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Beyond Earth Day

Guest Post by Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell

 

 

Earth Day is a day of observance/action celebrated each year on April 22 and has been going on and gaining momentum since its inception in 1970. The United Nations observes Earth Day every year on the March Equinox, which often falls (as it does this year) on March 20th. Earth Day, whenever celebrated is usually a time to reflect on the state of the environment and what steps can we take, as humans, to clean up the mess we have created.

 

Earth Day, in my mind is flawed. It’s like Valentine’s Day. Why spend one day doing what you should be doing every day? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s to bring awareness and stimulate social change, but I think that we, as educators should be living by example and teaching our students things that they can be doing every day to save the earth.  Kids understand the 3 R’s (reduce, recycle, reuse). They’ve been told to go out and plant a tree,  but we never really teach them important simple things that they, and their parents, can (and should) be doing in their every day lives at home.

What You Can Do to Save the Earth During the Other 364 Days

Re-evaluate what your needs and wants are.  We live in a society where everything is at our finger tips.  It’s easy to accumulate and spend and continue the circle of consumerism which is shockingly harmful on our environment. We need to not try to live in comparison to someone else… to have the newest and latest… to have the biggest… Start living in your means and possibly below your means.  It will allow you to live free and not be tied down by your possessions. With this in mind, here is a simple list of simple things you can do to make every day Earth Day.

Miscellaneous

  • Cut your hair at home (spouses and children)
  • Use good ol’ water for cleaning the floors, counters and surfaces instead of purchasing chemical-filled cleaners.  Tip: add lemon or orange peels and white vinegar to your water
  • Plan your trip with your car so that you can get all your errands done in a certain part of town.
  • Tell people you love hand-me-downs.  Clothes, toys, dishes you can get it all by just asking people for their old stuff.  You help them unload and you get what you want.
  • Reuse vacuum bags, empty them out and reuse them.
  • Use refillable water bottles.
  • Rinse dishes in a large bowl.  With water that is left-over, water the garden and potted plants in the house.
  • Drive a dirty car or wipe it clean.
  • Don’t buy new. If you must buy, buy used.  Search online. Check out your local Salvation Army.
  • Exercise outdoors when you can, instead of using a gym membership.
  • Use things for their entire life instead of continually upgrading.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Cut up old shirts for rags (I use them as Kleenex as well).
  • Trade toys with friends/neighbors for your kids.
  • Buy in bulk when it makes sense to.

Bathroom

  • If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
  • Use your shower towel for a week (or until it gets musty) hang it in a well ventilated spot so it can dry quickly.
  • Turn off the water when you soap up.
  • Turn off your water heater (if you have the capabilities) and turn it on right before you shower.
  • Buy refills for soaps and shampoo bottles.
  • Clean the toilet bowl with a little bit of hand soap instead of buying harsh cleaning chemicals.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.

Kitchen

  • Use coupons.
  • Bring your own cloth bags when grocery shopping.
  • Keep refrigerator door closed (open it with something in mind… don’t keep it open and ponder what it is you want to eat).
  • Run the dishwasher only when full.
  • Wash Ziploc bags and re-use them.
  • Make enough dinner so you have lunch(es) the following day(s).
  • Turn off all appliances that have lights, numbers, or timers on them.  It drains electricity.  Including the TV.  You can unplug at night and have it on during the day if that works better for you. Alternatively, put all your electronic equipment on surge protectors and just flip the switch on that instead of unplugging them.
  • Use water that is just sitting in your sink (in cups, glasses, pots and pans) to water plants.

Bedroom

  • Wash sheets once a month.
  • Use your clothes more than once before washing them (unless they are stinky and noticeably dirty of course).

Living Room

  • Use fans in summer (and turn them off when you leave the room) instead of using AC.
  • Turn thermostat up.
  • Close curtains to keep the heat out.
  • Sweater up in the winters.  Turn thermostat down and let in the natural sun light to warm things up.
  • Incredibly enough, candles increase the temp. in your home.
  • Turn off your computers and printers when they are not in use.
  • Turn off everything in a room that you aren’t using or when you leave the room.

