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Monday, September 22, 2014

Resources for Teaching About the Sights and Sounds of Autumn

Last week I shared an idea for creating a timelapse of the changing colors of autumn. Today we have the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. This seems like an appropriate time to share some resources for teaching about the sights and sounds of autumn.

On National Geographic's Education page there are two resources worth noting. The first is a simple illustration of the position of Earth relative to the sun throughout the year. That illustration could support your use of this hands-on activity designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. Both resources are appropriate for elementary school students.

Sixty Symbols offers an eleven minute video about equinoxes and solstices. It's not a video that most kids will find engaging, but I'm including it because in it you can see a demonstration of how you can use the free Stellarium software in your lessons.

To help students understand why the leaves change colors in the fall, the Maine Forest Service has an animated video explaining why leaves change colors. The video is titled Maine's Autumn Magic and you can watch it here. To help students understand some of the terms in the video, the Maine Forest Service has a glossary of tree terms.

USA Today has a simple interactive illustration that students can click through to see how the weather affects the color of leaves. Students can select individual tree leaves to see what different leaves look like throughout the seasons.

Although they're not as informative as the two resources above, National Geographic has a couple of nice photo galleries of fall foliage. Click here for a small gallery of images from Acadia National Park. Click here for a gallery of images from the Adirondack Park.

Untamed Science offers a good, partially animated, explanation of why leaves change colors, what produces the colors, and why bright and sunny days are best for viewing red leaves. The video is embedded below.


Autumnal Colors is a short video produced by Thomas Rasel. The two minute video highlights the sights and sounds of autumn. A bugling elk and a squirrel preparing for winter are a couple of the sights and sounds included in the video.


Autumn from Thomas Rasel on Vimeo.


Autumn Stars and Planets is a short PBS video that explains why the stars and planets that we see from Earth change with the seasons. The video is embedded below.


Reactions, a great YouTube channel from the American Chemical Society, released a new video about the chemistry involved in the process of leaves changing color. The videos explains how chlorophyll and the glucose stored inside trees help reveal the reds, yellows and, browns of fall foliage.

The Lives of Baby Fish

The Secret Lives of Baby Fish is a cute and informative TED-Ed video that I watched over the weekend. The video explains how coral reef fish reproduce, grow, and survive. Through the video viewers can also learn about how new research is changing marine scientists' understanding of some aspects of the geographical distribution of coral reef fish.


While I enjoyed the video because it is well-produced, I was equally happy with the accompanying questions found on the TED-Ed site. Instead of just asking "did you pay attention?" types of questions, the first three questions ask students to think and use the information they just heard.

How to Share Materials By Using Files and Folders on Google Sites

This morning I received the following request from a reader:

Right now we tutors email our objectives to the parents which has worked well, but for families with multiple kids, they can conceivably receive 12 emails per week! I'd like to cut down on things going into their inboxes, and I was thinking there ought to be a way we tutors can upload our weekly files to one site with folders per grade level and then the parents can go to that place and grab what they need.

My suggestion was to create a file cabinet page on Google Sites. In the video below I demonstrate how to do this.

Updated - A Comparison of 11 Mobile Video Creation Apps

Six months ago I published a comparison chart of eleven popular mobile video creation tools. A couple of people recently pointed out to me that some aspects of the apps on that chart have changed. This morning I updated the chart to reflect those changes. The chart contains apps for iOS and Android. The chart can be viewed as embedded below or you can grab a copy through Google Drive (click "File" then "make copy" to save a copy for yourself).

Crash Course Reactions - A Student Video Project

Over the weekend I watched John Green's new Crash Course video about the causes of WWI. While I watched the video I thought about whether or not I would use it in a high school history classroom. In the video Green covers a lot of somewhat advanced content quickly.

Ultimately, I decided that I would use a video like Who Started World War I? with students who already have a solid understanding of the basics. Then I would ask them to create their own short videos to expand upon a point made by Green. It is also possible that I would have students who want to make a counterpoint to something in the Crash Course videos, that would be acceptable video project too.


Like a lot of student video projects, I'm not looking so much for production value as I am for content value. In other words, I'm evaluating the students use of facts in supporting the main point of their videos.  There are a lot of tools that students could use to create their videos for this project. They could simply use the webcams in their laptops to record themselves then edit the content in WeVideo. They could also use a tool like Knowmia or 30 Hands to create their videos on their iPads.

To be clear, I'm not picking on John Green's Crash Course series. The same type of activity that I described could be undertaken with any number of topics discussed in YouTube videos.

Image Credit: "DC-1914-27-d-Sarajevo-cropped" by Achille Beltrame - Cropped version of File:Beltrame Sarajevo.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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