Blog

wildlife of flock of penguins gathering together
Independent Study, K-12, Science, Websites

Zooniverse

Zooniverse bills itself as the “largest platform for people-powered research.” It hosts a multitude of projects to which volunteers can contribute data that will help researchers in various fields. You may have heard of citizen science. Zooniverse takes this concept, and extends it to literature, art, and other areas of study as well.

Many of the resources are targeted toward college students, but there are several projects that would be suitable for younger children and a wonderful way to encourage them to learn more while feeling like their actions have a purpose. For example, the first project that I investigated was “Penguin Watch.” The goal is to identify Rockhopper adults, chickens, and eggs, as well as any other animals that may appear in the images that you are shown. Once students understand the task, it is just a matter of clicking on the right color and then the animal in the image to make the count. It’s actually slightly addictive and strangely therapeutic.

Screenshot from Penguin Watch Project on Zooniverse

One incredible second grade teacher, Fran Wilson, developed an entire unit for her students around another project, “Floating Forests.” In a science lesson on habitats, she began by sparking the children’s interest in sea otters. As the students learned more and became more invested in the preservation of this delightful creatures, they did research and other hands-on projects before the teacher eventually introduced them to a way that they could help by counting kelp forests on satellite images. Her blog post is an excellent blueprint for a way to engage students in something that they find meaningful and relevant. She provides many links as well as examples of student work along the way.

In 2020, Zooniverse provided this blog post of online learning resources that they had curated from their site, including a list of age-appropriate projects for 5-12 year olds. Please be aware of their note, “there is no age limit for participating in Zooniverse projects, but children under the age of 16 need parent or guardian approval before creating their own Zooniverse account.” I was able to participate in the Penguin Watch project without an account, so it is possible to use the site without signing in.

If you are a secondary teacher, there are also ideas for you in the blog post of online learning resources. In addition, I found this Edutopia article describing a lesson that high school biology teacher, Robin Dawson, did with the Snapshot Ruaha Project.

You may decide that Zooniverse won’t work as a class activity, but keep it in mind for independent projects, such as Genius Hour. Also, explore the project types as they are not all science — and not all based on imagery. For example, I found a fascinating one on the “Maturity of Baby Sounds.” I would even suggest, in some instances, having Zooniverse as an option in a calming area in your classroom where students can go if they are feeling like they need to cool down or are over-stimulated.

black and white penguin
Photo by Jack Salen on Pexels.com
K-12, Philosophy

Philosophy Toolkit

One of the resources that I have linked in my Philosophy for Kids Wakelet collection is Philosophy Toolkit from Plato. You can search for philosophy lessons by grade level or topic. The lesson quality is inconsistent, as some are basically just suggestions for discussion, while other provide more resources. However, at the very least you will get ideas for engaging questions and recommendations for related activities.

Why bother with teaching philosophy at all? Obviously it’s not on any elementary report cards. But the word itself means “love of wisdom.” And, of course we want our students to love learning and to seek out knowledge. According to the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University, “In a broad sense, philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.”

Chances are that you are already engaging in philosophical discussions in your classroom without formally calling them that. Team-building activities, conversations about literature, news, non-fiction materials, and social studies lessons all lend themselves easily to philosophy. If you use Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity, the multiple perspectives and ethics icons also prompt philosophical dialogues.

Since the toolkit can be a bit overwhelming, I thought I’d recommend one of the suggestions, “Joy and Heron.” It includes a 4-minute animation that’s adorable, and would be good to show students of any age, ask them to retell the story, and then discuss the ethics of what the dog chooses to do once it realizes the heron needs food. Right from wrong, empathy, and friendship are all potential topics to cover. If you print the PDF, related lessons in the toolkit will also be recommended.

I know that time is at a premium for teachers, but if you have a moment to explore this toolkit, I think that you will find some real gems.

Boy writing I Love Sudoku on chalkboard
Games, K-12

International Sudoku Day

When I was looking for great links to include in my September Wakelet, I discovered that September 9th is International Sudoku Day. Of course, I can’t ignore that because I literally play Sudoku every single day. It’s my favorite “down-time” activity. I put several links in the Wakelet to help you celebrate this auspicious day, including some online Sudoku games and some places you can find free printables. There’s even a link to a free picture Sudoku you can download from TPT. And, don’t forget to check out the interactive Sudoku bulletin board ideas that you can find here.

