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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Sites for Helping Students Learn About Wildlife

Earth Day is coming up next week on April 22nd. This week before Earth Day is a good time for lessons about the wildlife that can benefit from the conservation efforts promoted through Earth Day. Here are some of my favorite sites and apps for helping students learn about wildlife.

Arkive.org offers an extensive collection of videos and images of plants and animals. The videos and images are cataloged according to animal, plant, eco-region, and geo-political region. You can navigate the galleries by selecting one of the broad categories then choosing a subject within that broad category. For example, choose the Antarctica eco-region and then you can explore all of the images and videos about plants and animals found in that eco-region. Videos on Arkive can be downloaded to for your classroom use. Arkive offers a dozen online games for kids. The games collection is a mix of quiz games and problem solving games. One of the games that I tried out is Animal Survival that required me to keep a Sand Lizard alive by correctly answering questions about Sand Lizards' daily lives.

Polar Bears International has some lesson plans for teaching about climate change, ecotourism, and conservation. You will also find links to a slideshow on Polar Bears and nice PDF about Polar Bears that contains an educational game. And if you would like to show videos of polar bears to your students, Explore.org has polar bear footage that you can watch here.

WWF Together features interactive stories about endangered animals around the world. Each of the interactive stories includes beautiful images and videos, facts about the animals and their habitats, and the threats to each of the animals. The animals currently featured in the app are pandas, marine turtles, elephants, tigers, polar bears, bison, whales, gorillas, rhinos, and snow leopards. Stories about sharks and jaguars are slated for addition to the app later this year.

Explore.org produces and hosts high-quality documentary films and photographs. The films and images focus on exploring the world and the work of non-profit organizations around the world. The films and images are organized by location and by charitable and or environmental cause. Explore.org is funded in part by the Annenburg Foundation. Part of the video gallery includes live webcam feeds of animals in their habits as well as recorded videos. Explore.org offers a lesson plan section for teachers. Not all lesson plans are appropriate for all grades and the lesson plans are labeled accordingly. All of the lesson plans are based upon videos hosted by Explore.

Wild Earth is a site that has organized more than three dozen live webcam feeds of animals. While watching the video feeds, registered users can chat with each other about what they're seeing. If the video feed is not live when you visit the website, you can choose from any number of recorded videos.

WWF Wildfinder is an interactive map through which you can see the distribution of more than 26,000 animals around the world. You can browse the map, search by region and ecosystem, or search for a specific animal. When you find an animal on the map you can open a tab of information about its habitat, whether or not its population is threatened, and view pictures of the animal.

NOAA's Games Planet Arcade offers twenty-five educational games for young students. The games are intended to help students learn about oceans, wildlife, and weather. Twenty of the games address topics related to marine life. While the games are not terribly complex or fancy, they do offer some solid information for young students. For example, the Humpback Whale Migration game isn't much more than a board game that provides students with information about Humpback whales. As students move across the board they are stopped at spaces offering facts about the annual migrations of Humpback whales. Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest is one of the headline games of NOAA's Games Planet Arcade. The object of the game is to help a sea turtle avoid common obstacles on while navigating the ocean and the beach before laying her eggs and returning to the sea. About half of the games are hosted on NOAA's website and the others are linked to the websites of PBS, National Geographic or the Environmental Protection Agency.

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