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Get Out(doors)!

DSC00672_2 The school days are winding down and the weather is getting warmer.  It seems like a perfect time to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors!  Here are some of my favorite nature-themed ideas and web resources that can carry students through the last weeks of school and even into the summer.

What's in a name? 
Teach your students to classify and identify the plants and animals they see around them.  If your school will allow it, think about putting a bird feeder somewhere on your campus.  Have students use the website What Bird to identify the name and hear the call of the birds they see. You can even have students create charts and graphs to measure the number of visits by different species and then use that information in a math lesson.  If birds aren't your thing, do a similar activity with insects and plants on campus.  The eNature Field Guides site makes it easy to identify a plant, insect, or animal by listing its characteristics.

To see even more animals from other habitats, check out the PBS American Field Guide for videos of animals from around the country. 

After an afternoon of exploring the schoolyard, have students imagine that they are great explorers on expedition. Share images and text from the Lewis and Clark Field Journals published online by the University of Nebraska, then ask students to write descriptive paragraphs about their plant and animal finds.  It's a great way to encourage the use of descriptive adjectives as they share the identifying features of their discoveries.

Grow for a cause
A fun way to carry learning through the summer is by starting plants from seed in the classroom. Even better, you can grow plants for a cause you and your students are interested in supporting.  LiveMonarch is a non-profit foundation where you can request a packet of milkweed seeds to plant on your property and help provide habitat and food for monarch butterflies.  To help your students learn more about the life cycle of a butterfly, you can even "Adopt a Butterfly" on the site and receive regular emails as your adoptee goes from egg to adult.

In another venture taking place across the country, gardeners are participating in the Plant a Row program to help feed the needy.  If you'd like to participate with your students, think about starting a garden on your campus and donating part of the produce to a local food bank.  You'll benefit the local community by filling a need while also giving students a chance to learn more about plants and how they grow. Got a great idea for a school-based garden, but lack the funds for seeds?  Tomato Bob donates seeds to schools each year - visit the site to fill out an online form describing your project to apply.

How do you use technology to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors? Share your ideas with us!




Discovery Liftoff

DiscoveryLaunch On March 15 I was in Orlando, Florida giving a presentation at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Conference. Integrating the Internet into the Primary Classroom links can be found here. After I finished my presentation, my husband and I drove east to catch the Space Shuttle Discovery's liftoff. Since we're from Minnesota, not Florida, we hadn't anticipated the traffic also heading to watch the liftoff. I used our GPS to find back roads which weren't very crowded. We pulled over to the side of the road where there was a clearing three minutes before liftoff. My husband grabbed the video camera and I grabbed my Nikon D60.

Continue reading "Discovery Liftoff" »

Web Sightings

So many great links have come my way this week and I'm excited about sharing them with you!  Here are three I think you'll love:

Teaching Shakespeare Audio and Video Resources  On Wednesday evening, I attended an online webinar entitled "Remixing Shakespeare" hosted by PBS Teachers Connect and Classroom 2.0.  The 90 minute free session shared lesson ideas and resources for teaching Shakespeare using digital tools. One of the resources that I discovered during the webinar was the Folger Shakespeare Library and their Audio and Video Teaching Resources. There you'll find brief audio and video recordings to help teachers learn new strategies for teaching classical literature. If you're interested in seeing more of the links shared during the webinar, you'll find a link to the entire presentation on the PBS website. If you're more into Science and Math, never fear! The next two webinars in April and May focus on Math and Science strategies.

ShowUSA Data Visualization  This resource came to me via Twitter when Cindy Grabe shared the link.  The Show website makes demographic and place-based statistical data really easy to visualize. Simply select a set of data from the pull down lists and watch as the states resize in relation to the data.  You can select from data sets sorted into the categories of People, Planet, Business, Politics, and Living. Here's a version that shows the number of rollercoasters per state:

I can see this site being an interesting addition to a lesson in graphing and statistics!

Jeopardy Labs  One of my favorite ways to help students review for tests is by using games.  There are dozens of  templates out there where you can create a PowerPoint style presentation modeled after the television show Jeopardy.  The Jeopardy Labs website makes it even easier by creating an online template that you simply fill in with questions and answers. You can create your own or browse through the ready made games for one that matches your curriculum.

What's your favorite web sighting of the week?  Share them with us here!

Science Tech-explorations

Science Science is always one of my student's favorite subjects.  Learning about the world around them while being able to explore and experiment makes science a hands-on, minds-on class.  While experiencing science directly is best, it's not always possible for many reasons (I'm guessing a field trip to an active volcano wouldn't be something my principal would approve...).   That's where virtual experiences can really give your science curriculum a boost.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use online tools in science:

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Picture This!

Wea01505Kids are naturally visual.  By adding an arsenal of image-friendly techniques to your toolbag, you'll help your students link what they see to what they're learning. Here are some of my favorite ways to use images in the classroom along with a couple of great image search websites.

  • Create a slideshow preview. Collect photographs based on the current science or social studies unit and create a slideshow that can play as a screensaver on classroom computers during down time.  I love to use this technique at the beginning of a new unit so that when students arrive in class, they see images related to what we're about to study. It makes for a great conversation starter as students use prior knowledge to explain how the images link to the unit.
  • Create writing prompts.  If you have students use a daily writing prompt for journals, create a set of interesting images that can be used as story starters.  This is a great way to help students learn to add descriptive elements to their writing too.  I keep a set of images in my iPhoto library that are labeled Writing.  As I find interesting pictures that are begging for a story, I add them to the folder.
  • Make student stickers.  This is great for Kindergarten classes and pre-readers! Take a picture of each student and print their picture and name on address labels. Use the labels to mark mail cubbies, notebooks, and other personal storage spaces.  If you use chore charts or group lists, use the stickers to create index cards for each student to denote their tasks.
  • Create a class memory movie.  Select a student of the day to take pictures of each day's events.  At the end of the year, use the photos to create a slideshow or video from the first day of school to the last.  If you have a DVD burner, you can make a copy of the movie to send home with your students as a keepsake.

If you'd like to find more ideas, check out this list from Gayle and these ideas from "Digital Cameras in the Primary Classroom." Want even more ideas? Look no further:


If you don't have access or time to take your own photos, all is not lost.  Look to one of these sites for classroom friendly photographs.

  • US Government Photos and Graphics.  Links to dozens of government websites that contain public domain photographs.
  • NASA Image Exchange. Space images, video and audio from NASA's archive.
  • My Florida Digital Warehouse. Images and public domain clipart collected and housed by Florida's Center for Instructional Technology.
  • Pics4Learning. This collection of photographs was largely donated by teachers, students and others who wanted to create an image bank geared to education.  You'll find a dozen of my photos in there.  Why not work with your students to add to the collection?
  • Flickr's Creative Commons Search. Flickr is a social photography site where users share their photos. Many users license their photos under a Creative Commons license to make them available for use by others. Read more about the license at the site. (Note: Flickr may contain images that aren't suitable for younger students.)

Wondering where the photograph above came from? It's part of the NOAA Image Library, which is one of the many sites listed under the US Government Photos and Graphics link above.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tutors "Supporting Teachers Use of Technology" are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.