jellyfish floating
3-12, Independent Study, Math, Research, Science, Websites

The Deep Sea

The Deep Sea is a fascinating website designed by Neal Agarwal (@NealAgarwal). Neal has placed the creatures of the ocean at their typical depths, and you can scroll down from 18 meters at which you find Atlantic salmon and manatees all the way to the deepest part of the ocean at 10,901 meters deep. Little pieces of trivia are interspersed here and there, such as when you reach the point that is equal to the distance to the height of Mount Everest.

Students who are intrigued by the ocean and/or unique animals would love this site, and you can also integrate math with comparisons to other distances. For example the world’s current highest building, the Burj Khalifa, is 828 meters high. When you get to around that depth, you can find Giant Oarfish, which can grow to 11 meters long. Have students brainstorm ocean creatures they know and estimate where they might be found in “The Deep Sea.” To learn more about deep sea creatures that may or may not be on The Deep Sea site, check out this slideshow from the Smithsonian Institute that includes the frightening-but-cute yeti crab.

exotic reef manta ray swimming undersea in sunlight
Photo by Svetlana Obysova on Pexels.com

By the way, Neal Agarwal has a variety of other interactive sites that might interest you here. There’s a 3d “Design the Next iPhone” where you can not only drag and drop components that you want to had, but you can also create a video where your phone is “announced.” If you like the philosophical discussions generated by the classic “Trolley Problem,” try “Absurd Trolley Problems” for some macabre humor. And there’s more! I’m definitely adding his site to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. Although I must admit, comparing my hourly wage to other on the “Printing Money” site was not quite as fun…

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
osprey with dry grass flying in blue sky above nest
3-12, Books, Science

Swoop and Soar

Two of my favorite picture book authors have teamed up again to produce another non-fiction masterpiece, Swoop and Soar. You may recall the fantastic book by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, Beauty and the Beak, which I reviewed back in 2016. That story related the uplifting journey of an eagle who was given a 3d printed prosthetic after her beak was shot off by poachers. Jane Veltkamp, the raptor biologist who led the team that engineered the new beak (and who has lifetime care of Beauty), returns in Swoop and Soar when a pair of osprey chicks are orphaned by a storm.

Cover photo credit: (c) Ann Kamzelski from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Reading about the plight of the chicks and Veltkamp’s clever and science-based plan to find them new parents in the wild is fascinating and suspenseful. Once again, Rose and Veltkamp distinguish their book from other non-fiction by crafting a personal story around the scientific facts, and highlighting it with amazing photography on every page.

(c) Scalder Photography from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Swoop and Soar is an excellent companion to Beauty and the Beak. Both books are perfect for teaching STEM, with compelling narratives and intriguing information about raptors, conservation, and careers in science.

You can learn more and see Rose’s other books (including Astronauts Zoom, which I’ve also reviewed) here. Veltkamp’s site is Birds of Prey Northwest. Swoop and Soar is available for pre-order for its September, 2022, publication date at Bookshop.org, Amazon, and B&N.

Mary Gertsema, (c) Jane Veltkamp from Swoop and Soar, used by permission
earth blue banner sign
3-12, Science, Videos

Box and Escalade

I know that it’s a bit too late for the actual Earth Day observance on April 22, 2022, but I just came across these short animations that are perfect for showing students, and thinking about the consequences of our actions on the world around us. They are both by a studio in Brazil, Birdo Studio.

Box is a little over a minute long, while Escalade is about 90 seconds. (I’m linking to the article about Escalade on the Kuriositas blog, as that is where I originally found it.) There is no dialogue in either video, so you don’t need to worry about translating.

Escalade reminds me of a simplistic version of The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss, which I used to use with my 5th graders when we discussed systems thinking and escalation behavior. There are lots of applications where you could find use for the video, such as how consumerism and our quest to appear “bigger and better” to those around us is making our world less stable.

Box could be used for basically the same theme, but it has many more details and clever animation that may make you want to watch it more than once.

