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Science Storybooks

What it is: Science Storybooks is a great collection of online animated picture books that help teach science in a way that is fun and engaging.  There are a lot of animated books to choose from with topics such as applied sciences (electrons, light, etc.), the Universe Cycle (planets, constellations, etc.), Plate Tectonic Cycle (lavas, earthquakes, etc.), Rock Cycle (gems, dinosaurs, etc.), Water Cycle (clouds, weather, etc.), and the Life Cycle (organisms, human biology, plants, the natural environment).  The books don’t just tell about science, they take students on a science journey using story.  This makes the reading more accessible and student friendly than your typical science book.  There are also some very entertaining science songs.  I particularly enjoyed the Electricity song…but then I get a kick out of things like this (I think the kids will, too!). How to integrate Science Storybooks into the classroom: These animated Science Storybooks are the perfect way to introduce your students to new science concepts.  They will give just enough information to leave your students wanting to explore some more.  The books can be read as a whole class using a projector or interactive whiteboard, or set up as a center on your classroom computers. I have a group of fifth graders this year who are convinced that they are the cast of High School Musical, they are constantly breaking out in song (it is really something, they all join in and know the words to any song).  I have a feeling that my fifth graders would really get into the songs on Storybooks, singing along karaoke style.  If it helps them to learn new science concepts, I can’t think of anything better! Science Storybooks may inspire your students to come up with their own science storybooks.  Students could create science storybooks as a slide show, in Animoto, Kerpoof, Shidonni, Storybird, and a host of other sites.  As part of the science fair projects, students could create a story to accompany the project that would explain the science involved.  And for my fifth grade musical cast, they just may want to come up with their own science song using Myna, Audacity, or Garageband. Tips: There are some additional science lessons and worksheets for each topic of science, you can use these in conjunction with the stories as needed. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Science Storybooks in your classroom.

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Smithsonian Quests: Learning through discovery and collaboration

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 07-05-2013

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What it is:
Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration.  As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests.  Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests.  The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.  By signing  up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community.  Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.

How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges.  As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting.  Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it.  Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative.  Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded.  Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger.  Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc.  As you can see, there are quests for every interest!

When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online.  Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.

I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are  largely discovery based learning.   The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions.  Quests can also be completed individually by students.  Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal.  Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.

As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.

Tips:  Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!

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Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Smithsonian Quests in your classroom.

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