Why students learn appears in many schools’ visions and mission statements that use words such as ‘inspire,’ ‘empower,’ ‘innovate,’ and ‘make a difference.’ But how many students experience those concepts in their day-to-day experiences at school? Young people naturally want to know, “why are we learning this?” and, “why is this relevant to my life?”
In short, students seek purpose in their learning.
As someone dedicated to using education to leverage meaningful change in the world, I think the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals provide a fantastic opportunity for young people to find that purpose in their learning. They can investigate concepts such as diversity, equality, justice, and sustainability from different perspectives, and students can see how various fields of knowledge both contribute to and mitigate some of the most pressing issues in the world today.
Follow this link for a closer look at this idea in a recent post I wrote for New Nordic School in Finland, where I’m the Director of Education. It should only take a few minutes to read, and it is my hope that you’ll find my ideas about the direction of contemporary education refreshing.
Posted in Education, MYP Science, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized
Tagged #TeachSDGs, communication, cool stuff, earth, Education, energy, environment, geography, history, innovation, learning, news, research, UN
For some educators, the term ‘21st-century learning’ indicates a heavy reliance on teachers’ use of technology to deliver lessons or students’ demonstration of learning via podcasts, videos, animations, and other products that didn’t exist when we old-timers were in school. Others claim that ‘21st-century learning’ refers to skills that apply not only to school, but to life in general. Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving are generally at or near the top of this skills list.
I would argue that modern education requires a focus on competencies rather than skills, and that technology should simply facilitate the learning process instead of being its focus.
Check out the post I wrote for New Nordic School in Finland, in which I discuss the importance of competency-based learning in a real world framework.
Posted in Edtech, Education, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized
Tagged competency, cool stuff, Edtech, education research, innovation, learning, news, technology
I just stumbled across this Slideshare presentation by Stephen Taylor, and I think it’s a fantastic resource. He’s done all the research and written succinct explanations, so I won’t try to improve upon his work. There’s something in here for students and teachers of almost every discipline.
Thank you Mr Taylor!
Posted in biology, chemistry, earth science, Environmental Systems, MYP Science, physics
Tagged cool stuff, IB Biology, IB ESS, innovation, learning, MYP Science, science, science apps, science resources, software, technology
Today I’m doing a little site maintenance, incorporating as many digital resources as possible into the various science pages on my website. The resources include simulations, videos, and activities created by other teachers and educational institutions. Instead of linking this blog post to a bunch of bookmarks I’ve saved over the years, I’ll just suggest that you check out my astronomy page under the “Sciences” tab on my homepage.
Among the many dozens of resources I’ve added, I think you’ll find something educational, engaging, and entertaining for a wide range of audiences.
Posted in astronomy, MYP Science, physics
Tagged astronomy, cool stuff, Education, learning, maps, physics, resources, science, software, space, space science, technology, videos
Today I’ll share a few of the resources I use to teach the fundamentals of physics. One of the most fun aspects of teaching physics is that it lends itself to so many entertaining and engaging activities and demonstrations in class. Along with chemistry, physics is probably the most hands-on science I teach; therefore, real-world demonstrations and activities are the bread and butter of my physics units. However, there are any number of situations in which hands-on demonstrations aren’t possible or feasible: a lack of funding or resources at a school, broken equipment, abstract concepts or perhaps a student is simply reviewing material at home. In these cases, animations can provide a tremendous amount of help in understanding the essentials of physics. Most of the resources I’ve listed here are collections of animations to help students learn (and teachers teach!) about physics.
- PhET simulations from the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA – This is my go-to resource when I need a simulation or animation. Interactive, well-designed, with plenty of support materials and the ability to take measurements. These animations may be used for virtual labs.
- The Physics Classroom – I’ve been using this site for years. It’s got well-written synopses of all the classical physics topics in student-friendly language, plus links to some basic animations and a range of practice problems. Extremely well-organized.
- Physics animations from the University of Notre Dame, USA – An extensive list of animations covering a wide range of physics topics.
- Physics and astronomy animations from Penn State University, USA – Another university site with an extensive list of short animations.
- Flash animations for physics – A long list of small Flash files over a wide variety of topics. From a professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.
