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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recognizing Every Student

 I just want to put it out there...I'm not one of those "participation trophy" people.  I feel like there is so much intrinsic value in things like team sports, extracurricular activities, and music lessons.  I just think the experience is enough in itself!  However, in our classrooms, we are with these children for the better part of nine months of the year.  You learn a lot about them, they learn a lot about you, and they learn a lot about each other and who they really are.

There is an increasing push to "recognize" all students at the end of the year, and I can understand this.  Especially when they aren't on the honor roll, and caught the flu (so no perfect attendance there) but their parents took time off work to come to your class "end of the year" celebration/ceremony.

We always had a grade level awards day, usually together as a grade level in the cafeteria or other large area.  Then, we would head back to our individual classrooms to give out other awards that we didn't have time for as a grade level.  These were things like participating in Student Council, being a part of the Garden Club, etc...  But, these kids have been a community for a year, you've been a family...why not recognize things that we see as strengths in each other?

My first year teaching I toyed with the idea of superlatives.  I was going to let my kids vote, but I also wanted to recognize the kids myself.  So, I came to a compromise.  I'd let the kids vote (because that means a lot to them), but I also would stop before each award and talk about the student for a minute.  A little brag time, if you will.

I made it fun by not revealing who it was until the end.  For example, I might say something like, "Wow, this student amazes me on a daily basis.  They are always looking to help others, to push in a chair for someone, or to pick up a dropped pencil.  This student is always asking for ways they can help me around the classroom as well.  They exemplify what it means to be a good, Garrett, you are our "Helping Hands." (and I'd have them come down, give them a hug, and give them the award.

That little snippet, that little tid-bit about what that students means to you and to the rest of the room really means a lot to that kid.  It also means a lot to their parents who took time off of work to come to your celebration. I find this especially true for parents who sit through the entire grade level awards ceremony knowing that their child isn't getting honor roll or perfect attendance.  They are simply there to support their child, to lift them up for completing another year of school, and you just made their day by taking just 45 seconds to point out something great about their kid.

So, as the year is winding down, think about how you can recognize something great in each of your students.  Whether you choose the reason for recognition or you allow the students to.

You can make up your own awards, but if you do need a place to start, I have some superlative awards that are editable with a voting sheet for your kiddos.

No matter how you decide to recognize your kiddos this year, they will appreciate it so much!

Best of luck as you begin to wind down the year!  (At least my Northern Hemisphere friends!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Using Animal Webcams in the Classroom

...I'm back!  Again.

Seriously, I was having blog issues with my background and didn't want to do anything until I fixed them.  It has been an issue since the holidays and I finally figured out the problem, so thank you for staying with me!

Last year I did a similar post, but I wanted to remind everyone that it is the season of awesome live webcams! Also, I have extra links to even MORE cams.  There are such a variety out there now that I wanted to post again to share with you the awesome live cams that I found. In science, it isn't often that our students get to study and observe real live animals, and some animals are just not feasible to observe in real life.

One example are birds because getting a bird box and installing a web cam on it isn't cheap, and sometimes just isn't feasible depending on where you live. This is a great time of year to watch birds via live web cams and use those for your students to make observations.  Once we used one of the eagle web cams for this, and holy would have thought we were watching the winning touch down of the Super Bowl as one of the eggs began to hatch right in front of the kids.  Everyday they came in asking if we could watch a little more.  "What about during snack time?" they would ask.  "Could we watch while we pack up?"

Kids love watching animals, and they start to feel an all-too-important connection with nature at this age.  Want them to care about not throwing litter on the ground?  Show them a turtle who has stuck his head through one of those plastic soda holders.  I saw that as a kid and everytime we threw one in the trash, I got the scissors out and cut those bad boys in pieces.

These animal observations are easy, and you can choose how many you would like the students to do, or over what time period you want them to complete them in.  Also, if you do have a class that all have access at home, they could even do some extra observations at home.

There are many, many webcams to choose from, and some aquariums and zoos have them all year long.  Here are some of my favorite web cams that I have viewed.  (***Disclaimer, you never know what ads will be on the site, so I always preview the sites, and even make the video full screen when possible to be sure nothing unsavory pops up, just like with YouTube videos!)

Hanover, PA Eagle Nest Cam - Eagle web cam, even includes an IR (infrared)  camera with a second viewpoint.  There are is one chick hatched as I type this, and another egg that should hatch soon! (3/29/16)

Cornell Labs Live Bird Cams - Cornell Labs has a TON of bird cams for you to view.  My favorites are the Barred Owls (she's on three eggs right now!) and the Great Horned Owls, but there are a ton to choose from, even a live cam on a bird feeder!

Explore Live Cams - This site has everything from orcas to polar bears to eagles!  There is even an underwater cam that students can watch.  The hummingbird cam is also very cool, and students will love seeing what their nest looks like!  I also really like that it tells students the local time, location, and temperature of each cam.  This is also a great way for students to study biomes/habitats.  (the link automatically goes to their eagle cam, but click "Live Cams" and see the selection)

Mangolink Cams - This site has a huge variety!  You can even choose if you want the cam to be in the wild or in captivity.  They have them grouped by type of animals (mammals, birds, etc...) and whether it is in the wild or not, then you choose the specific animal you want from the list.  Very cool, and again, GREAT for habitats/biome study as well!

Well, I sure hope this list got you started on ideas for using web cams in your science lessons.  I wanted to be sure to remind you that I have a free product in my store with observation sheets for using animal cams in your classroom here.

I hope you and your students enjoy the web cams as much as my classes and I have!