Plan It Green: build an energy efficient model city

Plan It Green, the Big Switch: Build an Energy Effient Model City

What it is: Plan It Green, the Big Switch is an online game/simulation from National Geographic that allows students to create their own energy-efficient city of the future. In the game, students build new energy technologies and advance energy research; gain points based on their eco-friendliness, energy production, and citizen happiness; compete with others for the highest city rating; tackle challenges and quests; and explore and build a diverse energy portfolio. Through Plan It Green, students begin to better understand various energy options and can experiment with different energy sources and see their impact through this game/simulation.

How to integrate Plan It Green, the Big Switch into the classroom: This game from National Geographic is a great way to help your students understand different kinds of energy, and think through the ways that the energy we rely on in our daily lives impact the environment. Use Plan It Green, the Big Switch as a provocation for an inquiry unit about energy. The game could be a great catalyst for further research and understanding of energy options and how our decisions impact the rest of the ecosystem. Students can test out theories in this SIM-City like game and watch the way their decisions impact citizens and the larger ecosystem.

Plan It Green would also be a great way to end a unit, after students have learned about different types of energy. This game would be a great simulation reflection to see how different decisions about energy play out.

If you don’t have access to a 1:1 environment, this would make a great center on classroom computers during a study on energy or even for whole-class play on an interactive whiteboard throughout a unit on energy.

I like the way Plan It Green puts students in control of decisions and shows them the consequences (or unintended consequences) of those decisions.

Tips: The downfall of Plan It Green is that it requires a Flash Player, so while students can register for the site using an iPad, actual play requires a Flash enabled browser.

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?

Ever wondered what 10,000 young people could do to solve some of the world’s greatest problems?

My Twitter friend Ewan McIntosh recently shared an incredible opportunity for involving students in solving real world problems.  I love putting kids creative minds to problems that keep us all wondering. I’m always so impressed with the unique approach that children take to problems.  Kids don’t have the same life filters that we do.  Some assumptions we make about the way things have to be done don’t exist for kids. They are free of those.

Ewan explains how your students can be involved wonderfully so I won’t reinvent the wheel:

“At TEDxLondonBLCNaace and a few other events this summer I asked if people wanted to join me in trying to encourage more curricula that were based less on students solving the irrelevant, contrived pseudo problems given to them in textbooks, and based more on finding great, real world problems that need solved.

A superb opportunity for action has come along.

Ever wondered what 10,000 young people could do to solve some of the world’s greatest problems? We want to know for the world’s most important ICT event, ITU Telecom World 11, by gathering young people’s vision for the future on world2011.us.

The October 24-27 event is the flagship meeting of the world’s telecoms industries, brought together by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialised United Nations agency responsible for information and communication technologies. In the run up to the event, and during it, we’ll be showcasing the ideas of young people, aged 8-18, alongside the debates, panels and corridor discussions of these influential delegates.

I’ve been at so many events recently that have either totally lacked the student voice, or made third party reference to it through second-hand reportag from their teachers. This is a real chance for your students to make a global impact on problems that matter, wherever they are.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime real world project-based learning opportunity, that ties into most teachers’ curriculum at any given point in the year.

We’re providing some brief points of inspiration to get you started, over the seven key themes, and will open up a wiki space today where teachers can collaborate and add to each other’s resources on the areas.

By October 24, we hope to have videos, photos, blogs and examples or prototypes of what young people believe might help solve challenges on their own doorstep. Sign up your class, school or district to begin sharing the ideas of your students. We want you to tell us how technology could be harnessed to:

To take part, you just have to sign up your interest, and from there you’re able to submit posts to the project.”  -via http://edu.blogs.com

 

Way cool!  Thanks for sharing Ewan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draw That Habitat

What it is: I am a fan of everything PBS does, recently I ran across this gem while looking for some activities that help students learn about habitats.  Draw that Habitat is SO much more engaging than most of the “match the animal to the correct habitat” lower level thinking “games” (if you can call them that) that are out there.  In Draw that Habitat, students are introduced to imaginary animals.  They are briefed on the animal and its needs and are then given drawing tools to create a habitat.  Each month a new imaginary animal is introduced. This month’s challenge is an animal called a Flarch.  During the activity students learn that a habitat is a place that an animal lives where they get food and water, find shelter, search for a mate, and raise babies.  Students are asked to think about how and where the imaginary animal gets food and water, where it keeps safe from weather and other animals, etc.  What I love about this activity is that it calls on student’s creativity and imaginations.  They are asked to come up with a solution for an imaginary animal and in the process learn about habitats, camouflage, and adaptation.  When students are finished with their habitat, they can share it with other students and view and rate the habitats that others have created.