- Math and physics animations – These animations aren’t great, but they clearly show the link between the math and graphic sides of physics. Also some calculus here, so probably more appropriate for upper high school students.
- University of New South Wales, Australia – Demo videos and GIFs covering a wide range of physics concepts.
- Games and interactives from The Science Channel – Focused on Newton’s laws of motion.
- Physics Central – Animations, videos, images, current news blog, searchable experiments. This is a good all-around resource.
- Sixty Symbols – Videos about physics and astronomy, with a little chemistry thrown in for good measure. A fair amount of applied science here, so that students can see real-world applications of classroom lessons. There are a lot more than 60 videos.
- Math and science activities from EdInformation – A collection of explanations about measurements, calculations, and other essentials of physical science.
- Science of Cycling – From the San Fransisco Exploratorium, this site looks at all the simple machines involved in (you guessed) bicycles.
- Physics videos from WFU.edu – A collection of short demo videos to stream or download covering the usual concepts, plus general relativity.
Explore and enjoy! Happy learning.
Posted in astronomy, earth science, MYP Science, physics
Tagged 21st century learning, astronomy, cool stuff, Education, electricity, forces, light, magnetism, mechanics, motion, online resources, optics, physics, resources, science, Science education, simulations, sound, videos, waves
I’m back with another set of bookmarks for students and teachers. Because I’ve taught the IB Environmental systems and societies course for several years, this set of online resources is closest to my heart. Some of these links are here simply because I think they’re cool or fun. Many may also be applicable for studying biology and chemistry as well. Let’s get to it:
- United States Census Bureau. Extensive database of global human populations. Can be used to create age-sex pyramids, as well as other applications.
- Earth wind map. A cool interactive resource to check wind patterns in real time anywhere on the planet.
- Visualizing Environmental Science, 1st edition. By John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Online textbook and animations. Much of the site is password protected, but parts are available for free.
- IB Environmental systems and societies worksheets and past questions. From Pearson, a of publisher of one of the IB-aligned student textbooks.
- Edge of Existence, by the London Zoological Society. Full of resources on endangered species.
- Living National Treasures. A guide to threatened and endangered species which are endemic to a single country and nowhere else. Searchable by country or species.
- Aquatic and Terrestrial Biomes. University of Miami, Florida, USA. The page looks a little dated but is still a wealth of information.
- The Habitable Planet. An extensive digital platform for teaching “the systems approach to environmental science”. By the Annenberg Foundation and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
- Ecology and geography fieldwork techniques.
- Survey techniques for beginners. From Wild About Britain.
- Field survey methods from the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. More advanced than resources above.
- Wildlife Surveys presentation 1. A powerpoint presentation about how to conduct wildlife surveys.
- Wildlife Surveys presentation 2. A powerpoint presentation about how to conduct wildlife surveys.
- Wildlife survey field lab template. This PDF from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has a good layout to help middle school teachers and students design their own field surveys.
- GRID-Arendal Maps and Infographics Library. In association with UNEP. This is one of my favorite resources for teaching environmental science. Searchable by topic, keyword, or geography. All maps and images are free to share. Awesome!
- Timelapse. Watch the world change over the course of nearly three decades of satellite photography.
- Ocean Health Index. A searchable database around several components of ocean health.
- NicheScience. An IB ESS YouTube channel, with podcasts for most of the old syllabus and a growing list of videos aligned with the new syllabus.
- AP Environmental Science. Another YouTube playlist from the very talented Paul Andersen.
- Kyoto Protocol. A website dedicated to the organizations and research involved in the effort to understand climate change.
- IPCC official website. Home of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service homepage.
- Animation gallery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Searchable. Reliable. Lots of visual data.
- Visualizing global carbon footprints. Interactive data maps from National Geographic.
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. From the World Food and Agriculture Organization.
- ARKive photo and video collections organized by species, conservation status, geography, environmental topic, habitat, and student age group. UK-centered.
- Edible Schoolyard. All the resources you need to create a food garden at your school. Based on the very successful program in the U.S.
