore different biomes in the Minecraft world and explain how different things are affected by the environment and how to find and use different materials. I love that they take something that most kids already adore and help them see how that can help them learn in the real world.
Once all the formal stuff was out of the way they split the kids into different groups and helped take them to the various stations throughout the facility. There is Zane Math, Computer Programming, LEGO robotics, and of course Minecraft. They also had several chess sets laid out and checkerboards, and really just anything a little geek in training would need to have the best day ever.
Zane Math is a way for kids to really pick up and improve upon their math skills. When he was showing me the program, I was surprised that the tests, homework and lessons were still paper and pencil, and not something they do online. I could see the scanned document complete with doodles and other fun comments from the child. You know my daughter’s paper would come back full of doodles of dragons. When he explained to me the reason behind still using paper and pencil, it definitely made sense. He said that the physical act of writing out the problem or solving the problem helps establish brain memory (I think I just made that word up, but it’s kind of like muscle memory, you do a task often enough, your muscles can just go through the motions without you thinking about it. Brain memory would be the same, if you write out how to solve a particular problem enough, it’s going to help your brain remember that solution, or how you came up with that solution in the future.)
What I loved about the computer programming track is that, especially at the beginning they don’t focus on a lot of syntax (actual coding). They start out learning programming concepts and problem solving before moving on to coding basics. I really think if you have a solid foundation for figuring out programming that the actual code part comes pretty easily. This method definitely gives the kids the foundation they need to understand the complicated code later.
They also had a circuit board where the Zaniac employee was showing some kids how power effects different things. There was a spinning fan, and it was going at a certain speed. Once he added the light to the circuit board the fan spun slower, and he explained why that would be. Although it doesn’t quite show in this picture… Maddie was super interested in learning about how to put things together on a circuit board and how it can relate to creating/inventing other things.
You can also learn Lego Robotics, Chess, Touch Typing, and get homework help at Zaniac!
The best part about the event? The kids were soooo entertained, that all us blogging moms were able to just sit around and chat while the kids were completely occupied. While Maddie didn’t come away with a fully developed app on the first night, I have no doubt if she continued to attend Zaniac classes she would get there in no time at all!
I was compensated for attending this event, and writing up this post, but as you can see… Maddie had a blast, and we will be going back there on our own dime in the future.
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