I used to like using Jigsawdoku with my students because it allows you to choose different options in order to scaffold. For students who need some extra challenge, you can have them try Mystery Grid (click on question mark for instructions) or Inkies (also known as Ken-Ken Puzzles or Mathdoku). And if you have some students who get really passionate, you can try one of these alternatives.

For some more Sudoku-Similar Solving ideas, take a look at these posts on Donna Lasher’s blog, some of which include video tutorials.

brook among tall trees in autumn forest
K-12, Teaching Tools

Happy September Resources!

If you asked me, “Would you rather… hot weather or cold?” I would usually say hot. But I am so ready for this hot weather to be gone after the record temps we’ve seen this summer! So I’m delighted that it is the first of September, and hoping that this new month stays out of the triple digits.

Of course, September brings a lot of other treats besides cooler weather in this part of the world. From Labor Day in the US to International Podcasting Day worldwide, there are lots of things to celebrate. I’ve curated as many resources as I can find to help you do that on my September Holidays and Celebrations Wakelet. In addition to Labor and Podcasting Days, there are: Sudoku Day, Dot Day, Day of Peace, and Rosh Hashanah. Of course, there’s a link to my Back to School Wakelet for those of you just beginning your year, as well. Though I’m positive those aren’t the only meaningful celebrations in September (I’m still looking for resources for International Chocolate Day), I think that’s a pretty good start! If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment. And, don’t forget that Donna Lasher has a comprehensive list of Holiday/Seasonal Activities here.

You can see all of my Wakelet collections here, and follow me for updates. In addition, if you sign up for my free newsletter, you’ll see my W.O.W. (Wakelet of the Week) featured in each edition, along with a recap of that week’s blog posts and some interesting resources that didn’t make it to the blog but I still thought you’d appreciate.

Happy September!

stationery surrounded by dried flowers
Photo by Boris Pavlikovsky on Pexels.com
group of classmates greeting each other
K-12, Teaching Tools

Free Resources for Community Building with Students

One of the frequently visited posts on this site is “SEL and Community Building with Slides.” Of course, as students return to school throughout this month and next, community building is key to starting the year right, and needs to be done throughout the year in order to strengthen connections. On Twitter recently, Dr. Catlin Tucker (@Catlin_Tucker) shared a Google Slides presentation of questions to use with students to start conversations. These are similar to the “Sign-Off Questions” shared by Ester Park (@MrsParkShine). I updated my SEL post with Dr. Tucker’s link, as well as another one from Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr) who commented in that same thread with a link to her page of “Question of the Day” suggestions. You can find these links, and more, on my Back to School Wakelet. Whenever people denigrate social media, I want to defend its value as I think about all of the incredible resources like these that are shared by generous, creative educators!

positive black woman talking to radio host
history, Independent Study, K-12, Research, Teaching Tools, Writing

International Podcast Day

So, I’m in the middle of curating resources for my September Holidays and Celebrations Wakelet collection (still working on it, but it is public if you want to take a look), and I found out that September 30th is International Podcast Day. Have I mentioned that I love podcasts, and that there are so many ways to leverage them for engagement in the classroom? I even wrote an article about “Podcast Pedagogy” last year for NEO. Whether you want to have students listen to podcasts (see my article for tons of suggestions, including Smash, Boom, Best) or create them, podcasts are a nice way to give students opportunities for more choice and creativity in their learning and assessments.

I discovered a couple of new resources since I wrote that article that I am adding to my September Wakelet, but I’ll also include here. First of all, I saw this nice idea for a podcast listening station from Stacy Brown (@21stStacy) on Twitter:

Also from Twitter, Chris Hitchcock (@CHitch94), shared this spreadsheet of podcasts that relate to history to use with secondary students.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate International Podcast Day, this page has good suggestions. I realize that it’s over a month away, but these are activities you definitely you want to plan ahead of time rather than the night before.

This page from Building Book Love has excellent recommendations for podcasts for both elementary and secondary. There are also links to some TPT pages the author has created for listening and responding to podcasts.

There are a few other links on my Wakelet if you want to delve deeper. If you haven’t tried using podcasts yet, I hope that you will take the leap because they are definitely a valuable educational resource that I think has been largely untapped so far!