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Grammar Games

  What it is:  The British Council has created an A-Z website of 69 Grammar Games to help students learn and practice English grammar rules.  I wouldn’t characterize many of the activities “games” but instead interactive practice.  The Grammar Game website provides students...

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Atlantis Remixed: Inquiry based virtual world

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 15-04-2013

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What it is: Atlantis Remixed is a great interactive virtual world that supports students and teachers in conducting rich, inquiry-based explorations during which students learn standards related content and develop pro-social attitudes regarding environmental and social issues.  More than just making learning fun, project Atlantis Remixed aims to help kids realize that they can make a real difference in the world.  Atlantis Remixed is really a combination of education, entertainment/gaming and social action.  The game environment has been designed to support students in social commitment and real-world action.  Atlantis Remixed was created for children ages 9-16 to engage in transformational play in both online and offline learning activities.  The storyline in the online activities inspires students toward social action.

Atlantis Remixed is a combination of a 3D multi-user virtual environment, learning quests and unit plans, a storyline (presented through an introductory video, novel and comic book), a global community of participants, and a narrative programming toolkit that kids can use to remix user-created stories.  The storyline helps bridge the virtual, fictional, world of Atlantis with the real-world.  Students can travel to virtual places to perform authentic activities (Quests), talk with other students from around the world, build virtual characters and professions, and demonstrate learning through multi-media portfolios.  The platform is transdisciplinary including math, science and literacy. Students are sent on virtual social missions that reflect global ideals such as social responsibility, compassionate wisdom, creative expression, diversity affirmation, environmental awareness, healthy communities, and personal agency.

How to integrate Atlantis Remixed into the classroom: Atlantis Remixed has full units ready to use. Each unit is aligned to standards, inquiry based and meets multiple domains of learning. A single water-quality unit puts students in role of scientists hired by a national park, to come to the forest to help explain fish decline in the area.  Students interact with virtual park rangers, loggers, fishermen and indigenous people and discover multiple perspectives.  After decisions have been made, students can log back in and see the impact of their decisions.  They can reflect on the consequences (and unintended consequences) of their decisions, and make changes as needed.

In addition to the virtual component, there is guided offline learning that can take place including discussions and in class activities.  Teachers can modify curriculum to fit their own classroom needs.

Units include: Taiga- a water quality unit, Virtual Mesa Verde- a social studies unit, Plague World- a persuasive writing unit, Ander City- a statistics unit, Spacenik- a planetary science unit, Biological Indicators Mission, Rights & Responsibility Mission, Two Cells-One World Mission, and Diversity Mission.  You can look at a snapshot of any of these missions to learn more about it.

Think about the added components you could layer on Atlantis Remixed Quests and missions.  Are your students practicing writing business letters?  Who could they write to in the virtual world or real world?  Are your students learning how to use a new tech tool?  What tie-in is there to the inquiry?  How can you integrate other learning and customize the Atlantis Remixed environment to best fit your needs?

Tips: On the Educators Page, you can choose to login to the 2D gateway without logging into the 3D world.

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Atlantis Remixed in your classroom.

Soo Meta: Digital Storytelling Tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, Geography, Government, History, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 10-04-2013

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What it is: Soo Meta is an awesome new site that lets students build mixed media stories.  Students can use this storytelling tool to collect, sort, edit and publish web content easily.

There are two options for login, with name/email/password or through Facebook.  For students who don’t have their own email accounts, you can have them login using a temporary inbox like Tempinbox (just type in a word or words followed by @tempinbox.com and you are in business!).

After students have logged in, they will be asked to enter a title for their new story.  Then, they can search for videos, pictures, sounds and text or copy and paste their links into a new story.  Videos can be trimmed and edited, pictures resized and text edited.

Soo Meta is incredibly simple to use.  Just search the web, choose content to remix and off you go!  You can also simply drag and drop content from your computers desktop to create something new.

When finished, just publish the story and you can share it via link on Facebook or Twitter or you can embed the story like I did above.  (I literally spent a grand total of 2 min creating this story!)

