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A Walk in the Forest

What it is: The Smithsonian site is a wealth of outstanding activities and interactives.  In the Walk in the Forest interactives, students are guided through a virtual forest where they do field research using the same scientific methods and tools that Smithsonian scientists use to monitor forest biodiversity.  Students can act as dirt detectives, predicting which trees will thrive in each type of soil; learn about forest layers and the plants and animals that take up residence in each; identify a tree; observe seasonal changes; map the forest; and use amphibians as an indicator of the forest.  Each of the interactives has the option of narration (audio) or non-narrated (students read through the interactive). How to integrate A Walk in the Forest into the classroom: The interactive activities on A Walk in the Forest are very well made.  They will have your students working and thinking like a scientist.  The activities are meant to be completed by individual students, but if you don’t have access to a computer lab, they would also be excellent as a center on classroom computers or on the interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  For whole class participation, send a team of scientists (your students) into the forest to investigate and collect data.   Give each student a job to do on the forest adventure.  For the students not at the board, create a field guide that they can fill out while they observe.   As an extension activity, students can create an Animoto or Prezi about what they learned in the forest.  They could also create a comic book style field guide about walking through a forest. A Walk in the Forest is well suited to all elementary students.  Independent readers can complete the activities without narration while emerging or struggling readers could have the interactive narrated. Every year, we have an outdoor education program for our 5th graders.  They spend a week in the mountains, in a forest, learning outside.  If you do something similar, A Walk in the Forest is a great preparation activity for students.  They can learn about the processes of collecting and analyzing data virtually before they do it in real life. Tips: If you and your family are visiting national parks this summer, these are fun activities to do before hand that will transform your kids into scientists when they are exploring outdoors. Please leave a comment and share how you are using A Walk in the Forest in your classroom.

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The Future We Will Create: all the in-between important stuff

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Inquiry, inspiration, Middle/High School, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video | Posted on 20-03-2013

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A few years ago I watched the documentary TED: The Future We Will Create.  Being a fan of TED talks, I was curious to learn more about the behind the scenes of TED talks and how the conference came to be.  I had heard snippets here and there that the TED conference was like a boys club…you had to have money and “be” somebody to get into a live event.  The documentary pulled back the curtain a little on the intentionality of the way that TED conferences are set up.  They are intentionally packed with entrepreneurs and successful people from various walks of life to bring together change makers.  The actual speakers may not be well known (at least not prior to the talk), they have a limited time to speak, and they share an inspirational message.  But TED isn’t really about the talks, TED is really about the talks that happen in between the talks.  It is about those serendipitous moments that happen when people are exposed to a shared inspiration and then have opportunity to dream about it together.  The magic is in those moments when people with different perspectives come together and share their thinking from that unique vantage point.  It is really about the in between moments, that seemingly empty and unimportant time.  TED does something else that I wasn’t aware of, they offer one TED speaker a “prize”.  Only the prize isn’t really a prize (not in the way we typically think about prizes), instead it is that this person gets to make a wish.  They get to cast a vision and a “what-if.”  They get to challenge the audience to solve a problem that matters to them.  Then comes the incredible part- these people actually use their unique gifts and talents and perspective to help make it so.  World changing.  A future that we create.  Together.


As I was pulling together resources for our current inquiry block about “sharing the planet,” I came across several fantastic TED talks that could act like a catalyst for deeper thinking and additional curiosity.  As I watched each video, I kept thinking about the behind the scenes, the in-between talks that aren’t documented.  The change happening as a result.

Then it hit me, we could do this at Anastasis.  We could watch these talks together, and then allow for the in-between talks.  We could be intentional and let our students engage in the discussion, the serendipitous moments of one thing leading to another, and another.  We could give our students time to just talk and wonder and discover together.  We could narrow it down to 3 or 4 TED talks and provide our students with serendipitous in-between.  We could open up the opportunity for our students to come up with the “wish” or challenge that the others would work to make happen.  We could empower our students to go through this same process and then watch them use their unique perspective, gifts and talents to find solutions and dream up new possibilities.

I’m excited to try this.  I believe that we are in the midst of genius every day at Anastasis.  These kids are really incredible.  I want to see what unfolds when we offer just a little inspiration related to our inquiry and then give them some space to just explore and talk.  I want them to see that when hunches collide, BIG world changing ideas happen.  I want them to understand that they are world changers.

Has anyone else done this with students?

I think that this will be a starting point.  For now we will watch talks.  Next year, I would love to have our students plan their own talks.  I want to invite the best-and-brightest from around the world to come listen to our talks.  I want to provide the in-between moments where change is enacted.

Stay tuned…

Comments (2)

Thanks so much for the behind the scences of TED information. That puts such a different perspective on how the video can be used. I love the idea of trying it with a class. Very interested as to how it goes and the chatter you observe from the students.

YES! I did TED talks with my 2nd/3rd graders this year. The 4/5 class did it as well. It was an amazing experience. My reflection on the process can be found here: http://bit.ly/Y5lZWo

I actually have an idea to collaborate with another school – feel free to contact me if you’re interested.

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