How to integrate Draw That Habitat into the classroom: Draw that Habitat is a great little activity for primary students who are learning about habitats, camouflage, and adaptations. It is probably best to use Draw that Habitat after students have a general understanding of what a habitat is.  This is a place where they can solidify that understanding and expand on what they have learned by creating something new.  I like the abstract nature of the activity, they aren’t creating a habitat for a known, real animal; instead, students are coming up with new solutions based on some key information they are given.  This gives students a chance to think critically, problem solve, and use some creativity and imagination.

In a one to one setting where each student has access to a computer, each student can create a habitat for the month’s challenge.  When students are finished, have a class parade, where students walk through and view the different solutions that classmates came up with.  Students can explain why they made the choices they did and see what other solutions might work.

In a one or two computer classroom, students can visit Draw that Habitat as a learning center in small groups.  Students at the learning center can each contribute to the habitat.

If you don’t have access to computers for students to visit, create a class habitat using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computers.  Each student in the class can add to the habitat and describe how their contribution is important for the animal who lives in the habitat.

As an extension activity, students can write a story about the imaginary animal and its habitat.

This site is intended for younger students (early elementary), but don’t discount it’s usefulness in upper-grades.  I find that when drawing-coloring are involved, students of all ages get excited about it- I have had 6th graders jump on this site and have a great time creating a habitat (they were jealous the younger kids got to do the activity and they didn’t- reminding me once again that kids like opportunities to play and be creative!).

Tips: Students can save the habitat they create offline as a .jpg file.  Click the “save” button to download.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Draw that Habitat in your classroom!

Rustle the Leaf

What it is: Rustle the Leaf is an enchanting site that I learned about from @alexgfrancisco’s excellent blog ZarcoEnglish-Tool of the DayRustle the Leaf is a collection of online comic strips that teach about the environment.  The comics star Rustle the Leaf (don’t you just love the name?) and his friends.  Each comic is designed to help kids think about and understand their relationship to the planet and how their actions affect the Earth.  The site has a great collection of teaching resources that include lesson plans, offline games, and comics.  In the kids fun section, students will find Earth Day e-cards, printable cards, computer desktops, printable posters, and book downloads.

How to integrate Rustle the Leaf into your curriculum: I feel like when I was in elementary school (in the 80’s), that protecting the environment was a much bigger theme in schools than it is now.  Maybe it just isn’t as widely taught at the schools I am in, or maybe it has been cut out of curriculum because it isn’t tested on.  Regardless, the environment is as important to teach today as it was when I was growing up.  Rustle the Leaf is a fun way to help your students think about and understand environmental issues.  Use the site as the basis for a unit around Earth Day or help your students understand that everyday is Earth Day by reading and discussing a new comic every day.  The comics would be great discussion starters at the beginning of the day.  The resources on Rustle the Leaf are really well done, these can be used throughout the year, monthly, or all together as a focused unit.  Set the desktops on classroom computers with Rustle the Leaf wallpapers as a daily reminder of how to care for the environment.

I have a feeling that students will fall in love with the Rustle the Leaf character.  If this is the case for your students, they may enjoy creating their own Rustle the Leaf comics about the environment.  They could even create a Rustle the Leaf comic reminding others to turn off the water or lights to be posted next to sinks and light switches in the classroom.

Tips: At the bottom of the Rustle the Leaf homepage in the left sidebar, you will find links to animated shorts starring Rustle the Leaf.  These are entertaining and have a great message that tie directly into the comics and lesson plans on the site.  Don’t miss them!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Rustle the Leaf in your classroom!