How to integrate Soo Meta into the classroom: Soo Meta is a fantastic online tool for digital storytelling. It makes the process incredibly easy and the possibilities are limited only to your student’s imagination.

With Soo Meta, students can compile research on any topic or subject and create their own digital “textbook” of the learning to share with other classmates or students around the world.  I love that Soo Meta combines the research component with the creation piece.  So often students want to skip right to creation…with Soo Meta the two are so interdependent, it would be impossible to do one without the other!

Teachers can use Soo Meta to create learning stories for their students.  Pull together various videos, pictures and articles and mash them up for your students.  Embed finished video stories on a classroom website or blog.

Older students can create interactive video stories for younger “buddy” students.  They can solidify their own learning of history, math, science, geography, etc. by putting together learning opportunities for younger students.

The storytelling aspect of Soo Meta is fantastic!  Students can do story re-tells, current event mashups, historical documentaries, political commentary, science discoveries, etc.

Tips: Don’t be discouraged if your students are too young to create their own Soo Meta stories, create your own mashups for them to enjoy!

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Soo Meta in your classroom.

Mural.ly: Google Docs for Visual People

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-04-2013

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What it is: Murally is a tool I learned about from my friends over at House of GeniusMurally’s tagline is: “Google Docs for visual people.”  Being highly visual, that description immediately resonates with me!  Murally reminds me a little bit of Wallwisher (now Padlet), it is a way for learners to come together to think, imagine and discuss their ideas.  With Murally, students can create murals and include any content they want in them.  Learners can drag and drop images, video, etc. from any website (or from their computer) onto their mural.   Learners can create presentations from within a mural they have already created.  The best part: this all happens with the ability to collaborate with others.  Murally makes it easy for students to collect, think, imagine, show and discuss learning.  Murals can be made public (shared live with a link) or private (only friends granted permission can access the mural).

*** email address, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus account required for login.  You know what that means: 13 or older!

How to integrate Murally into the classroom: Murally is brilliant in the way that it enables learners to work and dream together.  My FAVORITE feature: you can drag and drop content from ANYWHERE!!! It works like the spring-loaded folders in Apple’s iOS.  LOVE this feature.  Honestly, this ability to clip content is a game changer.  It makes creating a mural incredibly easy.  Stinking brilliant!  

Murally is the tool that I wish existed when I was doing research projects in school.  Students can conduct and collect their research solo or invite friends to contribute to their research mural.  Students can add text, drag and drop links, pictures, video and other content.  After they have gone through the hunting/gathering phase of research, Murally makes it easy for students to go through and mindmap it all into some sort of order.  This tool is going to make me a better writer.  Visually being able to organize research and thoughts is HUGE.

Being inquiry based, I love the idea of beginning a mural for students with the driving inquiry alone on the board.  The learners job: be curious together.  Ask questions, explore, research, collect evidences collaboratively.  Capture all of that learning in one place.

Murally could be used for any mind-mapping appropriate project.  This is mind-mapping in the future.  Truly amazing!  The collaborative nature of Murally is fantastic.

Students could begin a Murally with a novel as the base.  As they read, they can include quotes, related thoughts, pictures, video clips, discussion, and related research.  I’m always amazed by the connections that our students make to other learning, a commercial they have seen, or a song.  Murally is a great way to visually collect all of this to share with others.

Murally would be an outstanding way to hypothesize about what will happen in a science experiment.  Students can then add in any research, class notes, discussion, etc.  After students have conducted the experiment they can include observations, photos, and final conclusions.

Use Murally with a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard for class notes.  As class discussions unfold, notes can be taken for the whole class and shared later.  Students can add to these later with additional learning, thoughts, and plans.

Because Murally can be used to show learning, consider creating map boards where students link what they know of Geography with the cultures, habitats, religions, politics of that area.

Murally would make the COOLEST “textbook” alternative.  Student created, mashup of all different tools, collaborative, discussion included, and organized in the way that makes sense to the learner.

This is one of those tools that has my mind spinning.  The possibilities overlap all subject areas and are endless.

Tips: The collaborative feature of Murally is so well thought out, see history and message collaborators quickly and easily.  Wonderful!

