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Nov 3, 2015

Blog is Moving!!

I have not been doing a great job updating this blog and I wanted to tell you all why: 2 years ago I started Science Delights, a publishing company focused on hands-on, STEM activities specifically for early elementary students (PK-3rd grade).

I have moved this blog to that site and our products are now for sale! If you are interested in purchasing for your school, please contact me at

The new blog and rest of this post can be found here (the new location of this blog).

Thanks so much for your support. Hopefully we can doing something great for elementary age students.

Jun 5, 2014

HD cameras and the International Space Station

It's been a while since I posted and as the end of the school year approaches and teachers and parents worry about the summer slide there is some great content online that will engage students but, not make them feel like they've got all kinds of school work to do.

NASA has added HD video cameras to the International Space Station. You can watch the live stream on Ustream.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

As cool as this is by itself, NASA's page shows not just the live feed but also where the ISS is in orbit.

The HD camera project is a project NASA HUNCH project. HUNCH, High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware, is a program that matches NASA with high school students interested in engineering. Some designs may end up in engines in rockets for future NASA operations and launches. Working closely with NASA mentors, students work to design and build hardware that stands up to NASA stringent engineering requirements.

Have you planned any summer projects for your students?

Jan 19, 2013

A Lifetime of Change: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Lasting Legacy

MLK InfographicOnline College Courses has created a wonderful graphic timeline on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. As the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday approaches, this timeline is a great jumping off point for students of all ages to learn about MLK Jr.

The timeline highlights the adult life of MLK Jr. In an elementary, junior high or high school classroom it could be used as a visual aid to discuss Dr. King’s achievements. Pairs or small groups of students could each take a highlight and conduct research, reporting back to the class.

This year, Inauguration Day happens to fall on the MLK holiday. Students could tie what they have learned about Martin Luther King Jr. to the Inauguration, President Obama, or the state of race in the United States. It could be the beginning of a difficult but important conversion in any classroom.

Here are some other MLK Jr. resources that I recommend:
I Have a Dream speech (video): Teacher Tube is an alternative to YouTube. It’s a great, safe resource. From this site you can also download the “I Have a Dream” speech in case you do not have internet access in your school.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail: A .pdf version of Dr. King’s letter. One of the interesting things about this resource is that it has a link to the statement that prompted King’s letter.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute: As one would expect, this site has many, many, many resources but also, lesson plans, primary documents and videos.

Are you planning on discussing Martin Luther King Jr. or the Inauguration in your classroom? 

Sep 10, 2012

BOATLIFT - An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the horrible attacks on The United States. There have been many stories told and many news accounts of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the thwarted highjacking of Flight 93. On the anniversary of the attacks many news organizations choose to relive the morning and discuss what has changed.

"Boatlift" is one story from that day. A short (12 minute) documentary about the evacuation of Lower Manhattan, by boat. It is the story of selflessness and quick response that became the largest evacuation by boat, in history.

With all the news tomorrow focused on recounting the life changing events of eleven years ago, this documentary is a wonderful reminder of how quickly a community can come together in the face of tragic events.

In a classroom, this video could be used to discuss the events of September 11th from a different perspective. It could be used as a writing prompt or, it could be used as a way to simply begin a discussion.

As a classroom teacher on September 11, 2001 I struggled with how to answer questions as I watched events unfold with my students and I struggled with how to approach the topic year after year. This short film is a way to celebrate how ordinary people can become heroes by simply answering a call for help. 

Does your school or classroom take time to remember September 11th each year? How?

May 7, 2012

Born in Slavery

The Library of Congress is doing some interesting things by digitizing collections. The site can be a bit difficult to get around but, if you know where to go, there are primary documents, lesson plans and many, many multimedia resources to choose from. Case in point: Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project.  

The primary resources offered on this site can help students make personal connections to a subject matter that can be difficult to discuss, difficult to understand and, for many students, difficult to fathom. The site can be hard to navigate. Here are the most important links, in my opinion:

Born in Slavery: The main page of the collection.
Subject Index: An index of photos only, organized alphabetically
Classroom Connections: An overview of the collection and different ways to use the collection in the classroom. There are no formal lesson plans but, there is more than enough information to inspire.
Voices and Faces: First person narratives paired with photos. A great place to start a discussion or a project.

