...dedicated to...hmmm, we're still figuring that one out...
Resource Sites for Teachers
An Educators' News Feature
April 1, 2009
I ran across a new (to me) resource site for science teachers last summer, the Teachers' Domain site by WGBH, Boston. It features lots of science videos from WGBH and PBS content. Typical of the content is a five minute QuickTime video, Above the Clouds: Telescopes on Mauna Kea. It's a great introduction to telescopes with an overview of the telescopes on Mauna Kea, some beautiful visuals, information about the construction of the telescopes, and some basic information about astronomy. I didn't know that the mirrors on such telescopes "are usually resurfaced every one to two years!" I also thought it was cool that one can toggle on closed captions of the narration.
I have to admit that I lost my focus for this column while playing around in this site. I visited one of my elementary classroom favorites, a page on planet sizes, an HTML interactive on how big is our universe, and a great QuickTime video from NOVA on deep-sea vents and life's origins. I could have spent the whole day there just looking at all the cool resources!
After posting the site on Educators' News, I realized that I'd never done a compilation of the various teacher resource sites I've found and liked. So, let's see if I can rectify that omission.
Many of the sites listed are portals that link to content on other sites, while often adding features such as national or state standards to the links. A few of the sites are content provider sites. The sites listed included in this feature were selected subjectively but appear in no particular order. I chose the ones I like best and think will be most helpful to K-12 teachers.
I've limited the listing to sites offering free content to teachers, although there may be some commercial content on some of them. Free registration may be required to access all features of the sites. Also note that I pretty much stick to national sites here. If I delve too deeply into state or regional content sites and portals, I'll never get this done.
If I've missed your favorite, please , and I'll try to add it here or post it on Educators' News (if I like it ).
Have you ever visited the Smithsonian? I think I did on a family vacation...when I was five. So any memories I might have are a bit garbled by the years. But as teachers we can bring the Smithsonian into our classrooms via Smithsonian Education. This subsite of the main Smithsonian site is organized with sections for educators, families, and students.
While I found the interface for the educators section a bit drab when compared with the vibrant student section, there's a gold mine lying there under the label State Standards of Learning.
Since this column may end up being fairly math and science heavy, I searched for resources by Indiana State Standards for sixth grade language arts as an example. The search produced a listing that had resources for some, but not all of the standards. I picked standard 6.3.1, " Structural Features of Literature: Identify different types (genres) of fiction and describe the major characteristics of each form." It produced twelve hits, and I chose Life in a Sod House.
The page, pictured at right, had lots of information and links, but I quickly gravitated to the online activity, Building a Sod House.
One thing I noticed about Smithsonian Education for Indiana State Standards was that they were rich with science, and to a lesser extent, social studies resources, while pretty light on some other areas such as math and health. Fortunately, I'll give you a couple of crackerjack links for math at the end of this column.
A few days after completing this section of the column, I ran across a column by Bruce Kauffman in our local newspaper about how the Smithsonian got started. The will, testament of John Smithson is an interesting read.
Thinkfinity is a new site that came from a merger of the Verizon Foundation's old Marco Polo site and the Thinkfinity Literacy Network. It's arranged with separate pages for educators, students, parents, and something called afterschool.
Access to its resources is available via an excellent search engine that allows one to specify a keyword and narrow the selection by subject, grade level, resource type, and content provider. To browse a subject, leave the keyword blank and select your subject and grade level.
I found this site to be a bit heavy on lesson plans for my tastes. I really prefer online and interactive activities, but was able to find some good ones without too much difficulty with the search engine set to "Interactives."
I probably wasted a bunch of time sending myself into deep space with Gravity Launch! It's an addictive interactive that has students adjust thrust and angle to complete various space missions to the International Space Station and the moon. And while I'm not much of a lesson plan person, I really liked the K-2 Adjective Monster lesson plan that had kids illustrating adjectives. In intermediate math, I quickly found the Illuminations Factor Game a useful resource. I even ran into some interesting Anthropology Tutorials.
Some of the resources linked in Thinkfinity are indexed to state standards, although the mechanism for finding them is a bit clumsy. You have to open a pop-up window, select your state, and then are presented with the standards with the grade levels tucked away at the bottom of each description.
Overall, I found Thinkfinity to be a real "keeper." There are lots of resources for lots of subjects K-12. Plan to spend some time getting used to its search engine when you visit, as it takes a bit of doing to utilize its full potential.
Digital Library for Earth System Education
The Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) is a real gold mine for science teachers and can be quite useful for general education elementary teachers as well. It's well organized and features a search engine that can narrow searches by grade level, resource type, collections to search, and national standards (no state standards indexing).
To explore the site a bit, I just did a straight search for the keyword "storms," as our weather here in southwest central Indiana has been a bit rocky of late. (I did later narrow my search by grade level.) The search returned a large volume of responses which included many lesson plans and online activities. I was just looking for glitz, so I selected a resource on hail storms. (I'd just had hail smacking my windshield almost hard enough to ding it last week in Terre Haute.)
The basic description from a page full of similar listings contained all the information I needed to decide I wanted to try this resource. Note that I expanded the listing by clicking Choosing & Using this resource.
Clicking on the "Full description" link for the basic listing takes one to the page above that has a bit more information.
Interestingly, both the Hail Storms resource and another I chose, Wind Storms, Gust Fronts, and Outflow, both led to the same site, ChaseDay.com, Gene Moore's tornado chaser site. The visual content and opportunity for some great science instruction for each resource was spectacular. (Images courtesy Gene Moore)
I also did a search for "plants" and limited the search to primary (K-2) computer activity resources. I first tried an interesting online game, On the Resource Trail. If your primary kids are readers, you're in good shape with it.
Another resource that turned up, rather surprisingly since I was searching for plants, was a Virtual Quarry interactive. It turned out to be a good, narrated introduction for younger students to rock quarries.
Do note that I had one search turn up a page for a paid item with no free content included.
Since I'm including so many sites and images in this column, let's move on to another page so things load a bit quicker.
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©2009 Steven L. Wood