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

Padlet: now with the ability to download and print!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, collaboration, Create, Download, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 27-03-2013

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What it is: Wallwisher has long been one of my go-to cool tools.  Recently, Wallwisher got a bit of a facelift as well as a new name: Padlet. Padlet is a fantastic little web application that provides a virtual bulletin board of sorts. Teachers can pose questions or ideas for students to answer or think about. Students are sent the unique wall URL and can leave virtual sticky notes answering the question. Students do not have to login to use Padlet, a simple double click allows them to add any thoughts they need to the wall. The platform is very simple to use but provides the opportunity for discussion and collaboration between students.  In addition to a brand new look, Padlet will now let you print or download your walls.  STINKING AWESOME!  Now you can take all of your Padlet walls and save them as an image, PDF, Excel or CSV format.  Just click the share/export button and you are in business!  Another fun new feature is the ability to keep up with what has been posted to your digital wall using email notifications.  You can sign up to get a daily update of all activity on the wall.

How to integrate Padlet into the classroom: Padlet can be used to create a flexible online space where students can create virtual posters, brainstorming boards, virtual project portfolios, and share learning with others.  Students can work together on the same Padlet space for group projects.

Padlet offers an exceptional opportunity for students to brainstorm, collaborate, and group ideas.  Students can use Padlet to brainstorm ideas for writing, explore lines of inquiry, collect research, for grouping ideas, and collaborating on group projects. Create a Padlet board for your students and ask them to group like ideas, sort, and expand on thoughts.  This could be done for any historical event, literature, science concept, and even phonics.  Students could practice spelling by typing out their spelling words along with a sentence or synonyms on sticky notes.  Then, they can group words by spelling pattern or common phoneme blends.  Create a Padlet of sticky notes with English words and sticky notes with a foreign language word on them.  Students can work together to group words with their meanings.   In math, create Padlet stickys with word problems on one color of sticky note and answers on another set of sticky notes.  Students can work to create groups of problems and their solutions.  Padlet can be used for whole class activities using an interactive whiteboard, the class can brainstorm together and collect ideas or use the grouping feature in an activity created by the teacher or students.

Students could even use Padlet to create “bucket lists.”  They could create a bucket list of books they would like to read, places they would like to travel, imaginary literary places they would like to travel, things they want to learn about, etc.

Padlet boards are SO versatile. If you need a way for students/teachers/parents to collaborate digitally, Padlet is the place.  Now that boards can be downloaded and printed…the possibilities for use are even greater!

Tips: See how others are using Padlet by visiting the new Padlet gallery.  You are sure to pick up some new great ideas for use!

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

This blog post brought to you in association with MyFactorySchweiz

Inklewriter: interactive story designer

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Create, Evaluate, Government, History, Interactive book, iPod, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 05-02-2013

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What it is: Inklewriter is a great digital tool that lets students (and teachers if you are so inclined) write and publish interactive stories.  Inklewriter lets students create choose-your-own-adventure type stories, story lines can come with choices and then be linked back together.  Inklewriter makes this process easier by keeping track of which story paths have been finished and which still need work.  There is no set-up required, no programming language to learn and no diagrams.  Inklewriter is free to use and easy to share with the world when it is published.  When a story is finished, it can even be converted to Kindle format!

I found the Inklewriter format to be pretty intuitive and easy to use.  I think intermediate elementary and older will have no trouble using this tool for creative and informative writing.

How to integrate Inklewriter into the classroom: Inklewriter is a great digital tool for creative writing.  Students can explore multiple plot lines and what-if scenarios in their fictional writing.  I also like the idea of using Inklewriter to ask kids to explore the “what-ifs” in history.  What if we lost/won this war/battle?  What if the other guy (or girl) had been elected president?  What if the Berlin wall hadn’t come down?   These types of stories are fantastic opportunities for students to explore their curiosities and, in the process, learn more about the event they are exploring.  After all, you have to know something about how an event actually went in order to write alternate endings.