Student Check-List

Eco-Sites for Kids & Teachers

Eco Kids

Eeko World

Rufus’ Home

Recycle City

Earth911

The Daily Green

Kids Saving Energy

The Green Guide for Kids

Earth Matters

Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell is a Health, Nutrition and PE teacher from California who is passionate about the environment. Growing up in two cultures (Sweden and the US) she has seen her share of both environmental negligence and responsibility.

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Spelling City in the Classroom

I recently revisited Spelling City and thought it deserved another post. The layout and simplicity of Spelling City has greatly improved, and with the additions of a teacher resource section and forum, there is a lot of help for those who want to turn their students into better spellers. You begin by entering your words that you want to work on.  You can enter the words individually, in groups of 5 or 10, or you can batch import by simply doing a copy/paste from Word.

Take a Test

In the “Take a Test” section, once the words are entered, you can take a test, where each word is read and used in a sentence. You type it out, hit enter, and go on to the next word.  The site checks your answers and lets you know if you are correct.

Teach Me

Another option is to use the “Teach Me” section, where the Spelling City teacher says the word, spells it, and uses it in a sentence. Note: the computer voice is not perfect and occasionally mispronounces words.

Spelling Games

The game section of Spelling City contains nearly 2 dozen games which incorporate your words that you entered in your initial word list.  7 of these games are only for premium subscribers ($24.99/yr for a family $49.99/yr for a classroom Learn more), but there are plenty of free games to keep students busy learning their words.

Conclusion

All in all, Spelling City is a great resource to use in the classroom as part of a spelling program, or for students to use for home learning.  The site is clear, concise, engaging, and will help students learn words in a fun way.

Paragons of the Week: Mapeas, Sight Words with Samson, Qwiki

Episode 35 >> Previous Paragons

1. Mapeas

Mapeas is a Google Maps mash-up that shows news happenings from around the world. The hot-spots are divided into categories: Business, Entertainment, General, Science and Sport, so you can select which one you’d like to see, or simply see all of them at once. Each dot on the map represents a story and the numbers indicate how many stories from that particular area there are. When you click on a dot it opens up a quick description of the news event along with a video that can be played directly in the site. EdTechIdeas Social Studies teachers can use Mapeas when learning about current events and also help students understand world geography at the same time.

2. Sight Words with Samson

Sight Words with Samson allows students to learn and practice word spelling and pronunciation in a fun, easy to use way. In a four-step process students are challenged to learn words, build words, identify words, and finally, take a quiz about everything they have learned. Within each step there are 4 different levels of difficulty that contain 7 lists of high-frequency words.  EdTechIdeas: Sight Words with Samson is a fantastic site for English language learners and students in lower elementary. It could be used as a center activity as it is a very intuitive site.

3. Qwiki

Qwiki is an impressive new website that just recently rolled out their alpha phase, which means they are still in testing mode, working out some bugs. Currently, you can request access via email and they’ll send you login credentials within a day or two. What Qwiki is, is this: Do you remember the scene from Wall-e where the captain asks the computer to, “define earth?” The computer then displays tons of pictures, videos and maps while spewing out (in a pleasant sounding voice) various facts and information regarding Earth. This, in a nut shell, is what Qwiki is aiming to do, and they do it pretty nicely. Users simply enter a word into the search form and a 2-3 minute “information experience” is displayed. EdTechIdeas: Once this is out of Alpha, Qwiki will be a great research resource for quick and easy information for students studying a variety of subjects. This would also be a great example for students to mimic. Make a “Quiki” assignment where students create a short film about any given subject, pulling in a wealth of facts and media and create their own “information experience.” Below is a quick demonstration of how Qwiki works.


Paragons of the Week – PinDax, Library of Congress, Google Things to Do

Episode 33 >> Previous Paragons

1. PinDax

Pindax is an online message board similar to Wallwisher, where users can add post-its about any given topic. You begin by creating a free account and then build a new board with a name and specific directions about what you want posted on the board. As a teacher, you can create a board and direct your students to the URL to have them each add their thoughts and opinions about the subject of the wall.

2. Library of Congress for Kids and Parents

The Library of Congress family section is a nice collection of online activities and resources. Use this site in the classroom to help kids learn about history, geographyliteracy, fine arts and more.

