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The Greatest and Greenest Earth Day Sites for Kids – Part II

April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m dedicating two posts of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. Part I can be found here. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.

Environmental Kids Club

Environmental Kids Club is a site made by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  One thing I really like about this site is that it has Daily Actions, an Environmental Tip of the Day, and a Question of the Week. There are also sections about air, water, garbage & recycling, plants & animals, you & your environment, an art room, a science room, a game room, and many other additional resources for kids and teachers.

National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society’s education section has fun activities for kids where they can play games, watch videos of wildlife and see live webcams of nesting birds. There is also an adoption center where classes can learn about endangered animals, and how they can help.  In the educator section, there are links to activities, lesson plans, and tips on how to bring nature into your classroom.

Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, EEK is a very kid-friendly site with links to information on all kinds of animals (would be a great resource for animal research), environmental issues, and a section devoted to cool things to do and read about. The Teacher Page has activities, resources, event calendar, and a news section that will help teachers keep their students informed about environmental issues.

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The Greatest and Greenest Earth Day Sites for Kids

April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m highlighting several of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.

Eco Kids

Eco Kids has a lot of eco-awareness games and activities to help kids gain a better understanding of environmental issues in fun way. There is a homework help section with information on a variety of earth science related fields, a contest section, and a place where kids can become EcoReporters . The Teacher Section (free registration) has lesson plans, activities, class kits, ESOL Lessons, and many other environmental-related resources.

Eeko World

Aside from an annoying Gilbert Gottfried sounding monkey as a mascot (kids love it), Eeko World is a fun site for kids to learn more about things they can do to take care of our world. Eeko (which stands for Environmental Education for Kids Online) features an engaging interactive environment which invites kids to explore, experiment, and collaborate as they learn about conservation and the environment. There is a parent and teacher section that explains how to use the site, as well as how to integrate Eeko World into literacy activities.

Earth Matters


The aim of Earth Matters is to, “Assist classroom educators and schools in teaching a sustainable foods and earth systems curriculum for 4th and 5th graders and inspiring students of all ages to live more aware and sustainable lives.” To do this, Earth Matters presents in-depth, standards-based curriculum, news feeds, some informational videos, along with a few games, and ideas to become environmentally active. There are a couple of sections that are still under construction and I’m wondering if the site is currently being maintained, as the copyright date is 2006. However, the information and activities that are available, make the site a worthwhile visit.

Historical Imagery and 3D Trees in Google Earth

Historical Imagery

Google recently improved upon Google Earth and introduced a historical imagery slider so that you can compare locations with how they looked previously (as far back as imagery is available for any particular location).

3D Trees

Another great new features is 3D trees. With the release of Google Earth 6, there are more than 80 million trees which include over 50 different species. Watch the short video below to learn more.

EdTechIdeas: Google Earth is a great, free tool for students to learn about places in the world, geography, distance, topography, and many other things. Now, with the historical slider, students can get a first hand account of how things change over time due to human “progress,” and how natural disaster shape the earth. 3D trees is a great tool for studying the environment. Students can zoom in to the amazon and identify different types of trees and discover the layers of the rain forest first-hand (well, sort of).  A combination of the historical slider and 3D trees would be a nice tool for students to use as a visual for an oral report about deforestation.

Relinquishing Control

Me in New Zealand

Today I relinquished all control of learning in my lab and shifted the responsibility of learning to the students. Most of my activities in my lab are project-based, but they are usually created by myself and the classroom teachers, have directions, pre-set expectations, rubrics, etc. In a recent workshop I attended, Alan November posed the question, “Who owns the learning in the classroom: the teacher or the students? This inspired me to relinquish control.

