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JASON Science: Eco Defenders

What it is: Eco Defenders is another excellent Filament Games simulation/interactive.  In this game, students design “alien” invasive species and set it loose on an imaginary ecosystem.  Students must use their knowledge of ecosystems, adaptations, and competition to design a simulation of an invasive species.  Students find out that when an invading species occupies the same ecological niche as native species, they can cause problems for the ecosystem.  The game allows for a lot of customization and decisions for students as they choose one of three ecosystems and then design their own alien.  As students go through the simulation, JASON host researcher, Russell Cuhel, will ask questions about how invasive species invade an ecosystem giving students the chance to be the expert.  Before students play the game, ask them to click on the “Learn More” link where they will receive a tutorial for the game and some background information about invasive species.  Students can learn about different kinds of invasive species that exist in our world. How to integrate Eco Defenders into the classroom: In the Eco Defenders game/simulation, your students will: design their own invasive creature, watch their creature as it interacts in the ecosystem and competes over resources with native creatures, and analyze the interactions among the organisms in the ecosystem.  Students will select a creature to target in the ecosystem they have chosen and then design a species that will compete in the same ecological niche.  Students will design and then run a simulation to test their invader.  Afterward, they will discuss what happened with the virtual host scientist, go over the results, and analyze the data.  The great thing about this game/simulation is that no two students will have the exact same results.  Eco Defenders is best in a computer lab setting where each student can play individually.  After students have experimented and run through the simulation, come together as a class and discuss what students observed.  What made their invader successful?  What would they change for the next time?  As students learn more about ecosystems, eco niches, and invaders throughout the unit, have them run through the simulation again and see if they come up with different results.  If you can’t manage access to a 1 to 1 computer setting, play the game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The class should discuss each decision, weighing the pros and cons, before making a move.  As the students work through the simulation, talk about what they are observing and what tweaks might change the outcome of their simulation. Tips: JASON Science is worth a look.  The tag-line of JASON Science is “Education through Exploration”.  I couldn’t agree more! Please leave a comment and share how you are using Eco Defenders in your classroom.

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Day of Play: Mechanical Bulls, Time Machines, Dancing and Mustaches

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary | Posted on 08-10-2012

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Maybe you have heard of Caine’s Arcade?  It is a little movement, started by an 8 year old.  This video will restore your faith in humanity and inspire you big time!  It inspired us at Anastasis Academy, so much so that when the second video came out, inviting us to a Day of Play, we were all in.

On Friday, Anastasis held our own Day of Play.  We collected boxes (lots and lots of boxes), tape, markers, pipe cleaners, glue, aluminum foil, rubber bands, tubes, scissors and paper.  Then, we let the kids at it.  There were no parameters, no specific rules or directions.  The goal for our students was to dream as big as they could. It is amazing what happens when you invite kids to dream and build apart from any rules or expectations of what the end goal is.  Our students (k-8) gathered in our big “all in” room and built to their hearts content.  The amazing part: no two ideas were the same.  We had plink-o, a fortune teller, a minecraft adventure, a time machine (complete with crystal), ski ball, tilt the ball, an old-school computer made of new parts, a hotdog/snow cone stand, dance dance revolution, ferris wheel, tanks, and a mechanical bull.  You read correctly, a mechanical bull.

The students spent about 3 hours dreaming and building.  Some had plans they created the day before, others came in with a blank slate.  After all of the building (and a break for lunch) we gathered to play each others games.  It was SO much fun!  Students even created their own prizes that could be won (mustaches and uni-brows anyone?).

The casual observer might have watched this all go down and seen chaos or a waste of time.  A closer look would have revealed the rich learning taking place.  The problem solving, critical thinking, discovery, planning, rich conversations, kids working together, designing, creativity.  Have you ever seen those words describe a worksheet? A lecture?  This was such a RICH learning experience in so many ways.  Best of all: it built and fostered a culture of working together, learning from each other and enjoying each other.  That is no small feat.

I saw genius today. I am SO proud of these kids, they truly are geniuses.  Two of our students (different classes and ages) built a tank together.  The tank shot rubber bands and launched a “cannon” water bottle.  These boys decided that the rubber band shooter and cannon should have a “safety” just in case something slipped so that they wouldn’t accidentally shoot anything.  The way they worked this out was truly brilliant.  The cannon water bottle was held in place by a popsicle stick safety.  The rubber band shooter was attached to pipe cleaner that kept the rubber band from releasing unless the safety was off.

Our youngest kids built and manned a hotdog/snow cone stand.  My favorite part of the stand was the signs that they created for it.  One of the signs read “Snow cones choose a color: limeade, raspberry, blueberry, grape.”  I love that it said choose a color, not choose a flavor.  SO stinking cute!

A dance-loving student created the cardboard version of dance, dance revolution.  She created a dance mat with different colors on it.  Then, she climbed behind her box and flashed construction paper colors. When the color showed up, the player had to step on the matching color on the mat.  Periodically, she would hold up signs that said things like, “you are on fire” or “fail”.  Brilliant!

Check out our Day of Play below:

Personalized learning should be available to EVERY child, every day. The Learning Genome Project makes that possible.  Please help me spread the word and contribute!

Comments (1)

[…] to create iPad styluses out of sponge and wire for less than 10 cents.  Last year we held an all-school day of play (highly recommend that!) and marshmallow/spaghetti tower challenge.  This year we have some fun […]

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