If you can’t go to the zoo, the zoo will come to you! Each weekday, at 11 am (EDT), the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is presenting a Virtual Classroom experience using Facebook Live. From what I can tell, a couple of the previous experiences (meeting alpacas and bathing an elephant) are archived on the Facebook page. According to comments, requests have been made to also make them available somewhere else so that people who do not have Facebook can still view them. You can also find some archived videos along with lesson plans on this page.
The Cincinnati Zoo is also providing Facebook Live Safaris. These are happening at 3 PM (EDT) each weekday, but you can also access past videos along with suggested home activities on this page.
There are many more, but I’m trying not to overwhelm readers with too many resources in one post. Thanks to all of you out there who are keeping our students engaged during these tough times!
I briefly mentioned Foldscope way back in 2017 after our Stanford tour guide pulled the amazing paper microscope out of her pocket to demonstrate the type of innovation you can find at Stanford. I always meant to do a separate post on this tool, but life got in the way and suddenly I am here, three years later, finally getting around to it.
Foldscope is an inexpensive, portable, durable microscope that you can carry around with you pretty much anywhere. It was invented at Stanford, and you can watch Manu Prakash speak about the evolution of this idea in the video below. (Linked here in case the embedded video doesn’t work.) Of particular note during our current coronavirus fears is the portion at 5:23 where a student declares how the Foldscope highlights how important it is to wash your hands to avoid dangerous diseases.
You can also view a TED talk with Prakash from 2014 here.
If you are a fan of helping students learn how to be critical thinkers, then you will appreciate the Slow Reveal Graphs site. Rather than presenting a full graph to students and asking them to interpret it, teachers use Slow Reveal Graphs to allow the students to discuss, think, wonder, and predict as each stage of the graph is shown – hopefully resulting in deeper learning. (This technique is similar to the one used in the New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature.) Courtesy of Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) and other contributors, The Slow Reveal Graphs website has examples of different types of graphs (Circle, Bar, Line, etc…), many of which have links to slide decks that have already been created for the slow reveal. “How Long Can Animals Hold Their Breath Underwater?“, for example, begins with a bar graph that has no title or labels and incrementally adds them as you advance each slide. The slides also have suggested discussion questions in the notes.
In case you are thinking this site will only appeal to math teachers, I should note that there are three special categories of Slow Reveal Graphs: Social Justice, Save the Planet, and Incarceration in the U.S. Of course, any of the graphs on the site can be used in multiple subjects, including ELA.
To read more about how Slow Reveal Graphs are used in classrooms, from primary to high school, visit this list of bloggers who have written about SRG’s in the past.
With various media outlets reporting on the current coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), it is important that students who may be exposed to this onslaught of information understand the facts. Educating younger children about the virus may be as simple as reminding them how to wash their hands, and other common methods that can help prevent the spread of many diseases. Older children may benefit from more specific information, and this can also be seen as an opportunity for broader learning as they compare/contrast pandemics throughout history, analyze mathematical models, and develop their own ideas about how to avoid further outbreaks. I’ve curated some resources below that might be useful in the classroom setting. As always, please review materials before using with your class to determine their appropriateness for your particular audience.
Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty? If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you. The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.” To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website. This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.
Chris Woods (@DailyStem) tweets STEM challenges each day. Even if you are not a Twitter advocate you can go to his website and download his weekly STEM newsletters for free. There is an archive of at least 30 newsletters on this page. Each one-pager has a puzzle, a mystery photo, and other short STEM articles that often have links to learn more about the topics. The articles are perfectly bite-sized previews about different ways that we see STEM all around us, and are often timely (such as this one that shares how candy can be looked at through a STEM perspective – right in time for Valentine’s Day). They would be great to post in your classroom, send home to families, or to comb through for awesome lesson ideas.
While you are visiting the Daily Stem website, go to the Resources Page for STEM movies along with project suggestions for each movie, as well as the Podcast Page for dozens of interviews with educators and other STEM experts.
In the past, I have taught students about biomimicry/biomimetics, in which designers use inspiration from nature to create new products. (The Youth Design Challenge is a great place to find resources for this.) Biodesign takes things one step further by actually incorporating nature, often still living, into innovative artifacts that can be purely for decoration or serve specific purposes.
I first became aware of biodesign when I ran across a website for The Nest Makespace. The unusual images on the home page intrigued me. (I admit that I thought the “bioyarn” designs were actually made out of worms, but it turns out that it’s probably more like this material.)
The Nest Makespace offers some fascinating project ideas here. I am hoping that more lesson plans will be linked soon. In the meantime, you can find more suggestions on the Resource page.
For a “Peek at the Possibilities of Biodesign,” click on this link, or watch the embedded video below.