Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Science and Games - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of February. As I do at the end of every month I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. This month the bulk of the most popular posts were related to science and or games. Take a look at the list below and see if your favorite resource topped the list. Or take a look at the list to discover something new to you.

Here are February's most popular posts:
1. Ptable - Interactive Periodic Table of Elements
2. If You Teach Science, You Need Science Netlinks
3. 16 Videos About the Science of Winter Olympics Sports
4. Newspaper Templates for Google Docs & Word
5. Use Google Sheets to Create Online Bingo Boards With Pictures
6. A Large Collection of Virtual Chemistry Labs and Lessons
7. Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects
8. My Favorite Screencasting Tool Now Works on Chromebooks
9. 10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students
10. 5 Observations Students Can Record With Google's Science Journal App

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Ten Ideas for Classroom Podcasts

On Sunday I published a video that shows how quickly and easily you can create a podcast on If you watched the video and you're ready to get started, your next step is probably to generate ideas for your classroom podcast. Here are ten ideas that I brainstormed to help you and your students get your classroom podcast rolling.

1. Get to know the people who keep your school running.
Every school has staff members that students see but don't know who they are. This could be members of the maintenance staff, secretaries, tech staff, or cafeteria staff. All of those people have important roles in your school and often have interesting stories to share, if they're asked. Have students record short interviews with those people. (By the way, the Great Questions Generator from StoryCorps is good place to find some interview questions).

2. Meteorology podcast
Creating and recording weather forecasts could be a good activity for a science class or as an extension of a science lesson. Depending upon where you live, you might have students make predictions on weather-related school closings or delays.

3. Local news reports and commentary
Record podcasts about local news. Students can share some headlines then share their thoughts about the news. This is could be a good alternative to the classic "current events Fridays" that happen in many social studies classrooms.

4. School news
Publish a weekly podcast about what's happening in your school. You might have students interview some other students for their commentary on things happening around your school.

5. Interviews with parents
Make your own classroom version of StoryCorps by having students interview their parents. StoryCorps has great suggestions for questions to ask parents.

6. Book reviews
Have students record their thoughts about a favorite book or about a book that they read but didn't love.

7. Sports statistics debates
Don't just let students debate who the best athletes or teams are, have them incorporate some statistical analysis.

8. Old time radio show
Let students practice their creative writing skills by scripting and then recording an old time radio show like those their great-grandparents might have listened to. The Internet Archive has a nice collection of those old shows that could serve as a model for your students' productions.

9. "Car Talk"
Speaking of radio shows, one of my all-time favorites is NPR's Car Talk. I'm not suggesting that students give out car repair advice, although some vocational schools might consider that possibility, but they could use the concept of a call-in show to answer questions about topics that they're passionate about. I can envision some students using this concept to make a podcast about Minecraft or other favorite games.

10. Weekly update/ reflections.
Are your students working on a long-term research project? Have them document that process through a weekly podcast about what they've learned.

If you're looking for a microphone to use to record your podcasts, it is hard to beat the Snowball iCE  (affiliate link). I have two of them that I've used for years on Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks without fail. They're easy to set-up, just plug them into your computer with the provided USB cord and you're good to go. 

Aquation - A Game for Learning About Global Access to Clean Water

Aquation is a free game offered by the the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The game, designed for students in upper elementary school or middle school, teaches students about the distribution of clean water and what can be done to balance global water resources. In the game students select a region to explore its current water supplies. Based on the information provided students take action in the form of building desalination plants, conducting further research, reacting to natural events, and attempting to move water between regions.

Aquation is available to play on Android devices, on iOS devices, and in your web browser (web browser requires Unity plugin).

Applications for Education
Aquation isn't a fast-paced game so it probably won't grab your students' attention when they open it. But if you can push through the initial "blah" reaction from your students, the game contains some valuable lessons about the global distribution of freshwater resources and the challenges that face the regions that have less than others.