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Tech That Teaches: 15 Smart Apps for Curious Kids

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Your kids may spend more time staring at screens on smartphones, tablets, and computers than books, but that downtime can still be educational. Check out these apps that can teach children of all ages far more than a game of Candy Crush—and might even inspire them to learn and live better.

1. HOPSCOTCH; FREE

Want your children to get a headstart on coding when all they want to do is play games? Introduce them to Hopscotch. The iOS-compatible app, targeted toward kids ages 9 to 11, teaches users to create games using simple tools and tutorials—whether they want to replicate existing ones like Angry Birds or dream up their own.

Find it: iOS

2. DUOLINGO; FREE

It’s no secret that starting early makes it easier to learn a second language, but things get even easier with a fun app like Duolingo. Kids can choose from a substantial list of languages—including French, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, and more—and learn through bite-sized lessons that feel more like games. Plus, this app is also great for adults. With a little screen time, family dinners could soon be in a foreign language!

Find it: iOS, Android

3. MONSTER MATH 2; FREE

Monster Math 2

There’s no better way to beef up math skills than by fighting monsters! This app, targeted towards elementary students, comes with a customizable curriculum and even adheres to Common Core standards.

Find it: iOS

4. MAGOOSH; FREE

Magoosh

It’s hard to spice up study sessions for standardized tests like the SATs, but Magoosh does its best. Its apps, like the Vocabulary Builder, offer fun and efficient ways for younger high school students to get a headstart on test prep without feeling overwhelmed or pressured.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. STAR WALK; $3

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Star Walk

This app is a one-two punch: It will get kids outside and get them to shoot for the stars. Star Walk is an astronomy guide that’s sure to spark curiosity about the solar system by notifying users of upcoming astronomical events, pointing out the position of constellations and planets, and much more.

Find it: iOS, Android

6. TREBLE CAT; $5

Treble Cat will make requests for more screen time music to your ears. This simple game—great for musical beginners of all ages—comes with 10 levels to unlock and, as the name implies, teaches players to read the notes of the treble clef.

Find it: iOS, Android

7. READ ME STORIES; FREE

Upgrade their bedtime stories. The free app aimed at beginner readers—age 5 and under—comes with a new talking picture book every day. Each story is meant to teach new concepts and words. Young readers can even tap unfamiliar words and letters to sound them out.

Find it: iOS, Android

8. EARTH 3D - AMAZING ATLAS; $3

Kids can have the entire world at their fingertips with Earth 3D - Amazing Atlas. Users of all ages can spin and zoom in on a variety of world maps as well as learn facts about different countries and cities and much more.

Find it: iOS

9. THIS IS MY FOOD - NUTRITION FOR KIDS; $3

An appreciation for food and cooking can serve a kid for a lifetime. On top of teaching users about nutrition and food classification, This Is My Food may also inspire them to get hands-on with their own meals, thanks to the app’s recently added recipes section. The app is aimed at kids ages 6 to 8 and can also be purchased as part of a “Science for Kids” bundle which also includes educational apps about mechanics and meteorology.

Find it: iOS

10. QUIZLET; FREE

Not all learning apps should be completely separate from the classroom—that’s where Quizlet comes in. The app offers children a fun and convenient way to study on the go. Turn screen time into study time by creating flashcards, perusing study materials uploaded by other users, and more.

Find it: iOS, Android

12. THE HUMAN BODY; $4

Who needs Operation? The Human Body app offers a detailed, interactive model of the body with guts that actually gurgle and a heart that actually beats. This Tinybop app also can be purchased in a bundle which features education apps about the earth, machines, homes, and plants.

Find it: iOS

13. BLUEPRINT 3D; $1

Blueprint 3D features over 300 levels that put the user's spatial reasoning skills to the test. Each level starts with apparently random dots and lines that must be organized into a blueprint image. For added fun, users can also create their own puzzles.

Find it: iOS, Android

14. LEGO MOVIE MAKER; FREE

This movie-making app will encourage double the creativity: First kids will be excited to build more LEGO creations, then they’ll be inspired to turn their characters and buildings into stories. Using LEGO Movie Maker, your aspiring filmmaker can create stop motion movies as well as add special effects.

Find it: iOS

15. TRIVIA CRACK; FREE

Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack is as addicting as the name implies. Kids will only crave more once they start one-on-one trivia match-ups with friends, featuring questions about science, entertainment, art, geography, sports, and history. As an added bonus, this app is a trifecta: It’s entertaining, and relies on both knowledge and strategy.

Find it: iOS, Android

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Titanic Museum Attraction
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A 10-Year-Old Built the World's Largest LEGO Replica of the Titanic
Titanic Museum Attraction
Titanic Museum Attraction

The Titanic never completed its voyage across the Atlantic, but a LEGO replica of the infamous ocean liner has officially landed in the U.S. As CNN reports, the model, which was constructed by a 10-year-old boy from Reykjavik, Iceland, holds the record for the largest LEGO replica of the ship ever assembled.

LEGO fans can spot the ambitious creation at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee starting Monday, April 16. Consisting of 56,000 bricks, the structure is 5 feet tall and 26 feet long. It took Brynjar Karl Bigisson, who's now 15, a total of 700 hours to build it over the course of 11 months.

Ships and LEGO bricks are two of Brynjar Karl's greatest interests. When he was 10 he set out to construct a LEGO Titanic that would be proportional to his minifigures. His engineer grandfather helped him convert the original Titanic blueprints to LEGO-size and calculate how many bricks the model would require. With support from a crowdfunding campaign set up by his mom, Brynjar Karl was able to purchase the tens of thousands of LEGO blocks needed to complete the project.

Brynjar Karl is also an outspoken supporter of kids on the autism spectrum like himself. He has given talks about living with the disorder and has even written a book on the subject. "The LEGO Titanic project has taken me on a new exciting journey," he says on his website. "It's about shedding light on the positive side of autism."

After showcasing his replica Titanic in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, Brynjar Karl is bringing his model to America for the first time. The LEGO Titanic will be displayed at the Titanic Museum Attraction through December 2019.

[h/t CNN]

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.

2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.

3. IT WAS A QUICK SHOOT.

It was shot in just 42 days.

4. THE KIDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH YOUNGER.

Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."

5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.

The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.

6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.

Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.

7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.

The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)

8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.

It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.

9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.

On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.

10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.

Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”

11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.

Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.

12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.

The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)

13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.

When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.

14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.

The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”

15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.

The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

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