What it is:Starting with Soil is a free app from the Whole Kids Foundation that teaches the importance of healthy soil and lets kids discover the harmonious roles that plants, animals, and people play in keeping it healthy. This high-quality, interactive app lets kids explore the life in soil through lots of interactive experiences. They can use a compost wheel to learn about which things can be composted; learn about pollinators and their role in the food we eat; explore fungi, bacteria, protozoa, algae, and nemotodes with a built-in microscope; and learn how long it takes to make an inch of healthy soil with an interactive timeline. Kids can also plant digital seeds, make it rain, and build their own digital compost pile.
How to integrate the Starting with Soil App in your classroom:The Starting with Soil app is a fantastic interactive experience that will help your students learn about how nature creates organic soil, the role that animals and cover crops play in organic farming, how different plants can thrive together, the importance of pollinators, and how compost is made and its part in growing healthy food. This free app can be used as a provocation for an inquiry unit about soil, in your science classroom, or during discussions about ecosystems or nutrition.
My favorite part of this app is the way it let’s kids explore soil. Rather than telling them why healthy soil is important, it reveals its importance through discovery, exploration, and play.
Follow-up learning by giving students the opportunity to put that new understanding to work. Have students design pollinator hotels for your school yard or garden, start a composting bin, or start a school garden. Check out the Whole Kids Foundation site for fantastic resources, ideas, and grant opportunities.
Tips: Starting with Soil is available on the App Store and Google Play.
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.