Game for Science

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What it is: Game for Science has to be one of the coolest virtual worlds for kids.  This virtual world is dedicated to getting kids excited about science and technology.  Students can explore various virtual islands where they will learn about health, aeronautics, genomics, environment, engineering and more.  Students can learn more about science careers, what scientists do, play games, learn interesting facts, and explore science photos and videos.  Students can play the Game for Science as a tourist without registering, or they can register for an account (this requires an email address with confirmation).  This is an outstanding way for kids to get excited about science and technology.  As students travel through the virtual world, they can collect neurons (smart stars) by answering questions and playing games.  The neurons can be used to purchase items for their avatar.

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How to integrate Game for Science into the classroom: Game for Science is a great way to introduce new science topics or areas of science.  The virtual world will capture interest and keep students wanting to learn more about each topic.  If you teach younger students (without email addresses), visit the virtual world as a class on the interactive whiteboard or the projector.  Give each student a turn to direct the journey through Game for Science.  The rest of the class can jot down observations in a science notebook that can be used in later learning and experiments.  Students who can read independently can visit the site individually on classroom computers as a science center or in a computer lab setting.  Older students can register for an account and earn neuron points for their characters.  This is a fun site for students just to explore and interact with; however, for use in the classroom, you can direct students to specific islands to study.  For example, as you begin a unit on the environment, students can visit the corresponding island.  Game for Science makes for a great jumping off point that will grab students attention and interest in the subject they will be learning about.

Tips: There is a chat feature on the registered version of Game for Science, this allows students to interact as they discover new islands and talk science.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Game for Science in your classroom.

Ollie’s World

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What it is: Earth Day is April 22nd, Ollie’s World is a fantastic place to begin the celebration early.  Here students will learn about the 4 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink as they apply to the 5 action issues of waste, water, energy, air, and biodiversity.  The site is packed full of games, puzzles, information and projects.  Students can create web pages using a free (downloadable) version of WebEasy.  The information section has kid-friendly reading about the 4 R’s and 5 action issues.  In Ollie’s clubhouse, students can play games and work on puzzles.  Students can also watch the Mis-adventures of Ollie, 3 animated videos about Ollie and his friends, dealing with issues of sustainability (currently there is only 1 video available).  In the movie section, students can watch short flash movies about important environmental issues.  This site is loaded with information, games, and video.

How to integrate Ollie’s World into the classroom: Ollie’s World is a nice introduction for students learning about their ecological footprint.  Starting out in info, students can read about the 4 R’s and how they apply to the 5 action issues.  Students can watch videos and play games that reinforce the lessons they are learning.  You can use the videos as discussion starters in your classroom.   Download WebEasy to your classroom computers where students can build a webpage about their new learning.

Tips: Check out the educators section of Ollie’s World for professional development opportunities, lesson ideas, and project instructions.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Ollie’s World in your classroom.

Heifer International: Game for Change

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What it is: Heifer International works with communities to end hunger, poverty, and care for the earth.  Heifer International does not give hand-outs, they offer hand ups.  Transforming lives of hunger and poverty, into sustained lives of hope.  Using gifts of livestock and training, Heifer International helps families improve nutrition and generate sustainable income.  I have written about a program that Heifer International has before, called Read to Feed.  I highly recommend that you take a look at the Read to Feed program if you haven’t seen it before.  Heifer International has partnered with BeaconFire and ForgeFX to create an interactive 3D game that teaches students about hunger and poverty in a virtual world.  Through Heifer International: Game for Change, students will learn about real world conditions of poverty and how communities can create sustainable solutions.  Through game play, students will learn about sustainable options for help.  In the game, students take on the role of a 12 year old Nepalese girl in a village that struggles with poverty and hunger.  There are four tasks/missions that students must complete in the current (beta) version of the game.  Each task offers an activity that teaches a core principle.  One example is a task where students learn about deforestation that makes it more difficult to collect firewood used to cook dinner.  The lessons in the game mirror real-life happenings in Nepal with Heifer International’s partners.  The game is currently in Beta version and the creators are asking for suggestions here.  

