An inquiry into sharing the planet: embodied energy awesomeness

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?

Digital Life: Video Killed the Radio Star

 

What it is: Being a child of this decade, I am LOVING @amyburvall‘s newest video to the tune of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  Brilliant.  If you don’t know @amyburvall, you should.  She is amazing and makes learning history so very enjoyable.  The newest music video is all about Digital Life.  A great one to kick off discussions with your class about digital life and clue them into what MTV used to be about in the pre “16 and Pregnant” days.  How I long for those days to be back (at least as far as programming is concerned).

How to integrate Digital Life into the classroom: The Digital Life video is a fun way to start a discussion or inquiry into digital life.  I don’t know about you, but the digital is becoming SO common that it tends to blend right into the background and we take it for granted.  This is an important discussion with students because most of them have never known a life without idevices and smartphones that instantly connect them to the world.  This “invisible” tech can be problematic. Kids can take it so for granted that they don’t see the separation between their digital life and their real life.  Not everything needs to live online forever (how many duck faced pictures can a person have?).  That break-up that happened in 8th grade is probably not the footprint kids want to leave for future employers.

When we talk with students about digital life at Anastasis, we make sure to highlight the following: EVERYONE has access to things posted online- even when you think it is private; deleted from Facebook or Instagram doesn’t always equate to being gone-it can always be resurrected (screenshots are killers); disrespecting others online is bullying-period; there is no sarcasm font- choose your words carefully; emoticons can’t capture every emotion-sometimes conversations are best had f2f (that’s face to face); words can be damaging and lasting-don’t be a bully; cherish your relationships off-line-take time to be away from the connected world.

Tips: If you haven’t seen @amyburvall history videos, go now.  You can thank me later.  🙂

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

Numberphile: a series of numberly videos

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What it is: Numberphile is a series of “numberly” videos by Brady Haran.  This is the same guy behind some other great projects including periodicvideos and sixtysymbols.  These videos reveal some of the mystery behind numbers and math in fun, short snippets!  I could give a long, drawn out explanation about the site…but really, you should go have a look and play a few videos. Or, try out the video below:

How to integrate Numberphile into the classroom: Numberphile can make a math geek out of anyone, myself included!  I don’t tend to geek out very much about numbers or math, but show me pattern and reveal some of the mystery that numbers hold and I am in.  This is what Numberphile does beautifully!  Numberphile would make a fantastic opening for math class.  Start each math class with these short videos to get your brain’s math muscles working.  I’ve watched 3 videos in a row and I am seriously geeking.

Ask students to each choose a different video to watch.  Students can learn a new math “trick” or pattern in math to teach their classmates.  The goal: creatively teach the concept!  They could create their own video, stop motion animation, infographic, story, illustration, etc.  Hold a math day  (3/14 would be fun…pi day) where students get to spend the day teaching one another.

You may assume that these videos are best for older students, not so!  At Anastasis, our 2nd and 3rd graders had a ball learning about Fibonacci and will happily explain it to any who enter their classroom.  Find an area of interest and share the passion!

Tips: All of the videos on Numberphile are YouTube videos.  If you don’t have access to YouTube in your building, try one of these methods for accessing the videos:

  • YouTube for Schools- This is a YouTube that has been created just for schools.  Network administrators must be involved so that they can add this option for YouTube into your filtering system.  This is a completely customizable option that lets teachers and administrators add videos to a playlist that you have predetermined you want students to watch.  Teachers can find videos by Common Core Standard, subject or grade.  Students can watch videos that teachers and administrators have approved or any YouTube Edu video (think Kahn Academy, PBS, TED, Stanford, etc.).
  • SafeShare TV- This site lets students watch YouTube videos without ads, links, comments and related videos.  You also have the option to crop videos and share videos with a unique URL.
  • YouTubeXL- This is a service that YouTube provides that lets you watch videos on large screens without the ads and comments. Neat tip: if you time “quiet” before the YouTube url, it takes you to a safe page where you can watch a YouTube video.  WAY cool and easy to do on the fly!
  • Clean VideoSearch- This site lets students search through YouTube videos without the comments, ads and busy sidebar.  It has additional features like the ability to choose how many videos you want to see on each page in your search.
  • Clea.nr– This service (a browser plugin) deletes all of the obnoxious extras that hang around videos (ads, comments, related videos). You can also search YouTube without all of the extras showing up.
  • ViewPure– This site cleans out all the clutter and gives you just a video.  Bonus: There is a quick button that you can add to your browser so that you can go to a video, click on “Pure” in your bookmark bar and instantly have a clean video.
  • Dragontape– This service lets you drag videos into a timeline and share them easily with students.  This is great for mashing up several videos, or cropping multiple videos into one.
  • Movavi– This is a video conversion service. Wonderful for teachers who can’t or don’t want to access a video directly from YouTube.  Copy/paste the url you want to convert, choose a file type, done!
  • Zamzar– This is another great video conversion service.  Works quickly and easily!
  • SaveYouTube- This site used to be called KickYouTube.  Here you can enter the url and download it to your computer to play offline.

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

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

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

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.

The Miniature Earth Project

 

What it is:  The Miniature Earth Project is a great website that poses the question: “what if the population of the Earth were reduced into a community of only 100 people?”  Based on this assumption, the site helps students understand what the breakdown of nationalities would be, religious representation, how many people would live in an urban area, how many people would have the majority of the world income, how many would live without clean world, those that live on less than $1.25/day, etc.  The purpose of the site is to break our quickly approaching 7billion people in the world down to a number (100) that we can more easily wrap our minds around.  The point of the site is to help kids (and adults) understand the real landscape of the world and cause positive action.

There is a video on the site that breaks down the infographic in a different way.  Students can submit their own videos about the Miniature Earth.

How to integrate The Miniature Earth Project into your curriculum: Right now the Jr. High at Anastasis Academy is looking at the following line of inquiry: “Understanding our rights and responsibilities as individuals and the similarities and differences of others helps contribute to the development of world citizens.”  The Miniature Earth Project is a great place to put the world’s challenges in perspective for students.  We have been having fantastic conversations about the rights that we enjoy as Americans, and the responsibilities to others around the world that come with those rights.  Students have also been exploring rights they believe all world citizens should enjoy and what responsibility they share in making those rights a reality for those who don’t currently enjoy them.  As you can imagine, the discussion has been fascinating!

A great place to start this discussion is by asking students to create their own personal code of conduct.  What standards will they hold themselves to?  At Anastasis we talk often about managing our freedom.  Freedom comes with responsibility, it isn’t a free-for all.  We also ask students to think about what their actions would look like if it were multiplied by 7 billion people.  What would the world look like?  Is it a place they would want to live?  The Miniature Earth Project is a great place for next steps. Looking at who makes up their world, what kind of challenges are faced.  We ask our students to think about solutions to those challenges.  They are NOT too young to come up with solutions!

Since the 100 person Earth is such a manageable number, ask students to create graphical representations of each figure presented in the Miniature Earth Project.  What questions do they have based on the data?  What challenges do they see?  What common ground do we have?  What are our responsibilities?  What rights should we claim for all humans?  What are ways that we can make the world a better place for all?  What impact can a small change make on such a large population (does it change when you think about it on a smaller scale)?

Want to show students how their actions can change the world?  Share the story of the 13 year old who has the world planting a million trees!  The story of Felix Finkbeiner is an awesome one!  Equally cool for our students: we have a Mr. Finkbeiner who teaches at Anastasis.

Tips: There are great links to more information about our population approaching 7 billion.  Be sure to have your students dig into those resources to learn more!

***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in education?  Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Miniature Earth Project in your classroom!