Inklewriter would be a fun way for students to come up with alternate endings to a novel they are reading.  Our students wrote a variety of endings for The Giver.  Each student wrote a different ending that picked up from the last chapter of the book.  Inklewriter would have been a great tool to use for all of these endings to be available in one place.  Students could copy/paste the last paragraph of the actual book and then offer their alternative endings as options.

In science, students could use Inklewriter as a tool to record their hypothesis. Students can write out the objective and steps in their experiment and make a new “alternate ending” for their various hypothesis.

In math, students could create story problems where they lead others down the path to discover the correct answer.

Tips: These interactive stories are MADE for your tablet devices…if you have some in your classroom, take advantage of them!

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

World Education Games: Registration Now Open!

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Foreign Language, Geography, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 01-02-2013

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What it is:   Holy cow, I am SO excited!  Today registration is open for World Education Games!!  If your students have never participated with World Education Games (like World Math Day), this is the year.  They will thank you for including them in this fun world wide contest.  February 1st, that’s today, registration is open and the official warm-up training period for students begins.  On March 5h students can participate in World Literacy Day, March 6 is World Math Day, and March 7 is World Science Day.  March 22nd Global award presentations begin with the Official World Education Games Awards.  The World Education Games is an annual global online olympics to get students from age 4 to 18 excited about learning.  The fun comes in the friendly competition between countries as students compete to represent their country in the games.  There are 3 days of games focused on literacy, math and science.  The games are a great way to help students in speed, accuracy and general fluency in core computation, number and spelling skills.  World Science Day has been designed to encourage curiosity and excitement in science while helping them answer knowledge, application and reasoning questions.  Each game (a competition against other students from around the world) lasts just 1 minute.  Students can go head to head as often as they would like, but only the first 50 games are counted toward the competition point tally.  World Math Day was launched in 2007 and my students have taken part in this fun competition each year.  Since then, Literacy and Science day has been added to the games.  SO much fun!

How to integrate World Education Games into the classroom: World Education Games are such a fantastic way to encourage students to practice foundational skills.  In the past, I have hosted an “opening ceremonies” at my school and done it up like the Olympics with flags, songs, etc.  We go over what the World Education Games are and then make a big deal about the handing out of usernames/passwords (like lighting the torch) and then we kick off our training portion.  Students get excited about participating in this fun day and we get lots of “training” in before the big day.  On the actual day, we wear red, white and blue and play against kids from around the world.  This is great fun in a one-to-one setting or a computer lab where all students can participate simultaneously.  Don’t have that option?  Because the games are 1 minute long, students can play 5 games each on classroom computers in a rotation.

Since your students are competing against students from around the world, why not use the competition to practice using a map and identifying countries?  Since we have a one to one iPad program, we do this digitally with a Google Map.  Each time a student competed against a country, they would come up to the board and put a “pin” in the map.  Don’t have devices for each student? Use an interactive whiteboard or the paper map and actual pins on a class bulletin board, these options are just as fun!

Don’t forget closing ceremonies at the end of World Education Games.  Make up fun medals and give them out to top performers, hardest trainers, etc.  Think outside the box on these.  Not all kids are speedy in their fact recall…find a way to honor their participation and hard work…did they see huge improvement or growth? Honor those achievements!

The World Education Games are available for free on any internet-connected computer and as a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 app.

Check out the Resource page for teacher and student guide, a world map, a poster, and for School-in-a-box information.

Tips: Schools participating in the World Education Games can also work toward giving other children the opportunity to start school.  World Education Games has partnered with UNICEF to make this happen.  During the games, host a fundraiser to purchase “School-in-a-Box” Each $236 donation is enough to send 80 kids to school!  What a great way to help kids understand what a privilege education is and model compassion and empathy for others.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using World Education Games in your classroom.

Physics Central: Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Download, Evaluate, Interactive book, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 09-01-2013

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What it is: Physics Central is a fantastic website full of…you guessed it, physics! There are fantastic sections for students to explore science, activity books, experiments and activities.  Students can learn more about physics in action (physics as found in the world around us), meet physicists, and learn about physics research.  Physics Central will ignite a students curiosity in: sound, electricity and magnetism, force and motion, light and optics, material science, quantum mechanics, space and the universe, and thermodynamics and heat.  My favorite find on Physics Central so far (I’m sure there will be many more favorites the longer I explore) is the Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair section.  Here, students will find a downloadable kit that includes a manual, comic book, and four related activities.