It went like this: My 4th graders are studying isopods and beetles in science so I presented to them a challenge: “Using any method you choose, you are to show your isopod/beetle expertise.” That was pretty much all the direction I gave, and looking around my lab, here is what I saw being created:

  • Bitstrip comics starring themselves as scientists explaining the diversity of crustaceans.
  • Students researching sources using advanced search features for trust-worthy and relevant information
  • Online jeopardy game creations
  • Using Scratch to create interactive stories
  • PowerPoint and Prezi presentations
  • Using Flipcams and Moviemaker to create infomercials
  • Podcast radio interviews
  • Glogster Posters

Some students worked in pairs; others chose to work alone. They assigned each other roles. One the researcher, one the graphic designer, one the note taker. They asked if they could research! They created their own rubrics. Their usual, “How do I do this?” questions to me were redirected and asked of themselves: “How can we find out how to do this?” It was truly an amazing experience. Their newly-discovered independence and ownership in their learning freed me up to go around and make suggestions, teach specific search strategies, work one-on-one with each student discussing their projects, and really feel the excitement and buzz of authentic learning taking place.

EdTechIdeas: As teachers, it is often difficult to make a shift from forced learning (teacher delivered content) to student directed learning. I challenge you to just take one lesson; one activity; one afternoon and flip the way you’ve always done it in the past. Take a leap of faith, and relinquish control. See how you feel. Discover how your students feel. Feel the learning.

My Green School Dream

“Dyslexic, we’ve renamed prolexic.” John Hardy mentions about 10 minutes into his talk, and that kind of thinking is a big part about what makes the Green School so special. The architecture is beautiful, and the school is off the grid. However, anyone can build beautiful buildings – the approach that Hardy takes with the children – wanting to make them whole, is in my mind, what elevates the Green School to an amazing place of learning and growth.


What do you think of the Green School?

Stop Teaching Calculating. Start Teaching Math

“Math is very popular. Just not in education.”  Conrad Wolfram gives a great talk about how to bridge the math gap between the real world and the classroom by using computers to make math relevant to learners.

What do the math teachers out there think about Wolfram’s ideas?

The Child-Driven Education in Practice

A couple of months ago, I posted a TED Talk video called, The Child-Driven Education, by Sugata Mitra. The premise of Mitra’s study is that given access to “hole in the wall learning stations“, students will use their natural problem solving abilities and use the tools to learn independently.

The acquisition of basic computing skills by any set of children can be achieved through incidental learning provided the learners are given access to a suitable computing facility, with entertaining and motivating content and some minimal (human) guidance.

One of the 5th grade teachers I work with saw that video and was inspired to “re-create” it with his students.  See for yourself what happens:

The Child-Driven Education: Sugata Mitra

Great talk by Sugata Mitra about how children, given the tools, can self-teach regardless of who or where they are.

Gross National Happiness

I recently listened to Chip Conley’s TedTalk on my run to work where he discussed the topic of measuring what makes life worthwhile.

Although Chip’s talk is directed towards business, it made me think about my students and education in general. Is our educational system designed with the students’ best interested in mind?  Or are we just creating survivors?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Another Ted Talker Nic Marks talks about his idea of the Happy Planet Index. He brings up a fantastic quote by John F. Kennedy, who in 1968 said:

The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worth while.

It’s unfortunate that as much progress we have made as a species over the last 100 years or so, we’ve also, along the way, created so much emptiness and ruin.

I enjoyed both of these talks, as they reminded me to continually focus on what’s important in life, and take a step back every now and again to smell the proverbial roses.

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

Great follow-up TedTalk by Sir Ken Robinson about what the education system needs today.

Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment. And it’s not enough.  Reform is no use anymore. Because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education – this has to be transformed into something else.

-Sir Ken Robinson

Social Media Revolution 2

Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media & mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.

Two Questions That Can Change Your Life

Daniel Pink is the author of the best selling books Drive, and A Whole New Mind. This is a great little video about 2 simple questions that you can ask yourself. 2 questions that can change your life and make you a better person.

So… Are you better today than you were yesterday? What’s your sentence? Choosing your sentence is an epic question; one that is not easily answered. Try doing this activity with your students and having them write about it. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with.

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