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.
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 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.
What it is: The American Heart Association has a new set of heart interactives on their site, Be the Beat. On Be the Beat, students can explore the heart, view a healthy vs unhealthy heart and perform virtual CPR during a cardiac arrest. The interactives have extremely life-like graphics and can be manipulated to view the heart under a variety of circumstances. Students can speed up heart rate or adjust layers of the heart. The CPR simulation is excellent. It leads students through a scenario where a friend collapses. It is up to students to decide how to administer CPR and use an AED to help the friend.
How to integrate Be the Beat into the classroom: Be the Beat is very well done. I’m impressed with the level of information, the interactive graphics and the ability to manipulate how the heart is reacting. Be the Beat would be a great site for students to visit when learning about the heart. This could be as part of a science class, health or PE class.
On the interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer, students can take turns adjusting and manipulating what is happening to the heart. As they take their turn, they can play “scientist” and describe what is happening to the rest of the class with the help of the captions on Be the Beat. The CPR interactive would be a great whole-class activity. As a class, students can make decisions about what to do to help their friend who has gone into cardiac arrest. They can take turns calling for help, administering CPR and using the AED.
Be the Beat would make a fantastic hands-on center on classroom computers as students are learning about the heart. Students can stop by the center and explore the different areas of the heart. Assign each student to study a different area of the heart so that they can take turns explaining the functions to each other.
Tips: The American Heart Association has a whole new program where students can learn to save a life in the School Challenge. Learn more about it here.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Be the Beat in your classroom!
What it is: I learned about Spent from my friend @ianchia last week on Twitter. Spent is a collaboration between McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham to show students how the decisions they make affect their lives. The Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. Students have the opportunity to accept the Spent simulation and challenge to see if they can make it through a month of living expenses. They have just lost their job, their savings are gone, they have lost their house, and they are down to their last thousand dollars. Students must find a job, make decisions about housing, food, emergencies, and more as they try to survive one month on minimum wage.
How to integrate Spent into the classroom:Spent is a social justice game simulation that helps students understand the tough circumstances that so many face that have caused them to be homeless and in need of outside assistance. The game uses scenarios that are true to life and shows students how each decision that they make has consequences. Spent would be a great game for students to play in an economics or social studies class. Students can play the game individually and come together at the end of the game to discuss how the decisions they made affected their ultimate outcome. Which students made it to the end of the month and which failed? What decision(s) led to that outcome? If you don’t have the ability for students to play the game individually, play as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer. Make decisions together as a class weighing the pros and cons of each decision as you go.
Extend this online game by moving to a place of action. What can your students do to help those in need? Can they hold a school fundraiser to donate to the Urban Ministries of Durham? Can they create compelling call to action videos and post them to YouTube? Let your students be creative and come up with their own solutions for making an impact.
Tips: There are some great ethical scenarios in the simulation that should spark some interesting discussion and debate among students.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Spent in your classroom!
What it is: Registration is now open for the Spring 2011 SPILL Virtual Team Challenge for North America. The Virtual Team Challenge is a real-time, multi-user business simulation that is played over the course of several weeks by high school students in North America. As a team, students will take on business tasks and challenges that simulate real-world experiences of professional services employees. Each student participant will fill one of the several roles offered on a simulated professional services team and compete against other high school teams to clean up an oil spill in the river of New York City. When the challenge is complete, Deloitte will make a real donation to the United Way on behalf of the winning team. Registration is open now and the competition takes place from February 14, 2011 to April 1, 2011.
How to integrate SPILL! Virtual Team Challenge into the classroom: The SPILL Virtual Team Challenge is an engaging, hands-on approach and competition to learn about business, math, and economics. Get your classroom involved in this great learning opportunity and challenge by registering your school, entering students’ names and assigning them roles and teams for the game, downloading the free game and installing it on the school computers, and playing through the tutorial. On February 14 the official competition and game launches. Students can play at their own pace to finish the three game tasks by April 1, 2011. This is one game that is packed full of learning, provides a realistic experience, acts as a team building exercise, and has the great outcome of providing a donation to the United Way.
Tips: You can learn more about the game platform and Deloitte by visiting the Virtual Team Challenge website.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using SPILL! Virtual Team Challenge in your classroom.
What it is:Death in Rome is an interactive history experience from the BBC. The game takes place in the year 80AD where Tiberius Claudius Eutychus is found dead in his apartment. Students must put their sleuth skills to work as they investigate clues scattered around the room to solve the mystery. They have until dawn to crack the case. In addition to clues in the room, students can “talk” to modern-day experts for additional information, and interrogate witnesses.