Posted in Environmental Systems, MYP Science, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized
Tagged 21st century learning, Africa, agriculture, biodiversity, biology, chemistry, climate change, conservation, cool stuff, ecological pyramids, ecology, ecosystems, Education, elephants, energy, Energy resources, environmental perspectives, environmental science, ESS, evolution, food resources, human impact on the environment, human populations, life science, online resources, photosynthesis, plants, poaching, population growth, research, resources, science, Science education, trophic levels, videos
As with my last post, this one is dedicated to sharing the random assortment of helpful bookmarks I’ve collected over the years. Like the first part of my bio resources, these are in no particular order, unless you consider where they fall in my browser’s drop-down menu some kind of order. Without further ado, some resources for your chemistry studies:
- PTable.com. Hands down the best periodic table on the internet. Period.
- Chemistry.about.com. A good, all-around general chemistry resource. They’ve updated the site format to include news and events, which may tie in nicely with MYP Criterion D: Reflecting on the impacts of science.
- LibreTexts virtual chemistry textbooks. These are some fairly advanced materials which may be more appropriate for students in Diploma Program or AP chemistry classes. Organized around broad topics such as analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry, organic chem, and physical and theoretical chemistry.
- IB Chemistry Web. This site appears to be meticulously maintained, and it’s closely aligned with the new IB Chemistry syllabus. Heavy on text, but a tremendous amount of resources for every part of the course.
- PCCL Flash animations for learning chemistry. These aren’t fancy animations, but they clearly and simply demonstrate a bunch of key topics in general chemistry.
- Molecular Workbench. Hundreds of engaging, interactive simulations in chemistry (and other subjects). Many include embedded assessments, and you can build your own simulation if you really get into it. You can spend hours with the MW.
- Cavalcade o’ Chemistry (a.k.a. ChemFiesta). Mr Guch’s incredible chemistry page. He’s been maintaining this page since the late 1990s, and it gets better and better each year. Supremely helpful for middle school and early high school students. He also has a special section just for teachers.
- Practical chemistry activities from the Nuffield Foundation. Over 200 activities you can do to teach or learn about chemistry. Some are virtual, but many require a science lab.
- Behind the Scenes at MIT. As the website tagline says, “A series of two-minute videos relating concepts from textbook chemistry to current MIT research and applications in medicine, the environment, and energy.” A nice way for students to see the real-world applications of what’s happening in the lab and the classroom.
- Off the Shelf Chemistry. A series of 18 chemistry labs for middle school and high school. Download PDF or Word versions to use in your own class/lab.
- Chemlab.com from Truman State University. This website hosts the course materials for several university-level chemistry courses, but many of them are appropriate and applicable for high school.
- Periodic Videos from TED-Ed. “A lesson about every single element on the periodic table.” Enough said.
Those are my Chrome chemistry bookmarks. After I’ve run through my resources for earth science, ecology, and physics, I’ll revisit all these subjects and add a second round of resources from my Firefox browser.
Posted in chemistry, MYP Science, Uncategorized
Tagged 21st century learning, animations, chemistry, cool stuff, Education, Flash animations, online resources, science, Science education, simulations
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been updating various pages within my website, and as I work, I keep encountering all these different websites and digital resources I’ve bookmarked over the years. My bookmarks bar is organized by broad scientific subjects: astronomy,biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. I’ve also got a folder dedicated solely to scientific games. I will share the resources in these folders in subsequent posts, organized by subject area. Once posted in the blog, I’ll then add all bookmarks to the general science pages in my website, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them with the broader global community as well. I have so many of these resources that I’m going to have to split the list into two parts – the bookmarks from my Chrome browser and those from Firefox.
Today: biology resources for students (and teachers!) in no particular order.
- The Cell: Basic Unit of Structure and Function by McGraw-Hill. Animations, quizzes, flashcards, and other resources aligned with their Human Anatomy textbook. Links to other chapters can be found in the sidebar.
- Bioman Biology. Interactive biology games on a variety of topics, including physiology, cells, ecology, genetics, evolution, DNA, respiration, and photosynthesis.
- Carbon cycle animation from the University of Alberta, Canada. A simple but comprehensive flow chart (system diagram) of the global carbon cycle.