How to integrate Physics Central into the classroom: Physics has always been among my favorite sciences.  There is something about it that is fascinating to me. Physics Central is packed full of great resources to enrich your classroom.  The comics are a fun way to learn about famous scientists, inventors and events in science history.  The complementing activities bring the comics to life and invite students along on the journey of discovery.

Work with your students on a “PhysicsQuest” like Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair and see what they come up with. Compare their results with the actual solutions (posted on the site).  Join the current PhysicsQuest with your students to help students recognize the fun and relevance of science.  You can register now for the Spectra: Turbulent Times quest.

Tips: Start a PhysicsQuest with your students, as an after school club, or as a home extension investigation.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Physics Central in your classroom.

Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

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

E is for Explore: discovery, science, math, art, literacy, social studies and more!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Blogs, Create, Evaluate, Fun & Games, Inquiry, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 07-01-2013

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E is for Explore!


Happy New Year!!  I have to say, I wasn’t heart broken to see 2012 go and welcome a year of new beginnings.  2012 felt…hard. And uninspired.  I think that is what happens when you see a dream realized and then comes the part where you are in the middle of it, making it work and doing the HARD work.  2012 wasn’t a year I felt particularly creative. I miss that, it is part of my essence.  I’ve been so incredibly busy, just working to keep everything going, that I had nothing left over.  I’m hoping that 2013 is a different story. Step 1: the first post of 2013.  Here is to creativity and passion!

What it is: I discovered a new blog that I am absolutely loving!  It is hard to beat a place where exploration is not only welcome, but encouraged.  E is for Explore is that place.  Here you will find new learning activities and a fantastic collection of ideas from other sources.  There is a handy-dandy index that helps you find just what you need quickly and easily.  I’ve been working on collecting resources for this inquiry unit and E is for Explore has been an absolute treasure trove.  Topics include discovery/exploration, science/engineering, mathematics, art, literacy, social studies and seasons/holidays.

How to integrate E is for Explore into the classroom:  E is for Explore is a great tool for unit, center, and inquiry planning.  I am really enjoying the huge bank of hands-on activities and projects all designed to encourage exploration in learning. The wide range of activities will keep sparking curiosity in a variety of disciplines.

As I plan out inquiry units and gather resources, I am always on the lookout for activities that will encourage students to explore and spark new curiosities.  E for Explore made this process infinitely easier, bringing me an easy-to-search collection of activities, with great instructions, all in one place.  Many of the activities are manageable enough for a center activity within the classroom…great for differentiation and individualization!

I shared E is for Explore with some of our students, they had a great time looking through the science experiments and learning about how to make mini robots and floam.  This would be SO much better than a small tic-tac-toe board for students to choose an activity from.  Students can explore the entire site and choose an exploration that is of interest to them and complete it accordingly.

Tips: My hope is that iLearn Technology does for you what E if for Explore did for me.  Did you know that you can search by keyword (at the top of my website) or through a multi-category search (in the sidebar on the right)?  Choose as many variables as you want and see what you can find!  I categorize every post by keywords, Bloom’s Taxonomy level, Grade Level, Resource Type, and Subject Area.  After 7 years of free resources, I’ve amassed quite a collection of awesome, free classroom tools.  Go ahead, give it a try and see what new fun finds you come across!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  E is for Explore in your classroom.

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Evaluate, Geography, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 17-12-2012

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What it is: Today Anastasis students were lucky enough to visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  It was a truly fantastic experience (if you ever find yourself in Colorado, it is worth a visit! Open free everyday!).  The center has some fantastic interactive exhibits, much like what you find at Exploratorium in California.  In addition to the physical location, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has some wonderful online games, activities and resources for the classroom.

