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Free Rice…New and Improved!

  What it is: Free Rice is an amazing website that I have posted about two or three times in the past.  It has been a site where students can play a vocabulary game and earn 20 grains of rice for each correct answer.  The grains of rice are distributed to hungry people all over the world through the UN World Food Program.  Two of my students came in this morning with a printout of how many grains of rice they had earned over the weekend on the Free Rice website (we have a contest going each year to see which class and grade can earn the most grains of rice).   They were unusually excited about this bunch of earned rice because they discovered some new features on Free Rice.  Free Rice is now much more than a vocabulary game!  Students can choose the subject they would like to play.  As they increase in all types of knowledge, there is the added bonus of helping people in need.  Free Rice subjects now include art (famous paintings), chemistry (chemical symbols), English grammar, geography (world capitals), language learning (French, German, Italian, Spanish), math (multiplication), and of course…vocabulary!  Free rice is an incredible place for students to practice facts for a wide range of subject areas.  Some additional new features: now students can click on a speaker next to a word to hear it read to them and can change the level of difficulty manually!  I am so impressed with the site and impressed with my students for finding and sharing these new treasures!   How to integrate Free Rice into the classroom:  With all of the new subjects on Free Rice, it is the perfect place to send your students for fact practice.  Whether they are learning a new language, or need some practice with their multiplication facts Free Rice is a great place to practice.  What I love about Free Rice is the added bonus of character education.  Free Rice teaches students compassion and empathy.  My students truly play the game not for the learning taking place, but because it makes them feel good to do something for others.  Kids often feel like there is nothing they can personally do to help a cause…Free Rice gives them a voice and the ability to make a change.  It empowers them.   Tips:  Set up Free Rice on your classroom computers as a place for students to go when they are finished early and need a little something extra.  Free Rice is also excellent in a computer lab setting and for home play.     Leave a comment and share how you are using Free Rice in your classroom.  

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NASA’s Be a Martian

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 22-02-2010

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What it is: I have always been intrigued by space exploration.  NASA’s Be a Martian feeds this intrigue by giving an up close view of Mars exploration.  Here students can virtually explore and learn about the human-robotic partnership that makes virtual exploration possible.  Students can become citizens (this requires them to create an account) or explore with an “Anonymous Tourist Visa”, which is how I explored.  Students can send virtual postcard messages to the Spirit Rover in her new home.  After composing their own message, students are taken to a virtual Mars where postcards with messages rain down.  Students can click on a postcard to read what others around the world have written.  In the map room, students can watch a video detailing the history of mapping and learn how NASA scientists map today.  Students can become virtual map makers by matching up map image fragments, and counting craters.  In Two Moons Theater, students can watch videos starring NASA scientists, explorers, and Mars.    Students can ask and vote on questions that they would like to see answered in the Polling Place.  In Tourist Mars Atlas, students can explore the surface of Mars and learn that there is more to Mars than a giant expanse of tan.   

How to integrate NASA’s Be a Martian into the classroom: Feed your students curiosity about space exploration and Mars with this great interactive environment.  Students have the opportunity to learn about the work that NASA scientists do, practice their observation skills in map making, and learn some great history about space exploration, and map making.  I really like that NASA has included a place for students to ask and vote on questions that they would like answered.  What a neat way to help students understand that we don’t have all the answers and that scientists ask questions, explore, and experiment to learn more.  I think that younger students (primary elementary) would really enjoy the crater counting activity.  Do this activity as a class using an interactive whiteboard/projector or individually as a center.  This will help students to look for detail and practice counting together.  Older students will enjoy trying their hand at mapping Mars and learning more about the history.  Have students learn about the Spirit Rover and her job on Mars before sending a message.  Some of the postcards include location information, it might be fun to track the locations of the postcards in Google Earth with placemarkers.  Then, explore Mars using Google Earth or Google Space.  The Google tools complement this site nicely.

Tips: There is an impressive contest section on NASA’s Be a Martian site, the deadline for entries is April 16, 2010.  The contest challenges us to come up with videos about Mars, interactive software or games, or write an efficient image processing application.  NASA is including us all in the exploration of Mars.  These challenges would be outstanding for older students to take part in…talk about authentic learning!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NASA’s Be a Martian in your classroom.

Comments (5)

What an excellent way of teaching and learning about space. Way cool!

This looks like a great site to use in the classroom or at home for kids who enjoy space. In my child’s school, they have a “Project Fair” each year and this would be a great idea to help with a project dealing with space.

Authentic learning indeed! It’s wonderful when entities like NASA encourage kids to become involved. AND acknowledge that we certainly don’t have all the answers.

This looks like so much fun. I’m so annoyed that these tools are available to these kids and I was stuck with poorly copied images from an out of date textbook. Great find and share.

I know, I am always bummed that I didn’t get to learn with these tools when I was a kid. That is probably why I geek out about them so much now…gives me a chance to learn like a kid!

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