There are some accounts that are graphic in their description of the cruelty these individuals faced so, for younger students, previewing the narratives is a must but, if a middle school classroom these photographs and narratives could be used to discuss the historic significance of slavery in this county. In a high school history classroom, the same process could be used and, in an English classroom, when reading a novel like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the narratives could be used to discuss the life of Jim and his interactions with Finn.

What are your thoughts on how a collection like this could be used in the classroom?

Mar 7, 2012

SXSWedu: Sessions of interest

I am at the SXSWedu conference for the next couple of days and decided do some short blog entries about the sessions I am attending. I will continually add to these and may pull some of most interesting sessions out in order to write full entries. 

Moving Beyond Textbooks: OER in Support of K-12ed. Jason Neiffer, the presenter, is from the Montana Digital Academy. His session was a 50,000 foot level discussion of OER (Open Educational Resources): what they are, how to use them and different resources to find and curate the resources. His presentation was very interesting and had a lot of great links associated with it. I'm definitely going to explore OERGlue and see if it's as powerful as Jason had us all believing it is.  

Many people, myself included, believe that OER are the way to the future in K-12 education. Much will have to change to make this a reality but, as Jason stated, it doesn't need to start with a big change. Try this idea for one lesson, one module, one chapter in your classroom. That's a start. 

21 Ways To Use Social Media In Your Classroom: Howie DiBlasi gave a fast paced, energetic presentation of not 21 but 39 ways to use social media in your classroom. With lots of great tips for any level of socail media user the 159 slide presentation has more information than you may ever need to go through. Check out the presentation page of Howie's website to find and download the presentation in full.    

Our students use social media constantly and there is no reason for teachers or schools to fear it. Creating Facebook class pages, Wikis and class blogs can help keep students engaged long after they leave the classroom.

The Power of Open: Creative Commons Licensing and it's Global Impact: CEO of Creative Commons, Catherine Casserly gave an extremely interesting and informative presentation on Creative Commons. An alternative to traditional copyright and public domain labels, it allows the primary creator to get credit while allowing follow up users to modify, remix and reuse the content. It's an amazing site to go to in order to gather resources for your classroom and, once you get to a point where you are ready to start producing and sharing your own content, put it up on the site to share with everyone else.

Creative Commons, OER and social media may be the first steps to crowd sourcing curriculum.  Pulling resources from all over the world (and the internet) that are easy to modify and share will allow more collaboration during curriculum creation. My ideal future would be a classroom where textbooks are seen as supplemental and the presentations I have seen during the SXSWedu conference let me know that it is a realistic possibility.

Feb 14, 2012

Play-based learning

Play-based learning for younger children, project and problem-based learning for older children is not a new concept but, it is becoming more popular again. A pedagogical idea supported by John Dewey's "learning by doing", PBL (play, project or problem) allows students to work through complex problems individually or in teams by moving through multiple steps and using all the strengths of each child.

Irresistible Ideas is an amazing blog with hundreds of ideas for PBL in too many categories to mention here. Mostly focused on early elementary education many of these projects can be altered for older children, used by teachers as display pieces in their classrooms or as a way to connect a field trip back to the classroom.      

The blog is well written, beautifully photographed and contains so many links to other amazing PBL blogs and websites it is easy to get lost in the ideas. I love the dot mad challenge. It could be used to learn about predicting, finding patterns or having a discussing about randomness. It's a simple, inexpensive project that can scaled up or down based on number of students, length of time or age. The dramatic-imaginative section of the blog has a few great ideas about how to create dramatic centers in the classroom. A home center is great for dramatic play and is usually what you see in a pre-school and kindergarten setting but if you are looking for something new or different check out this section and read about the camping and hospital centers.

PBL can take lots of time and preparation to set up but the rewards for the students are huge. Teaching students to share, to work together, to realize their own and other people's strengths, these are just the beginning of a list of skills PBL help teach.

How do you use play-based, problem-based and/or project-based learning in your classroom?