How to integrate Heifer International: Game for Change into the classroom: Heifer International: Game for Change is an excellent way to offer your students global education, awareness, and encourage them to action.  Students will learn important lessons about issues like poverty and environmental degradation in a real, hands on, manner.  Start out with a geography lesson, encouraging students to find Nepal on a map or globe.  Use Google Earth or Scribble Maps to put a place marker on Nepal and a place marker where they live.  Talk with students about issues of poverty and hunger, exploring the Heifer International site for students where they can watch videos, do experiments, and play games.  Next, allow your students to step into the story by taking the role of a Nepalese girl living in an impoverished village.  Students should work to complete all 4 tasks in the game and keep a journal (online or off) of their thoughts as they complete the game.  Was it hard to find food, wood, water?  There are a lot of lessons packed in here, from geography and social studies, to reading and following directions and character education.

As an extension activity, students could create VoiceThreads or Animoto videos about Heifer International.  Tie in the Read to Feed program so that your students can get hands on with Heifer International.  Use their completed VoiceThreads or Animoto videos as “advertisements” for the Read to Feed program.

If your students are anything like mine, they will have definite opinions about the game.  Why not take advantage of that, and have them offer suggestions and praise that can be used by the creators?  Have students craft their ideas and send them here.

Tips: If you haven’t signed up for the Read to Feed program, it is an outstanding program.  It includes free DVD, leaders guide, poster, storybook (Beatrice’s Goat), brochures, bookmarks, student rewards, and standard based curriculum.  Get your students excited about reading and involved in their global community, it is never too early to get your students thinking about others!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Heifer International: Game for Change in your classroom.

The Eco Zoo

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What it is: The Eco Zoo is an impressive 3d environment where students can meet different “animals” that will give them some ideas about taking care of the environment.  Each of the critters has a virtual pop-up book that tells a little about the character.  Each character has an environmental quirk, like one who is always turning off the lights to save energy, and has a little story that will get your students thinking about the environment.   The site is available to view in both Japanese and English.

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How to integrate The Eco Zoo into the classroom: The Eco Zoo is a great site to travel through as a class when you are studying the environment, ecology, or eco-friendly solutions.   This site is ideal for an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  As a class, travel up the tree, visiting each animal along the way.  Ask students to guess what environmental issue the animal is passionate about.  Have students brainstorm ideas of ways that they could be friendlier to the environment as it relates to each animal.  This would be a great site to guide classroom discussion and spark some new ideas.

The look of the site is very unique, students will love the virtual popup books!  Students can also explore this site on their own on classroom computers or in a computer lab setting.  As they view the different animals, students can create character cards about the animal, listing the environmental passion, and ideas of how they can be more environmentally friendly.


Tips: This site was created in Japan so some of the English is a little awkward, or the humor missed.

Leave a comment and share how you are using The Eco Zoo  in your classroom.

Wiglington & Wenks Virtual World

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What it is: I absolutely love when I learn about a new site, especially those that I immediately know will be a winner with students.  You know the sites that have incredible graphics, are easy to use, and involve kids in the story (instead of just drill and practice).  Wiglington & Wenks is one such site.  One of the creators of the site @aldricchang alerted me to the new site today via Twitter.

Students are dropped into the middle of a story where they become world travelers to places around the real-world, meeting historical characters, playing brain games, building culture inspired houses, exploring secret locations, and solving ancient mysteries.  There are 100 educational real-world and imaginary places for students to visit from the past, present, and the future.  Wiglington and Wenks was originally a children story book series written by Johan Bittleston.  It has exploded into an online world where students can learn and explore.

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Wiglington and Wenks is so much more than your standard virtual world, it has a rich story line with well developed characters, plot, mystery, and quests.  Students are dropped into the story and invited to participate, learning through exploration, problem solving, and critical thinking.  The world highlights famous real-world landmarks, historical figures, inventions, culture, nature, and wildlife.  Students are motivated to learn more about each as they complete a series of quests.

The story behind the virtual world is about two water rats from England, Wiglington and Wenks, who are in search of a legacy left by Wiglington’s great explorer ancestor.  A series of magic maps guide them as they travel through time and space.  Through a series of events, a time portal was accidentally created that transported famous figures from the past to the future.  All of the historical figures seem to have forgotten who they are.  Students embark on a quest to help Wilington and Wenks find the famous missing characters and recover their lost memories.