Caixa from Birdo Studio on Vimeo.

I’ll be adding this post to my Earth Day Wakelet, though of course we shouldn’t be thinking about the potential effects of our greed on the planet just one day a year. I’ll also add this to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board, where you can find over 200 other videos that might be useful in class.

women sitting on the couch
3-12, Art, history, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

Women in Culture

International Women’s Day will be celebrated on March 8, 2022 this year. I have some links to activities and lessons on my March Holidays Wakelet, but I ran across the “Women in Culture” page on Google Arts and Culture the other day and wanted to make it more widely known. I could spend days exploring this site! I know you don’t have days, hours, or even more than a couple of minutes, so I’ll point out some highlights that will make it worth your while.

Let’s start by passing all of the great images and scrolling to close to the bottom of the page, where you will see this section:

If you have no other time to bathe yourself in the beauty of this site, definitely download some of the free lesson plans, which will give you guided tours through some of the amazing images and information available to you about inspiring women in all types of careers.

Still have a little time? Maybe you can browse through this exhibit of “11 Women Who Changed the World,” and try to learn more about the incredibly gifted females (Still have a little time? Maybe you can browse through this exhibit of “11 Women Who Changed the World,” and try to learn more about the incredibly gifted females who have made universally positive contributions (many of whom rarely appear in school textbooks) who have made universally positive contributions in field ranging from art to science.

Speaking of science, women in STEM are all over this page. For a small taste of what you can find, take 2 minutes to watch this superhero video about one of those women, who is using biomimicry to discover new materials to monitor our health. A few more videos from the series can be found by scrolling about 1/4 way down the page to the section, “The science of tomorrow.”

If you’ve got upper elementary or secondary students beginning Genius Hour/Passion Projects, this would be a great page for them to browse for topic inspiration. Help them find unique subjects like the “Sea Women of South Korea” or the evolution of “Women in Sports.”

Discover the women who made a difference while increasing your motivation to help more young people learn of these achievements so they, too, can see what is possible.

laboratory test tubes
3-12, Anti-Racism, Science

What is Medical Racism, and How Can We Educate Our students About It?

I was listening to a show on NPR the other day that made my mouth drop. The program claimed that many Black Americans are automatically placed lower on kidney transplant waiting lists due to their race. Today. In the year 2021. It turns out that there is a formula used to calculate how well your kidney is functioning, and this GFR tool includes an adjustment for Black people based on an assumption made years ago that their genetic makeup enabled their kidneys to filter better than White people who had the same filtration rate. You can read more about this, and the faulty reasoning that that led to this biased math here. It seems that a task force has recently mandated that this variable should be removed from the calculation, and it has already been removed from some health care systembs, but how many people have died waiting for a transplant as a result of this widely applied algorithm?

I had, of course, heard about racism in healthcare before. For example, there are reports that Black patients are prescribed pain medication at much lower rates than White ones because of the stereotype that they are “faking it so they can get drugs.” And this is not isolated to Black Americans; other people of color are also victims of biased treatment. I think what surprised me about the kidney story was that there was an actual formula, embedded deeply in the medical field, overtly designed to ignore other symptoms in favor of a person’s race.

In other words, systemic racism.

There are movements to address these problems in medicine such as changes in medical school curriculums. But I wanted to find out if there are things we can do before students attend post-graduate school, as not all children will become doctors. Some of them may end up in fields like pharmaceutical research, marketing, or policy making that could also impact health care.

Parents Magazine has a good article by Danielle Broadway, “How to Teach the History of Racism in Science Class,” that gives some solid recommendations for teachers. Beginning with the “Teaching Hard History Framework” from Learning for Justice for K-5 to examining the cases of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in high school, students can learn lessons from past mistakes and analyze current ones. Another resource I would add is this TED Talk from Dorothy Roberts.

As with my other Anti-Racist posts, I will add this to my Wakelet. I hope that it is a helpful resource for teachers who want to make the world more just.

photo of woman looking through camera
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com