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Friday, April 19, 2013

10 Educational Resources for Earth Day

This coming Monday is Earth Day 2013. As I've done in the past, I've compiled a list of resources for teaching about Earth Day and environmental science in general. Here are ten resources for teaching and learning about Earth Day and environmental science.

The Earth Day Network is a good place to start your search for Earth Day information. The Earth Day Network offers nine lesson plans about preserving the environment. This year the Earth Day Network is looking for people to share stories of climate change by uploading pictures that represent "the faces of climate change."

National Geographic has some other great resources for learning about environmental science and Earth  Day. On the National Geographic website students can learn about the Green House Effect through an interactive lesson. After learning about global warming in the Green House Effect interactive lesson, students can learn about alternative energy through the Wind Power interactive lesson.

Breathing Earth is an interactive map demonstrating CO2 emissions, birth rates, and death rates globally and by individual countries. From the moment that you first visit Breathing Earth it starts counting the number of births occurring worldwide. Placing your cursor over any country on the map reveals information about birthrate, death rate, and rate of CO2 emissions. One of the additional resources linked to Breathing Earth is an ecological footprint calculator. Using this calculator students can calculate their personal footprints, take quizzes, and learn about the ecological footprints of various businesses.

Google offers tours in its Explore Climate Change series. The tours explore the actions of organizations to prevent or adapt to climate change in different parts of the world. These tours include the World Wildlife Foundation's efforts in the peatland swamps of Borneo, Greenpeace's actions to prevent deforestation of the Amazon, and Conservation International's efforts to reduce deforestation in Madagascar. The tours can be viewed three ways, in Google Earth, in the Google Browser plug-in, or through YouTube.

Google offers tours in its Explore Climate Change series. The tours explore the actions of organizations to prevent or adapt to climate change in different parts of the world. These tours include the World Wildlife Foundation's efforts in the peatland swamps of Borneo, Greenpeace's actions to prevent deforestation of the Amazon, and Conservation International's efforts to reduce deforestation in Madagascar. The tours can be viewed three ways, in Google Earth, in the Google Browser plug-in, or through YouTube.

Turf Mutt is a nice free resource from Discovery Education. Turf Mutt features ten free environmental science lesson plans for K-5 teachers. The lesson plans have clearly defined objectives and detailed directions for carrying out each lesson plan. The majority of the lesson plans span several days. The lesson plans use a combination of hands-on activities, see Discovering Dirt, and reading/ research activities. Although not directly connected to the lesson plans, Turf Mutt has some videos to help students learn about topics in Environmental Science.

My Garbology, produced by Nature Bridge, is an interactive game that teaches students about sorting garbage for recycling, reusing, and composting. Students sort garbage into four bins according to where they think each piece of garbage should go. When a piece of garbage is sorted correctly a series of short animations explains why it should be there.  For example, a banana peel should be sorted into the compost bin. When the banana peel is placed into the compost bin students watch and hear a series of animations explaining how composting works.

Changing the Balance is a website for students to use to explore climate change through looking at its impact on mosquitoes, malaria, and the West Nile virus. There are nine sequential parts to Changing the Balance. In the first four parts students learn about mosquitoes, Malaria, and West Nile and how climate change may be a contributing factor to the spread of those diseases. In the beginning students also learn how mosquitoes bite and how Malaria affects the human body. The last five sections of Changing the Balance are geared toward a more general explanation and examination of causes and effects of climate change.

The Great Energy Challenge is a National Geographic feature that offers some nice interactive posters for evaluating personal and global energy consumption. Global Electricity Outlook is an interactive display of electricity consumption across the globe. You can view the global picture or click on the map to view regional consumption. The display shows the means of electricity production globally and regionally. To see how shifting production sources would impact the world or a region use the sliders below the map. The Personal Energy Meter is a tool for evaluating your personal carbon footprint. The meter asks for your location then asks a series of questions about your energy consumption. The result compares you to the average person in your region. I was below average in my footprint until I entered the number of flights I take every year. Wow! Flying leaves a huge carbon footprint.

EcoKids is a Canadian organization that provides free resources for teaching and learning about topics in environmental science. The resources designed for teachers require registration, but the resources for students can be accessed without registration. The games and activities section for kids offers dozens of online games across eight categories. Within each of the eight categories the games and activities are again categorized according to age appropriateness. The eight games and activities categories are: wildlife, climate change, energy, water, waste, land use, the North, and First Nations & Inuit.

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