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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Be An Earth Day Model (Giveaway too!)

If you've ever watched the Muppet Christmas Carol, and I have...many, many, many times while singing all the songs much to the dismay of my husband, and the delight of my third graders a couple years back because it is my favorite Christmas movie, you remember that line from the "It Feels Like Christmas" song,

It is the season of the spirit,
the message if we hear it, 
is 'make it last all year' 

Well, when Earth Day rolls around, I feel that this message is completely relevant as well!

For some kids, they never understand the three Rs, or why it is important to them until April 22nd. Then, on that one day they are told how they should reuse things, reduce waste, reduce water use, bike to the pool instead of driving, and to recycle those water bottles or scribbled on notebook papers.  They all make poems or cute pictures about how they love their home planet.  It is a great feel-good day all around as they bound out of your classroom feeling like they are going to save the planet the way you feel you could take on some baddies after watching a Batman movie.

....then the next day they are throwing their wadded up drawings from last week into the trash instead of the recycle bin.  Why?  Probably because the trash can is closer to their desk.

So, what can we do?  Well, modeling is the key.  When you have extra papers that are no longer needed and don't have "shred-worthy" info on them, toss them in the recycle bin.  If a student goes to throw away some paper, gently remind them that recycling would be a better choice.  I have found by doing this and giving a quick reminder, my other students would take on the role of the reminder.  I even had a kids who started picking up the recycle bin and walking around when we were cutting up paper for our interactive notebooks.  It was great hearing "No, don't throw it in the trash, recycle it.  That way it can get used again one day!"  I even had "dumpster divers" who would pick up balls of paper from the trash and throw it in the recycle bin.  

This April 22nd, get them excited about saving the Earth and keeping it a great place to live for all living things...but then keep that message going!  

In celebration of Earth Day, I'm giving away one of my Earth Day Activity Packs.  The giveaway will begin at midnight, and go to April 20th!  Good luck!

PS - I just learned two more Rs...Restore and Replenish....LOVE IT!

Click here to go to my giveaway on Facebook!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Field Trips Without the Paperwork: Animal Webcams

Who doesn't love a field trip?  Students and teachers alike love getting out of the classroom to learn.

 (Disclaimer: The above is a general statement. You may encounter unfavorable conditions such as getting up at 4 am for an out of town trip, chaperones...who, well, need a chaperone, children who have 8-10 different medications you have to administer, etc...)

Phew, now that is out of the way, let's talk about how to have a "field trip" without filling out paperwork, sweating over permission forms, or keeping up with students in public.  Shocked?  I know!  Who wouldn't love being able to give their students real world experience and observations without leaving your school, and in some cases your own classroom?

Truth is, many resources out there are completely under-utilized by teachers.  But why?

Well, there isn't much time to look for them. Planning, grading, answering emails, analyzing data, dealing with social issues in class, and trying to keep your personal life (and house) together is a daunting task.  Also, with the ever increasing emphasis on standardized testing and scores, observing the real world isn't high on the priority list.  Why?  Because it isn't on a test.

There are many great resources out there, and I hope to continue to bring those to you on this blog so you don't have to go looking for hours to find them.  Today I want to start with observing animals.  In many grades the standards call for understanding animal adaptations, whether physical vs. behavioral or inherited vs. learned.  Sure, showing real pictures to your students is a great start, but why not go a step further?  Going to your local zoo is a great field trip that you can use to help students observe and understand adaptations, but what if you don't have a zoo?  How can your students get the experience of seeing animals in action?  The answer....webcams!

The great thing about webcams is that your students can observe animals over the period of hours, days, weeks, whatever suits your lessons.  A visit to the zoo is great, but the problem is that all too often a lot of animals are lying around not doing much.  Why?  Well, when you play a day trip to the zoo, you're usually visiting in the middle of the day so you can get students back to school before dismissal.  This means you are observing animals during the warmest part of the day, when they normally are resting.

One of my favorite sites for webcams is the Cornell Lab Bird Cams site.  I have been watching the Great Horned Owls with my husband.  We kept checking it because the chicks were ready to leave the nest, and even when they left, there was still cool behavior to observe.  Mom/Dad kept bringing food (small rodents, snakes, etc...) back to the nest and calling for the fledglings.  You could see her/him call in each direction until the sound of a chick's call came back.  Then, they would fly off with the meal, like a delivery service!  This site has play back, so your students can not only watch live, but go back to see what they missed and there are "highlights" for each of the types of bird cams.  There are several cams up right now, so be sure to check it out!

Another amazing site is HD on Tap!  There is everything from whales to elephants and hippos in Africa!  This site actually helps power several of the Cornell cams, and have many options for you to choose from.  Be sure to cruise their selections in case you want students to observe different types of animals.  The only unfortunate part about this site (if students are individually looking at cams) is that there are comments sometimes under the videos.  I haven't seen any "un-school-like" words or comments yet, but I'm not sure how filtered they are!

The Aquarium of the Pacific has great cams including sea horses, tropical reefs, penguins, sharks, jellyfish, and other types of fish.  The lighting is pretty good, and although it is not a wild habitat, students can still observe adaptations and behaviors.

I just clicked the "Tau Game Lodge" video from Wild Earth TV and saw a huge group of elephants walking past!  It was a live cam, and although darkness had already fallen in South Africa, night vision is our friend.

I hope that these animal cams have given you some ideas about how to incorporate these into your classroom.  Even watching these as a class on your Promethean Board/Smart Board/projector will be an event they will love.  It may just be the first thing that comes out of their mouth when they get in the car!

Use this Animal Observations: Webcam Observation Sheets freebie to have your students record their observations!

Stay tuned on more ideas to have a "field trip" inside your classroom!  Who needs all those permission forms anyway?  Did Miss Frizzle use them?  I doubt it!