Friday, March 6, 2009

Learning About the Iditarod

The Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska, called by some the "Last Great Race," starts tomorrow. The Iditarod presents teaching opportunities as it engages some students through adventure and other students through their interest dogs. I've compiled a short list of resources for teaching about the Iditarod.

The Official Iditarod website is probably the best place to start looking for teaching resources. The Teacher's Resource page of the Official Iditarod website has 15 lesson plans and activities for classroom use. The Learn About page of the Iditarod website has some good background information about the race including lists of past winners, profiles of past winners, a photo gallery, and a glossary of musher (racer) terminology.

For your students who are interested in learning about the dogs used to pull the sleds over the 1100 mile Iditarod course, the American Kennel Club is a good place to find information about Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies.

The From Alaska Educational Program has five pre-made units of study about mushing (dog sledding). Each unit has articles, images, and quizzes about mushing. Three of the units also include video and audio clips.

The Discovery Channel offers 26 video clips related to the Iditarod race. The clips cover information about the dogs, the mushers, the sleds, and the history of the race.

If you have a class of older and experienced Google Earth or Google Maps users, you could have your students create a Google Earth fly-over tour of the Iditarod course.

World of Teaching - Slide Shows for All Subjects

World of Teaching is a website of free power point slide shows for wide variety of subject areas and grade levels. The World of Teaching homepage features the most recent additions. All of the slide shows are organized by subject area. Each slide show is available as a free download. I would like to see World of Teaching add a preview option so that you didn't have to download each file in order to view the content.

Applications for Education
World of Teaching could be a great website to have up your sleeve when you don't have time to build a slideshow. World of Teaching's slideshows could also be good resources to look through for ideas for creating your own slideshows.

Two similar websites that I've previously written about are Pete's Power Point Station and Power Point Palooza.

Siftables - The Coolest Blocks Ever!

This morning on the TED Talks Blog I saw this video of David Merrill from MIT introducing a really fantastic technology development called Siftables. Siftables are little computer blocks or digital blocks that contain motion sensors, neighbor detection sensors, digital displays, and wireless communications. From the video it appears that these blocks are roughly one inch cubed. The blocks can be manipulated to create words, equations, pictures, and designs. One of the more outstanding features of Siftables is that you can align blocks to form an equation and if you remove one block and slide another in its place, all of the other blocks change to keep the equation true.

The video below explains Siftables in more detail than what I've shared above.

Applications for Education
Siftables are not yet commercially available nor do I have any idea what they would cost, but there is a ton of potential for Siftables as an educational resource. Siftables would be great for young students just learning to spell and do arthimetic. Siftables could also be great for older students to develop and try solutions to mathematical problems.

Check out the video (it's only seven minutes) and leave a comment with your thoughts about how Siftables could be used in your classroom.

The Interactive Periodic Table

The periodic table haunted my dreams during my junior year of high school. It was during that year that my Chemistry teacher had us memorize the periodic table. Today's high school Chemistry students have a number of online resources for learning the Periodic Table including the video periodic table and now this interactive Periodic Table simply called The Elements located at

The Elements is an interactive periodic table on which students can click an element and learn about that element. Clicking on an element describes all of the element's properties and the common uses of that element. If students just need a snap shot of information, simply placing their cursor on an element reveals a snap shot of information at the top of the page.

Applications for Education
The Elements could be a great reference for science students at many grade levels. Students can locate all of the standard periodic table data as well as see images of the elements and read explanations of each element in use.

Resources for Women's History Month

This morning's edition of CNN Student News features a segment about the notable "firsts" of women in the 1980's. To complement the video I compiled a short list of other teaching resources related to Women's History Month. The list appears below the video.

Scholastic has a good compilation of teaching resources for Women's History Month. Scholastic features profiles of famous women and some not-so-famous, but equally notable female scientists and the work they do. The student reporter page of Scholastic currently features an interview of Nancy Pelosi written by Chelsea Lollar.

FREE (Free Resources for Educational Excellence) has links to three categories of resources for Women's History Month. FREE links to the National Park Service's website about women's contributions to the park service. FREE also links to NASA's website, Female Frontiers, about women in the space program. Finally, FREE links to the website about women's history built by the Library of Congress. On the LOC's website you can find audio, video, and text resources as well as lesson plans based on documents and art work. (If you visit the FREE website you'll notice that there are four links, but one of them seems to have expired).

The History Channel has a site dedicated to Women's History Month where you can find videos and timelines related to women's history.

Finally, I have to give a plug to my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Allison Hepler, who authored Women in Labor: Mothers, Medicine, and Occupational Health in the United States 1890-1980.