Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Edible Glass Hearts and Other Lessons About Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is this coming Sunday. My daughter's preschool is having a little celebration on Friday during which little cards will be exchanged. She's very excited about Valentine's Day as is her little sister. As I write this they're making Valentine's Day cookies (with supervision). Another Valentine's Day activity that they could be doing (with supervision) is making edible glass hearts with isomalt crystals. 

Making edible glass hearts is the topic of the latest SciShow Kids video. The video begins by explaining how glass is made before moving into an explanation of how sugar, like sand, can be melted. The video then explains why isomalt is used to make edible glass hearts (melting point) and how it can be done at home with the supervision of a parent. Like all SciShow Kids videos the description includes lots of links to additional resources including this one that has written directions

If you're looking to work a little Valentine's Day themed activity into your middle school or high school classes in the next couple of days, here are three good videos to consider viewing.

Why Do We Love? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores some philosophies on why people love. The lesson won't provide you with any clear answers, but it will make you think. And isn't that what philosophers want you to do?

The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.

The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).

70 Lesson Plans About WWII

A few years ago I visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. If ever have a chance to visit, take it! I spent about five hours in the museum and I would have spent ten hours in it if I'd had the time. I wish that every student could visit the National WWII Museum, but that's not possible. Fortunately, the museum does offer some good online resources for teachers and students. 

The National WWII Museum's online resources include seventy lesson plans and more than fifty distance learning videos. The lesson plans are available for free to any teacher who registers for a free account on the museum's WWII Classroom website

The WWII Classroom lesson plans are divided into five thematic sections. Those sections are War in Europe, War in the Pacific, The Home Front, Real World Science, and Liberation & Legacy. All of the lesson plans are available to download as PDFs. Many of the lesson plans include the use of primary sources. In those cases the PDFs include digital copies of the primary sources to distribute to your students. The lesson plans also include links to additional supporting resources like videos and audio files. 

In addition to the lesson plans available on the WWII Classroom lesson plan pages you'll find related videos if you scroll to the bottom of the page. The videos, like the lesson plans, are organized into the themes of War in Europe, War in the Pacific, The Home Front, Real World Science, and Liberation & Legacy.

With a free account on the WWII Classroom site you can save resources in your account for quick access at any time. Unfortunately, there aren't any direct integrations with popular learning management systems so you'll have to manually upload or link to resources in the LMS that your school uses. 

My NASA Data Story Maps - Lesson Plans Based on NASA Data

A few weeks ago I published a summary of nine neat NASA resources for teachers and students. Shortly after that I received an email from someone at NASA who pointed me in the direction of My NASA Data

My NASA Data is much more than just a collection of datasets published by NASA. My NASA Data contains lesson plans, data visualizations, and story maps. Those lesson plans, visualizations, and story maps are divided into six sections. Those sections are titled Atmosphere, Biosphere, Cryosphere, Geosphere, Hydrosphere, and Earth as System. Select a section to start exploring all of the visualizations, lesson plans, and story maps within it. In many cases you'll find additional lesson plans included within the visualizations and story maps. 

As a former social studies teacher and life-long lover of maps, the Story Maps section is the section of My NASA Data that grabbed my attention. There are six story maps in the Story Maps section. Those story maps are titled Volcanic Eruptions, Ocean Circulation Patterns, Global Phytoplankton Distribution, Sea Ice Extent and the Earth System, Creation of Urban Heat Islands, and Hurricanes as Heat Engines. 

Each of the My NASA Data Story Maps includes detailed lesson plans and digital handouts for students. The lesson plans include prompts for exploring the data and information within each section of the story maps. All of the digital handouts can be distributed to students via Google Classroom (most of the handouts are Google Sheets or Docs). 

My social studies background comes through when I look at resources like My NASA Data Story Maps. These story maps provide a good opportunity to help students make correlations between topics in science and geography. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Fun Activities for Snowy Days

We're finally starting to see snow accumulation here in Maine that is typical for our winters. We had a big storm last week followed by a few inches of snow last night. Today, it is a beautiful blue sky day! As I wrapped up my last Zoom class of the day I encouraged all of my students to go outside and get some fresh air while soaking up the sunshine. Of course, that prompted a few "there's nothing to do" groans. So I suggested making a snow fort. 

If you're like me and you live in a snowy environment and are trying to encourage outdoor play, here are some activities to try. 

NOVA, as a part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo.

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. There are dozens of DIY snowshoe videos on YouTube. This one is a little bit too quick, but it does have a detailed materials list in the description. 

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book (available for free in Google Books). The book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities. I took my tattered copy off the shelf this weekend and explained to my daughters that the book was written when people thought that girls couldn't do the same things as boys, but now we know better. We then turned to the section about making ice-fishing traps. Now they can't wait to go ice-fishing next weekend! 

The Easiest Way to Create QR Codes for Google Forms

Last fall I published a video and blog post about using QRCode Monkey to make QR codes for Google Forms. Doing that makes it easy for students to quickly access your Google Forms from their phones. In my school a lot of teachers are using QR codes to give students quick access to things like lunch menus, sign-in/sign-out forms, and activity registration forms. 

QRCode Monkey is a good tool and I don't have any problem recommending it. But if you're looking for an even easier way to make a QR code for a Google Form, there is a relatively new option for making QR codes built right into Google Chrome. 

When you're viewing the URL for a Google Form or any other web page in Google Chrome you'll see a small QR code icon in the right edge of the address bar. Simply click on that icon and a QR code will be generated for that page. You can download the QR code as PNG image file to download and print or download and insert into a document. This is probably the quickest and easiest way to create QR codes for Google Forms. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to quickly create a QR code for a Google Form without having to use any third-party tools.