News & Events at Challenge Island

Thanksgiving STEAM Activity: Gratitude Gears

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With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reflect on life’s many gifts. During holiday downtime, have fun being thankful with our Gratitude Gears game!

If we teach our kids to be grateful for things (a la sending thank you notes to grandma every year), we imply that success and happiness are connected to a collection of things. To instill a real sense of gratitude, it’s important to focus on all the intangible gifts we receive – like our personal strengths, our friendships, our experiences and past memories. The Challenge Island Gratitude Gears game key will help shift the conversation to emphasize all our abstract appreciations.

We love this Gratitude Gears game key, because it applies to so many classic games – from Twister to Candy Land! Every time you land on a color, find the matching gear. You can also make your own homemade version of pick-up-sticks, using popsicle sticks or even chopsticks. Grab some markers and have fun making your own game!



Be sure to join Challenge Island for the coolest Thanksgiving challenge around at Mayflower Harbor. Challenge Island kids will build their own Mayflower and race it to America, building 21st century skills along the way. 102 Pilgrims set sail on the first crew.

How many will your ship hold? Find a location near you to find out more, or contact us!

Check Our Schedule!










Monster Eye Surprise! Halloween Eggs-periment

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Photo courtesy Kitchen Pantry Scientist

Double, double, toil & trouble! Fire burn and cauldron bubble… full of monster eyes!

The ingredients for a STEAM-y Halloween activity are waiting for you right in your kitchen pantry. All you need for this ooey-gooey, creeper-peeper experiment are eggs, vinegar, permanent marker, corn syrup and food coloring.


Step One:

  • Use permanent markers to decorate a raw egg (or multiple eggs) and create spooky monster eyes. The creepier the better!

  • Place the eggs in a jar and cover them with vinegar. This can be white or cider vinegar. (Remember to wash your hands after handling the eggs!)

  • Let them sit overnight and check on your monster eyes in the morning.

What happened to the eggs? You’ll notice only the membrane of the egg remains. Vinegar is an acid that breaks down the egg shell, which is made of calcium and carbon. It’s a chemical reaction! Did you notice any bubbling when you first covered the eggs with the vinegar? This was your first sign of a chemical reaction. Carbon and vinegar reacted to form carbon dioxide bubbles!

Step Two:

  • Return the eggs to the jar.

  • Cover the eggs with corn syrup and add green food coloring.

  • Leave them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

What happened to the eggs this time? You’ll notice your eerie monster eyes have shrunk! The soft membrane of the eggs let water molecules pass through – a process called osmosis. Because corn syrup doesn’t have much water, the molecules moved out of the egg and into the corn syrup, making the monster eyes shrivel!

When you’re done “eggsperimenting,” you can leave the monster eyes in their green goo for a spooky Halloween decoration. At Challenge Island, we love activities that combine science with art and hands-on learning! What’s more fun than that?

Be sure to send us pictures of your monster eyes! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or use the hashtag #ChallengeIsland. We’d love to share your creepy creations!

Big thanks to the Kitchen Pantry Scientist for this fun at-home activity. For the full Challenge Island experience, from building stomp rockets to designing roller coasters, be sure to sign up locally or contact us!


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.

More Than Smores

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A great article about summer camps and Challenge Island!

“Kids’ fascination with emoji may mystify their parents, but STEM education company Challenge Islandembraces the ubiquitous cutesy faces. Challenge Island builds an entire weeklong summer camp around emoji, asking kids to solve engineering and science-based challenges. Additional sessions focus on other kid obsessions, like American Girl dolls and superheroes. Allyson Steele, director of extended programs/summer camps at St. Michael’s, where some Challenge Island camps take place, remembers walking into a session last summer and watching kids construct an igloo from PVC pipe, fabric and other materials: “I’ve never seen a group of kids so mesmerized by what they were doing,” she says.”

Momtrepreneur Turns Challenge Island® S.T.E.A.M. Education Program into Red Hot Educational Franchise

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Fourteen years ago, second-grade teacher and mother of four Sharon Duke Estroff was at the height of what she calls her Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde phase.  By day, she was an award-winning teacher with a classroom full of happy students; but by night, she was a stressed-out mom who could barely muster the energy to help her kids with their homework. Estroff knew it was time for a career change, but as an educator born into a family of educators, she couldn’t imagine straying too far from the schoolyard.  So she took Challenge Island® – a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education program she’d created for her elementary students – and began offering it as an afterschool enrichment class in nearby schools.  Challenge Island® was a hometown hit and before long, Estroff had created a profitable home-based business that she could run around her family’s busy schedule.

With the rise of S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M in the educational marketplace, Estroff had a hunch that there would be a demand for Challenge Island® in other markets too.  Her hunch was right. Today, Challenge Island is one of the fastest growing educational franchises in the world, with S.T.E.A.M. power fueling its impressive trajectory across the United States and beyond.

As C.E.O., Estroff has grown her Atlanta-based company to 60 franchise units with locations in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia – and international locations in Egypt and the Philippines.   At least six new Challenge Island units are expected to open this summer, and growth is predicted to continue at this strong and healthy pace in the coming months and years.  Perhaps not surprisingly, many Challenge Island franchisees are busy moms looking for flexible businesses themselves.

And as for our Momtrepeneur and her busy family, Mrs. Hyde still makes an occasional appearance in the Estroff home, but the sightings are far fewer and farther between.

For more information about Challenge Island please visit

For information about Challenge Island franchising please visit

Sharon Duke Estroff
Challenge Island Founder and C.E.O.
(404) 692-3103

You can find the original source of this article here.