Life Is from BBC Earth

What it is: Life is is an incredible site from BBC Earth.  The beautifully interactive site is full of images, video, and stories from BBC Earth’s most captivating documentaries.  Each month features a different theme with September’s theme, Life is…Colorful.  The astonishing images and video capture life’s most colorful displays in nature.  The search page is equally stunning, offering an on-screen widget that lets students adjust the pictures in the grid by filtering by hot/cold, slow/fast, sea/sky, or color.

How to integrate Life Is from BBC Earth into your curriculum: Life is would make for an incredible discussion starter or creative writing prompt.  This month’s theme is Life is Colorful.  Ask students to come up with descriptive words for the pictures and images they are seeing.   Students can use the descriptive words they came up with to write a Life is… poem.  The poem could start with the line Life is… include descriptions of what they observed in the video and end with …Colorful.

Students can make their own Life is… type videos with a theme of their choosing using a tool like the National Geographic Wildlife  Filmmaker.

This site can be used on classroom computers or in a lab setting, but I think it would be absolutely stunning on an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer!

Tips: The left and right arrows on the site let you view each picture in the theme series separately. Each picture has an overlay with additional information about the image.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Life Is in your classroom!

Science Storybooks

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What it is: Science Storybooks is a great collection of online animated picture books that help teach science in a way that is fun and engaging.  There are a lot of animated books to choose from with topics such as applied sciences (electrons, light, etc.), the Universe Cycle (planets, constellations, etc.), Plate Tectonic Cycle (lavas, earthquakes, etc.), Rock Cycle (gems, dinosaurs, etc.), Water Cycle (clouds, weather, etc.), and the Life Cycle (organisms, human biology, plants, the natural environment).  The books don’t just tell about science, they take students on a science journey using story.  This makes the reading more accessible and student friendly than your typical science book.  There are also some very entertaining science songs.  I particularly enjoyed the Electricity song…but then I get a kick out of things like this (I think the kids will, too!).

How to integrate Science Storybooks into the classroom: These animated Science Storybooks are the perfect way to introduce your students to new science concepts.  They will give just enough information to leave your students wanting to explore some more.  The books can be read as a whole class using a projector or interactive whiteboard, or set up as a center on your classroom computers.

I have a group of fifth graders this year who are convinced that they are the cast of High School Musical, they are constantly breaking out in song (it is really something, they all join in and know the words to any song).  I have a feeling that my fifth graders would really get into the songs on Storybooks, singing along karaoke style.  If it helps them to learn new science concepts, I can’t think of anything better!

Science Storybooks may inspire your students to come up with their own science storybooks.  Students could create science storybooks as a slide show, in Animoto, Kerpoof, Shidonni, Storybird, and a host of other sites.  As part of the science fair projects, students could create a story to accompany the project that would explain the science involved.  And for my fifth grade musical cast, they just may want to come up with their own science song using Myna, Audacity, or Garageband.

Tips: There are some additional science lessons and worksheets for each topic of science, you can use these in conjunction with the stories as needed.

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

National Geographic Forces of Nature

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What it is: Our fifth graders are going to be reading stories about extreme nature next week.  To build background knowledge about extreme nature, I was on a hunt for some sites that would teach them about different natural occurrences and include an interactive where they could explore the occurrence first hand.  National Geographic has a great collection called Forces of Nature. Here students can explore a natural forces lab where they learn about the extreme nature. Students can learn about tornadoes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.  Students learn what the force of nature is, what causes them, their characteristics, the damage that they do, how they are forecasted, and then have the opportunity to actually create the force of nature virtually.  Students can also view an interactive map that shows hot sites where the forces of nature occur, and read case studies of actual events.


How to integrate National Geographic Forces of Nature into the classroom: Set up a science or reading center where students can read and learn about each force of nature.  Allow students to interact with the activities to control their own tornadoes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.  Choose a “weather forecaster” for the class.  Using an interactive whiteboard or projector have the forecaster change the elements that lead to the force of nature.  Ask students at their seats predict what will happen with the force of nature.  Are conditions right for a tornado/hurricane/earthquake/eruption?  The forecaster will test out conditions to find out what happens.  Ask students to explain the occurrence and why their predictions were correct or incorrect.  If you don’t have access to an interactive whiteboard or projector, students could complete this activity in partners on the classroom computers.  This is an excellent visual aid for the science classroom, it is like an interactive text book.


Tips: National Geographic has a great Forces of Nature photo gallery (found below the interactive) where students can see high quality photos of tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and earthquakes.  The earthquake interactive is a timely addition to the classroom with the recent earthquake in Haiti.  This is a great way for kids to understand exactly how the earthquake occurred.

Leave a comment and share how you are using National Geographic Forces of Nature  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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