Wilglington and Wenks are the main characters of the story.  They are the heroes. There are a host of other characters that further enchant students as they solve the mysteries of this virtual world.

Carto is the map creator who created the magic maps that keep track of geography, cultural evolution, and climate change over time.  Fragments of the map piece together to form a complete real-world map.

Sir Ordy Nace is the curator of the maps at the British Museum.

Filo rat is the head of the Traveling Academy in the town.  He is an inventor, code breaker, and skilled strategist- a genius in every way.  He loves a challenging game of sudoku or master mind.

Scuttle Butt is a search engine.  Ask him a question and he provides a useful list with the most relevant information at the top.  He is Filo Rat’s assistant. (This is an awesome way for students to familiarize themselves for using search engines to solve problems!)

Chacophonous is a crab who also happens to be a conductor.  He is reportedly connected by an ancestor to Beethoven.  He introduces students to classical music.

Walpole the whale makes cross-ocean transportation possible.  He has a terrible sense of direction so students have to give him directions and help guide him.

Every story needs a villain and the Count is the villain of this story.  He is known for using his knowledge of the magic maps for the destruction of the environment along with his side kick Warrior Wolf.

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Historical figures include Thomas Edison, Alexandar Graham Bell, Cleopatra, Confusious, Copernicus, Damo, Emperor Quin, Galileo Galilei, Issac Newton John, Marco Polo, John Rolfe, Nostra Damus, Pocahontas, Wilber Wright, Orville Wright, Vlad Dracula, and many more.

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How to integrate Wiglington & Wenks Virtual World into the classroom: The rich storyline alone makes this site one to bring into your classroom.  Students can do character studies, learn about plot, mystery, and suspense.  Use this site to teach your students about environmental issues such as global warming, forest preservation, protection of marine life, and endangered animals.  This is an immersive learning environment where your students will learn by doing.  As students travel the virtual world, they will learn geography, cultural differences, history, and inventions.  Students are encouraged to think creatively to solve the issues facing the world today.  Wiglington & Wenks would be a great site to introduce to students at the beginning of the year that is used throughout the year for learning.  Make it your goal to solve the mysteries of the magic maps before the end of the year.  Throughout the year students can visit the virtual world, learn about historical figures, famous inventions, and geography.  Hang up a world map in your classroom and keep track of the places that have been visited.  Encourage students to create character cards as they learn about new historical figures, and story characters.  Each student can have their own account but keep track of progress as a class.  Create PSA posters for the classroom as students learn about environmental issues.  Explore more about the inventors and inventions that students come across in the virtual world.  Have students keep a journal of discoveries (on or offline) as they discover new clues.  Have students write newspaper articles about the happenings of the virtual world and it’s characters.   This site can be tied into your curriculum for the year in a variety of ways.

I love the way this site encourages discovery of knowledge, teamwork, and critical thinking. This site will have your students excited about learning the whole year through.  Fridays would make a great day of discovery each week and give students something to look forward to.  Create a single class account and explore Wilington and Wenks as a class each week (or a little each day) using an interactive whiteboard or projector.  Give each student the opportunity to be the navigator of the world.  The other students can take observation notes in a journal about what they see and learn.  If you have classroom computers, cycle your students through the virtual world as a center activity.  In this model each student can have an account.  If you have access to a 1 to 1 environment (one computer for each child) or a computer lab setting on a regular basis, students can each have their own account and solve the mystery individually.  Form small groups where students can discuss their findings and give each other tips and tricks. (Hint: these groups will form whether or not you create them…it is that engaging!)

Wiglington and Wenks is the way that learning should be!



Tips: Read the Wiglington & Wenks books (Amazon link) as a class…the tie into the virtual world will have your students eager to read these books to learn more!

Your students will catch on to the virtual world environment quickly and know more about the characters, games, etc. than you could ever hope to learn.  There is a great guide that will clue you into everything the world offers so that you can keep up with your students. Check it out here.

Leave a comment and share how you are using Wiglington & Wenks Virtual World in your classroom.

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