3. Google Things to Do

Google is a lot more than just a search engine. With Google Things to Do, you can learn how to instantly convert currencies, check flight arrivals, read a book, even search the web like Elmer Fudd! Now, who doesn’t want to know how to do that??!

Happy Birthday Blog!

It’s been one full year now since I said, “Hello World!” with Tech:-)Happy.  It’s been so much fun writing about what I’m doing in the lab, sharing resources with educators, learning about great new tools and methods, and connecting with so many amazing people. I just wanted to post a big THANK YOU to all my subscribers and readers. It is you who make the time I spend on this blog worthwhile and fulfilling.

Great, Free Mind Mapping Tool

Bubbl.us is a fantasic mind mapping site that allows you to easily create and save mind maps.  If you, or your students have ever used Inspiration, you’ll find bubbl.us a no-brainer. If you haven’t used Inspiration, you will still find bubbl.us intuitive and easy to create and navigate.

Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it. Others exporting options will be added in the future.

Uses in the Classroom

As with Inspiration, bubbl.us is a great, free tool for brainstorming ideas solo, or with a group. Students from primary on up will find bubbl.us easy to use.  Email is not necessary to create an account so, if needed, each of your students could create accounts to save their mind maps for later use. Great for story idea generating, research indexing, or simply organizing thoughts.

Thanks to LifeHacker for this great find.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 8

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Google Web Search – Classroom Lessons and Resources

Web search can be a remarkable research tool for students – and Google has listened to educators saying that they could use some help to teach better search skills in their classroom. The Search Education lessons were developed by Google Certified Teachers to help you do just that. The lessons are short, modular and not specific to any discipline so you can mix and match to what best fits the needs of your classroom. Additionally, all lessons come with a companion set of slides (and some with additional resources) to help you guide your in-class discussions.

2. Kubbu

Kubbu is an e-learning tool designed to facilitate teachers’ work and enhance the learning process. Teachers can create games, quizzes, or crosswords; make them available online for students, and then view and analyze the results.

3. Merriam-Webster Word Games

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for this find. Merriam-Webster Word Games is a nice collection of games that gets students thinking and improving their lexicon. There are crosswords, cryptograms, word searches, jumbles, and a plethora of other brainy games.

Clipart Etc.

With over 58,000 (and growing) pieces of free, quality, educational clip art, Clipart Etc. is a fantastic site for educators looking for images to enhance lessons, worksheets, presentations and use with IWBs. There are fantastic images for math teachers, art, music, science, and much more.

The Fraction Gallery offers over 470 illustrations that can be used for teaching and demonstrating fractions. Fractional representations are modeled in wedges of circles (“pieces of pie”) and parts of polygons. There are also clipart images of numerical fractions, both proper and improper, from halves to twelfths. Fraction charts and fraction strips found in this collection can be used as manipulatives and are ready to print for classroom use.

Thanks to John Kimzey for this great find.

Did You Know 4.0

More great reminders from Scott McLeod, Karl Fisch, and Laura Belstler. Quote of the video by Ray Kurzweil:

“So what used to fit in a building, now fits in your pocket. What fits in your pocket now will fit in a blood cell in 25 years.”

Enjoy the video.

Researching, Graphing and Publishing in Four Steps

One of my third grade classes is working on a unit of learning about, and deciphering the differences between developed and developing countries. They are investigating what makes a country developed, why certain countries develop and other don’t, and trying to figure out how we can close the gap.

Step 1: The Premise

We began by gathering information on 2 counties (one developed; the other developing) such as literacy rate, life expectancy, population, GDP per capita,  and other statistical facts that could be found online. They recorded their findings in a Word document. This information was later used to graph the results and to develop a better understanding of the differences between developed and developing countries.

Step 2: The Research

For most of the research, we used CIA World Fact Book. This is a great site with detailed information on every country in the world. It is fairly easy to find the information, but what I like even more is that the kids did have to do some thinking and searching to find the information they needed. Other sites we used were the BBC’s Development and Health, National Geographic’s People and Places, OxFam’s Wake Up World, and Heifer International’s Read to Feed.

