5-8, 6-12, Social Studies, Teaching Tools, Websites

iCivics Game Odyssey

I have been a fan of iCivics, the site founded by Justice O’Connor in 2009,  since 2011. Since then, the site has continued to add fun, quality activities designed to help students learn about being responsible citizens. As a response to our current educational environment, iCivics has introduced a free, quest-based resource called, “iCivics Game Odyssey,” that will encourage students to, according to the site, #shelterinplay.

To begin, students will download the Odyssey map, which will be on a Google Slide that they will copy so they can edit it.  As they complete each quest, they will be able to add the badges they have earned to the map. The quests, which are also each accompanied by interactive Google Slides activities, are connected to iCivics games.  New quests are scheduled to be added each Monday.  If used as an assignment, teachers can have students turn in their completed Google Slides copies at the end of each quest, and the map once all badges have been earned.

There is a link on the Odyssey page to weekly planners for middle school and high school teachers who would like to use the lessons for class.  (To access these, you will need to register for a free iCivics account.)  Although 6-12 seem to be the targeted grade levels, I think that upper elementary students would also enjoy these activities.  There is no requirement for this resource to be used by schools, so parents can feel free to provide this as an enrichment activity for their children and even play along with them.

Image by 272447 from Pixabay
3-12, Apps, Education, Social Studies

Counties Work

The iCivics website is an incredible free resource that I have blogged about in the past.  Recently, the site added a downloadable, printable resource called, “My County Works,” for elementary students that gives an overview of the way county governments work here in the United States.  There are other links to lesson plans and activities for middle and high school on the “Teach Local” page of iCivics.  My 3rd graders, who have been studying Systems Thinking, enjoyed playing the “Counties Work” app, which allows the user to be in charge of a fictional county and make decisions about the appropriate ways to spend the budget.  The students had to learn which departments would be assigned particular projects, how spending money and charging taxes would affect their popularity (since they were in an elected office), and the importance of keeping a balanced budget.  Although the game is, of course, a bit simplistic, it does give students an idea of many factors that need to be taken into consideration by officials before approving citizen requests.

Counties Work app from iCivics available on iOS and Google Play
3-12, Education, Social Studies, Teaching Tools, Websites

Tarr’s Toolbox

I’ve been a huge fan of Russel Tarr’s ClassTools site for a long time.  I particularly like to use the different graphic organizers he offers and the hexagon generator. (Click here to see how the latter can be used.)  I also follow Russel on Twitter (@RusselTarr).  This weekend, I noticed a neat activity he tweeted about called, “Wheel of Life,” which is an excellent way to analyze characters (both fiction and non-fiction).  When I asked Russel where I could find details, he directed me to Tarr’s Toolbox, a treasure that I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t seen yet.

Tarr’s Toolbox is Russel’s blog, and gives wonderful ideas for how to engage students in history class – though you can certainly use most of them in other subject areas.  At the top of the home page, there is this nice breakdown of different categories under which you can find key posts.

Categories on Tarr's Toolbox
Categories on Tarr’s Toolbox

Reading the posts makes me want to be in Russel’s class (why didn’t I ever have a history teacher like him?).  Failing that, I at least want to aspire to be as creative and engaging as he must be for his students.

I haven’t read it yet, but Russel just published a book called, A History Teaching Toolboxwhich I imagine is probably another dynamic resource that teachers in any department would find useful.

3-12, Education, Games, Geography, Social Studies, Websites

Pick the Real U.S. States

My 1st graders are learning a little geography at the moment as they program their Dash robot to hunt for treasure amongst the continents.  As I was looking for some supplemental resources, I ran across this brain-twisting quiz from Mental Floss.  It’s deceptively difficult.  The concept is simple: select all of the states from the list without making a mistake.  I was doing good until I accidentally tapped “North York.”

If you want your students to play this in class, you might want to use the Page Eraser Chrome extension to take care of the distracting ads.  If you play it at home all on your own, I would keep the ads so you can blame them every time you mess up 🙂

Pick the Real US States from Mental Floss
Pick the Real US States from Mental Floss
5-8, 6-12, Education, Social Studies, Teaching Tools, Websites


Population.io is a site that shows some interesting statistics about the world’s population in relation to the user.  According to the site authors, “Our hope is that people from all walks of life, in all ages and across all countries will explore a new perspective of their own life and find their own place in the world of today and tomorrow.”

Once you input your birth date, country, and gender, you can learn what percentage of the world is younger than you (far too many, in my case), milestones in your life (such as that I was the 5 billionth person to be alive on April 5, 2012), the number of people who share your birthday, and various other facts that can make you feel very old and very small.


This seems like it could be a useful site to make your students more aware of how many humans actually share this not-so-large planet. It’s interesting to see how your life expectancy might change depending on where you live (so far, it looks like I probably should make a move to Spain in the near future), and could bring up deep conversations about the reasons for dramatic differences.

I have to admit that I was a bit disturbed by this offer at the bottom of the page:

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 9.38.44 PM

I’m not really sure I want my iPhone (or its future equivalent) ringing an alarm to alert me of my imminent doom.  But maybe it would be nice to be somewhat prepared…

Education, Geography, K-12, Math, Social Studies, Teaching Tools, Websites

The Many Colors of the World’s Flags

A couple of years ago, I posted about an interesting infographic included in a presentation by Kathy Schrock.  The image showed each world flag as a pie chart of color.

Nicholas Rougeux has a different take on the colors of the world’s flags.  He chose to categorize them by color scheme.  Check out his poster that illustrates the flags of the world like flowers in a garden, with the height of the “flowers” indicating the number of flags sharing that color scheme.

image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:WikiProject_Flag-map
image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:WikiProject_Flag-map