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.

Fotor - Edit Images and Create Image Collages on Almost Any Device

Fotor is a free image editing tool available in your web browser, as a desktop application for Mac and Windows, as iPad app, as an Android app, and as a Windows 8 application. Fotor can be used without creating an account. With Fotor you can crop images, apply filters, add picture frames, insert clip art, and add text to your images. You can also create image collages on Fotor. All of your work can be saved on your computer or mobile device. See Fotor in action in the Tekzilla video below.


Applications for Education
If your students need a free and easy-to-use tool to edit their images before putting them into presentations, give Fotor a try. Have students use the collage option to create collages about highlights of the school year, things they've learned, or to create a "poster" of their favorite library books.

Video - How to Add Political Boundaries in Google Map Maker

No one knows a town or neighborhood like the people that live there. Google knows that and has made Map Maker a crowd-sourcing project to create the most detailed public maps possible. Google suggests adding information about recreational areas in your town, cultural landmarks, schools, and businesses. Yesterday, thanks to Rich Kiker, I learned that Google Map Maker now allows you to add political boundaries to maps. Watch the video below to learn how to do this.


Applications for Education
Teachers looking to create a project with "real world" implications should consider having students research their communities and contribute to making the map better on Google Map Maker.

Learn more about Map Maker in the video below.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Browse the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is a huge collection of digitized artifacts and exhibits from museums and libraries across the United States. Through the DPLA you can find documents, books, images, audio recordings, and video clips. The DPLA is a new resource and only some of the artifacts are arranged into exhibits at this point. You can look for artifacts by location, time, or keyword search. Clicking on an artifact will open information about where it is housed and when it was created.

Applications for Education
DPLA could a good place to find primary source artifacts to use in U.S. History lesson plans. Exhibits like this one about prohibition are arranged thematically. After viewing one of the DPLA exhibits as a model, have your students create their own digital exhibits of thematically connected artifacts.

My Spring and Summer PD Schedule

As the school year winds down a lot of teachers, teacher-librarians, and school administrators turn their attention to summer professional development opportunities. I've been fortunate to have been invited to quite a few schools and conferences for the spring and summer. And since I'm often asked where I'll be I thought this would be a good time to share my spring and summer schedule as it stands right now. If you're interested in having me speak at your school or conference please click here or email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com

In addition to the events listed below I plan to offer a couple of webinars in July. One webinar will be about blogging and one will be about Google Drive. I'll be announcing the schedules for those webinars next week.

April 23 - TIE South Dakota
April 25 - Texas Library Association
May 15 - Bridgton Academy, Maine
June 5,6 - Carondelet High School, California
June 12 - East Noble, Indiana
June 13,14 - Wellman, Iowa
June 17,18,19 - Storm Lake, Iowa
June 20 - Kettering, Ohio
June 23, 24, 25 - Fort Kent, ME
June 26 - AAFCS Conference, Houston
July 16,17 - Discovery DEN Conference
July 22, 23 - Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp
July 30 - Bullitt County, Kentucky
August 1, 2 - Tilton, NH Google Apps Academy
August 8 - Gaston County, NC
August 26 - Yavneh Academy, NJ
August 28,29 - Grand Prairie, Alberta