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The Road to the Capitol

What it is: The Road to the Capitol has to be one of the coolest sites I have seen to help kids understand government and the campaign and election process.  Students are immediately greeted by a newspaper headline “Congressman Retires: who will represent the US on Capitol Hill?”.  Students are then taken to a TV ad of one of the candidates running for congress, Roberta Glass.  Roberta thinks that kids have too much freedom and should be banned from freely accessing media like movies, TV, video games, and the computer.  Students are offered the opportunity to run against Roberta Glass in the election.  Students must register as a candidate in the election and are then introduced to their campaign manager.  Students make 5 campaign stops in their local congressional district.  At each stop, it is their job to help citizens understand the importance of protecting freedom.  Students can stop at campaign headquarters at any time to get briefed for each campaign event.  At the Campaign Headquarters, students click on important topics to get briefed on such as: Justice and Equality, Rights to Privacy, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom of Religion.  When students choose a topic, they are taken to subtopics that lead them to rich resources where they can delve deeper into the topic and learning.  Along the campaign trail, students have to make their own commercial, give a speech, talk to students about the freedom of expression, answer questions in a press conference, and debate Roberta Glass head to head.  I can’t stress enough what an awesome interactive site this is.  Every webquest should involve kids in the story and process the way this one does! How to integrate The Road to the Capitol into the classroom: This is an incredible self-guided learning experience.  Students will learn about our democratic system in depth by completing this activity.  The Road to the Capitol is really best experienced by individual students in a computer lab setting where they have plenty of time to research and complete each stop along the campaign trail.  If you don’t have access to a computer lab, the activity could be completed as a whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  To make The Road to the Capitol a more in-depth project, have students take campaign notes along the way in a word processing program.  They can later sum up what they learned and recorded in their notes by copying the notes and pasting them into a word cloud program like Wordle.  Students could create short campaign commercials based on the commercial they created in the game.  These can be recorded with PhotoBooth on a Mac or with a video camera.  Students could also create a campaign poster using a word processing or publishing program. At the beginning of this interactive, you will see the campaign commercial of Roberta Glass.  The commercial talks about taking away kids freedoms, I imagine that some passionate discussion about the commercial could follow. Tips: Really, go check out this website.  You won’t be disappointed!  Press the “Stop” button on the game to get the teacher/parent pdf guide. Please leave a comment and share how you are using The Road to the Capitol in your classroom.

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An inquiry into sharing the planet: embodied energy awesomeness

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 18-03-2013

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You may think that when I’m not posting here regularly, it is because I’ve run out of cool new technology to share…or maybe I’m just being lazy…or tired of blogging.  While I’ve had moments of the latter two, it really boils down to the 24 hours I have in a day.  Sometimes I choose sleep!

This week, I’ve been pulling together our last inquiry block of the year at Anastasis.  I can’t believe that we are down to counting weeks before we say goodbye for the summer.

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Our last inquiry block is an inquiry into sharing the planet.  For our 6th through 8th graders the focus is: “People can choose to take specific actions to help conserve Earth’s resources.”  Each time I put together an inquiry guide for teachers, I am sure to offer plenty of more detailed questions that they can use to help guide the inquiry.  Below are some of the questions I included.

  • What can people do to help conserve Earth’s resources?
  • What are other countries doing to help/hurt conservation?
  • How does United States demand impact Earth’s resources?
  • What country has the most impact on Earth’s resources/the least? Why do you think this is?
  • Is conservation a political issue?
  • What is ecological overshoot?
  • What is embodied energy?

I love helping teachers craft the opportunities for students to be curious, to dig into learning.  During this planning, I found the following resources that are too good not to share!

What it is: Embodied Energy free ebook download.  Created by a design firm, this ebook does a nice job explaining embodied energy.

How to use the Embodied Energy ebook in the classroom:  This ebook is a well designed book that will introduce students to the energy that we don’t see in the objects around us.  This pdf can be projected for a whole class, downloaded on individual student devices or, if you must, printed out.  Use this ebook along with the Sustainability by Design TED talk playlist to spark student interest into embodied energy and how it can impact the decisions we make every day.

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These introductory activities led me to the Energy Trumps project.  This is a design project by the Agency of Design that looked at using design to help people better understand, and take-in-to-account, the way that we build, design and consume.  I absolutely love the idea of students working together as a class to study a variety of materials.  Each student could create one (or several) of their own embodied energy trading  cards to help others understand the environmental impacts of materials.  Students can research key environmental properties of materials including embodied energy, embodied carbon, embodied water, recycled content, extraction intensity and years of reserves.  These can be used to compare materials at a glance.  (If you purchase the cards created by Agency of Design, you get the added bonus of an augmented reality feature that brings the material properties to life to explore in 3D.  Students can test out the different amounts of material they can get for one megajoule of energy.)

Take this a step further and ask students how they can use that information to help design a more sustainable future.  How can they hack every day objects?  How can they change the way that society builds, consumes, etc.?

How can the idea of embodied energy be communicated to a larger audience so that more of the picture is taken into account by the average consumer?

Any time I create a new inquiry block, I work to remember that we are in the business of apprenticing change makers.  These students matter and WILL change the world.  I love reminding students that age does not have to act as a restriction for world change.

Felix Finkbeiner is a student in Germany (similar in age to these Anastasis students) who is changing the world in HUGE ways.  Felix’s Plant for the Planet initiative has started a movement of planting trees…millions of them!  Read the an article about Felix here.

Felix has also addressed the United Nations with a speech to open the International Year of Forests which can be viewed here. 

Students can use this embodied energy calculator to explore their own curiosities.

The Happy Planet Index is a fantastic way to discover the extent to which 151 countries across the globe live happy and sustainable lives based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental input.  Data can be viewed in map or table format.

 

I love the potential that a new inquiry block holds.  We offer guidance and some starting places to spark interest, but where students find passion is always exciting to watch unfold.  We truly are in the midst of genius in our students!

The other reason to love inquiry? The brilliant way that it allows room for transdisciplinary exploration, and touches each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I mean really, how can you beat learning that looks like life?

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