How to integrate Death in Rome into your curriculum:Death in Rome is a fantastic exercise in critical thinking, reasoning, and deduction. Students will learn about ancient Rome, using clues to solve a mystery, and find out how engaging and interesting history can be. Death in Rome would make a great partner activity. Students can work together in teams to solve the crime. When each team has cracked the case, they can share the strategy they used and the clues that tipped them off to the solution. If you don’t have access to a lab setting, solve the case as a class using a projector or interactive whiteboard. Students can take turns at the board acting as investigators and leading the investigation. As the game progresses, those students at their seats can make note of the clues and offer conjectures as to what the clues reveal about the death.
Tips: Because of the subject matter, this game probably isn’t appropriate for students under the age of 10. I recommend playing through the game yourself to decide if it is appropriate for your age group. Older students will enjoy playing investigator!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Death in Rome in your classroom!
What it is:Eco Defenders is another excellent Filament Games simulation/interactive. In this game, students design “alien” invasive species and set it loose on an imaginary ecosystem. Students must use their knowledge of ecosystems, adaptations, and competition to design a simulation of an invasive species. Students find out that when an invading species occupies the same ecological niche as native species, they can cause problems for the ecosystem. The game allows for a lot of customization and decisions for students as they choose one of three ecosystems and then design their own alien. As students go through the simulation, JASON host researcher, Russell Cuhel, will ask questions about how invasive species invade an ecosystem giving students the chance to be the expert. Before students play the game, ask them to click on the “Learn More” link where they will receive a tutorial for the game and some background information about invasive species. Students can learn about different kinds of invasive species that exist in our world.
How to integrate Eco Defenders into the classroom: In the Eco Defenders game/simulation, your students will: design their own invasive creature, watch their creature as it interacts in the ecosystem and competes over resources with native creatures, and analyze the interactions among the organisms in the ecosystem. Students will select a creature to target in the ecosystem they have chosen and then design a species that will compete in the same ecological niche. Students will design and then run a simulation to test their invader. Afterward, they will discuss what happened with the virtual host scientist, go over the results, and analyze the data. The great thing about this game/simulation is that no two students will have the exact same results. Eco Defenders is best in a computer lab setting where each student can play individually. After students have experimented and run through the simulation, come together as a class and discuss what students observed. What made their invader successful? What would they change for the next time? As students learn more about ecosystems, eco niches, and invaders throughout the unit, have them run through the simulation again and see if they come up with different results. If you can’t manage access to a 1 to 1 computer setting, play the game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer. The class should discuss each decision, weighing the pros and cons, before making a move. As the students work through the simulation, talk about what they are observing and what tweaks might change the outcome of their simulation.
Tips:JASON Science is worth a look. The tag-line of JASON Science is “Education through Exploration”. I couldn’t agree more!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Eco Defenders in your classroom.
What it is:Rags to Riches takes Lemonade Tycoon to a whole new level with simulated business. In Rags to Riches, students are working to make their band a success. Students play the part of a new band going on tour with a few new songs. As they play the Rags to Riches game simulation, students must make decisions about what the band should do. They have to decide which cities are best for them to play in, what venues to play, how much money to spend on publicity and how much to charge for tickets. Students start out with $100 and must make wise decisions to continue in the simulation. When they run out of money, the game ends and they must start again.
How to integrate Rags to Riches into the classroom: If you teach students like mine, breaking out Lemonade Tycoon in the classroom is met by cheers from some and with eye rolls by others who are “way too cool” for a lemonade stand. For those students, Rags to Riches is in order. The premise of the game is the same, but instead of selling lemonade, students are working to take their band to super star status. This is a great game for teaching students about business, economics, and money. This game is really best played in a computer lab setting where each student has access to their own computer, but if you don’t have that luxury, it could also be played as a class with an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer. If you are playing as a class, give each student a roll in the band and set up rules together about how business decisions will be made. After the simulation, come together as a class and talk about what decisions had the best outcomes and which led to downfalls.
Tips: Don’t hit your back button while you are in the simulation or your game will start over. This is an important tip to pass on to students!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Rags to Riches in your classroom.
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. Discovery has an nice interactive on earthquakes called Make a Quake. Students are able to create their own earthquake in a virtual simulator. Students enter a simulator that lets them choose the kind of ground that their building is built on, the preventative measures that have been put in place, and the magnitude of the earthquake. Then they begin the quake to test out different scenarios.
How to integrate Discovery’s Make a Quake into the classroom:This is a great site to help students understand how different factors determine the impact of an earthquake. Allow students to explore this interactive individually on classroom computers or in a computer lab setting. Encourage them to take notes about what combination causes the most damage and which combination causes the least damage. You could also complete this simulation as a class using an interactive whiteboard or a projector. Invite students up to adjust the different factors (ground, prevention, magnitude). Ask students to make predictions about what will happen to their building. Begin the quake to test their hypothesis.
Tips: Students can learn more about past earthquakes by learning more about 1906: The Great Quake Cover-Up and view a photo gallery of earthquake destruction.
Leave a comment and share how you are using Discovery’s Make a Quake in your classroom.