Step 3: The Graphs

After all the information was gathered students went to Create-a-Graph and began entering their data. They selected specific data to compare 2 or more countries (i.e., literacy rates of Singapore vs. Afganastan; Life Expectancy of people in Singapore vs. Cuba; GDP of Singapore vs. The Philippines; etc.). We used Singapore for the developed country as that is where all the students live. The students got to choose which developing country they researched and, not surprisingly, a lot chose either Haiti or Afghanistan. (Note to self: next time, I will have students sign up for a country to avoid repeats).

Step 4: Publishing

After all the data was collected and graphed, the students downloaded their graphs as PDFs and I then uploaded them all to Youblisher to share their findings with people from around the world. You can take a look at their graphs here.

Create-a-Graph Step by Step Guide

Twitter and Blogging from a Newbie Perspective – Part 2

Part II of a 2-Part Post(click here for part I)

Hello? Is Anybody There?

On December 21, I created a Twitter account with my first real tweet being a link to my blog post “Did you Know” which was merely a quick sentence about the video being a great reminder. I didn’t receive any replies; no re-tweets; no direct messages… In fact, I think I heard a faint chirping sound of distant crickets. I quickly realized that there was no one following me, and I was following no one. I decided to spend the mornings of my winter break finding quality educators to follow.

Making Progress

My plan was as follows:

  1. I began the hunt at my co-worker Susan Sedro’s Blog and clicked through her blogroll, reading as much as I could during those quiet mornings before the world awoke. When I found one’s I liked, I would add them to my Google Reader.
  2. I would then search the about sections of the blogs to see if the writer was on Twitter, and if so, I began following them (The first few people to follow me back reads like a list of “who’s who in the educational Twtterverse” and includes such great educators as: @langwitches, @rmbyrne, @jenwagner, @coolcatteacher, @kjarrett, @courosa, @betchaboy, and many, many others). If you are new to Twitter, I’d recommend following them.
  3. After following about 50 or so people, I started looking at who they were following, and who was following them. It felt a little like stalking, but that’s kind of the way things work out at first. I would look at the basic Twitter bio, link to their blog, and scan through their last 20 or so tweets. If they were interesting (ie, tweeting about educational sites, useful practices in the classroom and not what they ate for lunch), I would follow them. I found amazing people like @cybraryman1, @shannonmmiller, @shellterrell, @ktenkely, @AngelaMaiers@Ginaschreck, @Larryferlazzo, @bjnichols, @web20classroom, @tomwhitby, and many, many more who I learn so much from every day.
  4. I signed up for The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 and “met” some great educators (@cspiezio, @GiseldaSantos, @vickyloras) from discussion groups and began to follow them.
  5. From the beginning, I shared things I came across, re-tweeted interesting tweets and tried to be as lurk-less as possible.
  6. I “tweeted” people as I wanted to be “tweeted.” I tried to thank people for a follow, reply to all direct messages and tweeted only things that I found interesting and useful.

Not All Addictions Are Bad

So after I reached the 100 follower mark, Twitter started becoming very useful. I began using TweetDeck so that I could stay more up to date on the action. I could send out questions and have them answered, I was gathering and bookmarking tons of new sites and resources that I never would have found BT (Before Twitter), and I found several different educators from around the world willing to embark on collaborative projects with my students. Very exciting!

Other teachers from my school began asking asking why Twitter, and wanting to know more about how I use it to enhance my educational repertoire.  The best single answer I could come up with to the question, “Why Twitter?” was, Twitter is like a focused Facebook without all the noise. If you spend time from the beginning following quality people who have something to add, Twitter will become an indispensable resource that you may find yourself asking how you lived without it for so long.

100 Days and Counting

Since 11/11/09 I’ve produced 40 posts, 276 tweets, I follow 562 educators, 396 are following me, and over 20,000 visitors have stopped by my blog. More importantly, I’ve found amazing resources, sites and ideas and have developed an amazing PLN that will continue to help, challenge, and expand my horizons in ways never before possible. I started out with very low expectations (not really the “shoot for the moon” way to go), and wasn’t really expecting to get anything in return for my time spent. When trying something new, I always try to follow the century rule: give anything 100 units (100 pages for a book, 100 days for a new exercise regime, etc) and step back and reflect after that time has passed. I would encourage new users to do the same when building a PLN.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but once cultivated, a quality network of professional learners will be an asset to be cherished.

Useful Resources

I found the following sites and posts to be über-helpful in building my PLN through Twitter and blogging:

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