In the Interactives and Simulations for weather, climate and atmospheric science section you will find:

  • A virtual laboratory for creating a weather balloon.
  • A simple virtual climate model.
  • The build a tree dendrochronology activity where students can explore past climates.
  • Compare IPCC scenarios interactive where students forecast carbon dioxide levels.
  • The climate sensitivity calculator.
  • The Earth’s Energy balance virtual lab.
  • Compare solar eclipse photos activity.
  • Solar eclipse memory
  • Sun-earth connections memory
  •  Clouds memory
  • Atmospheric chemistry memory
 In the classroom activities section, you will find:
  • Paleoclimates and Pollen where students can study pollen.
  • Model a moving glacier where students make a model of a glacier and create an experiment to study movement.
  • Glaciers then and now where students study pictures of glaciers taken in the 1900’s and compare them to pictures of the glaciers today.
  • The systems game where students observe a system.
  • Looking into surface Albedo where students inquire into how color affects the way that the sun interacts with Earth’s surface.
  • Feeling the heat where students investigate which parts of their school yard have a higher temperature.
  • CO2 How much do you spew where students analyze energy consumption.
  • The nitrogen cycle game where students play the role of nitrogen atoms traveling through the nitrogen cycle.
  • The water cycle 0-18 and ice cores where students look at proxy data to determine past climate.
In addition to the fantastic activities on the site, students can learn more about the sun and space weather, weather, atmosphere and climate on the NCAR website.

How to integrate the National Center for Atmospheric Research into the classroom: If you are studying weather, climate or atmospheric research with your students this is a must stop site.  It is FULL of great activities, virtual labs and easy-to read and understand information.  Really, take a few minutes to dig in.  Today, when we visited we got to explore some of these virtual labs and games first hand.  Our students watched a short video introducing them to NCAR and what scientists do there.  Next we entered into a classroom where the fun began!

Today we learned about the North and South Poles.  The fine people at NCAR had made globe paddles that had the north pole on one side and the south pole on the other (glued to giant tongue depressors).  They gave the students different facts about the north and south pole and students had to hold up their paddles with the correct answers.  Next, students learned about how polar bears were equipped for the COLD temperatures.  There were tubs of ice water on the table.  Students were asked to place their hands inside the ice water.  We timed how long they lasted in the cold water.  Next, students put their hands in a “blubber” paw and tried the experiment again.  The hand inside the layer of blubber could stay in the cold for a long time with no discomfort.  These blubber paws were actually made with 2 ziplock baggies with Crisco in between the layers and duct-tape at the top of the baggies so that they were sealed together around openings where the two baggies came together.  This left a Crisco pocket that formed the paw.  Students also learned about penguins and how they find their mate in hundreds and hundreds of penguins.  Penguins have particular sounds that help alert their mate.  The penguins can distinguish between the particular sounds that each penguin makes to find their mate.  Students simulated this by each taking a film canister with an object/objects in it.  The students had to shake their canister and find their match using the sound alone.  They had a ball with this!  They also practiced transferring a styrofoam egg from one pair of feet to another without using their hands the way that the penguin does.  Our students also did the glacier matching project (listed above) where they worked in teams to match the original pictures to the new pictures.  Some of these were really challenging as the second picture had NO glacier to be seen!  The kids learned that every glacier in the world is shrinking with the exception of two glaciers in Norway.  Fascinating!

Our classroom today…can’t beat the view!


Touching clouds!


Our students got to follow the activities above with an exploration of weather, climate, and atmosphere science exhibits.  You could easily recreate the activities above and follow up with virtual simulations, videos and games.  These could be set up as centers for students to explore (the virtual centers on classroom computers).  There is SO much here that exploration of all that the NCAR site has to offer could take days.  The simulations and games would also be appropriate on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer where students can explore and interact as a whole class.  Allow students to take turns playing scientist.

Tips: While we were at NCAR, our guide, Tim, told us that NCAR was originally established in the 1960s to learn how to control the weather.  This brought up a great discussion about what could happen if humans could control the weather, and what unintended consequences might come along with that.  This would make for a great creative writing exercise or comic strip.  Our students came up with some insightful thoughts on this topic!

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