- InstaGrok interactive concept maps. Pre-made concept maps showing links between a whole bunch of topics in general biology. Click on a term to see links to other biology topics, facts, websites, videos, images, or add your own notes.
- Cells Alive! This site has been around for years. Good, easy-to-understand interactive cell models.
- DNA video from NotCot.org. A beautiful 3 minute animation explaining DNA for BBC Knowledge from Territory.
- John Kimball’s online biology textbook. This guy has been teaching biology for decades, and he’s amassed an incredible amount of resources on his site around every conceivable topic in biology. It’s kind of an old-school site, but it’s thorough.
- Learn.Genetics at the University of Utah, USA. I use the tutorials from this site extensively in my genetics and evolution units.
- Bozeman Science biology playlist on YouTube. 76 videos! 76! This playlist contains videos that could be useful in AP Biology, IB Biology, Biology, and other life sciences, all from the amazing Paul Andersen.
- Mitosis World Home at University of North Carolina, USA. An aggregate of several other biology resources.
- Discover Biology animations from W.W. Norton & Co. High-quality animations that can be viewed straight through, step-by-step, or narrated.
- Interactive transpiration animation from ScienceMag. Adjust plant parameters and environmental conditions to see different effects on the movement of water through plants. With some creativity, you could run a virtual lab from this animation.
- Understanding Evolution at the University of California – Berkeley. Densely packed with information and thoroughly researched. I use this site as a main reference for my evolution units. The site has been around a long time and is showing its age, but it’s still highly useful.
- Sex determination video at TED-Ed. One of many useful resources from the TED people. Includes a review quiz and discussion questions.
- Biology for Life. A great website from Gretel von Bargen at Skyline High School in Washington state, USA. It follows the new IB Biology syllabus. Also linked to her Twitter feed. I use this site a ton.
- Bioknowledgy. Probably my favorite site for IB Biology. Chris Paine in Shanghai has created an extensive library of resources and materials aligned with the new IB Biology syllabus. Includes presentations, videos, and guided revision questions, among other resources. Awesome!
I hope that’s a good start for now. If you find any helpful resources you think I’ve missed, please send them my way in the comments, and I’ll add them to the second batch.
Posted in biology, Environmental Systems, MYP Science
Tagged 21st century learning, biology, cells, cool stuff, Education, ESS, evolution, life science, online resources, organelles, photosynthesis, plants, research, resources, science, Science education, science skills, videos
Hyperolius sp. in Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)
I’m back in Dar after another incredible week at the Emau Hill camp in Amani Nature Reserve, where I got to spend several days hiking in tropical forests, chasing chameleons and tree frogs at night, and exploring the tea estates surrounding the forest reserve.
I owe a big thanks to Roy Hinde and his staff at Wild Things Safaris for their support, extensive knowledge of the local ecosystem, and fine cooking.
This ESP trip is one of my favorites because of its location. The Usambara Mountains are still my favorite part of Tanzania, even after 7 years in this country. I’ve traveled there six different times, and I look forward to going back again because there’s always more to explore and something new to do.
Amani is one of the best places for birding in East Africa. Over 400 species have been recorded within the reserve, owing to its habitat diversity: tropical montane forest, miombo woodland, river valleys, and agricultural fields. During this trip, I spotted 14 bird species new to me, bringing the total number of bird species I have encountered in Tanzania to over 150. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fancy camera with a telephoto lens, which means I don’t have any photos of these new species, but here are my latest observations:
Three-horned chameleon, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)
- Uluguru violet-backed sunbird, Anthreptes neglectus
- Trumpeter hornbill, Bycanistes bucinator
- White-tailed crested-flycatcher, Trochocercus albonotatus
- Augur buzzard, Buteo augur
- African palm swift, Cypsiurus parvus
- Lanner falcon, Falco biarmicus
- Waller’s startling, Onychognathus walleri
- Yellow-bellied waxbill, Estrilda quartinia
- Pin-tailed whydah, Vidua macroura
- Striped kingfisher, Halcyon chelicuti
- Yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava ‘superciliaris’
- Mountain buzzard, Buteo oreophilus
- Red-rumped swallow, Hirundo daurica
- Martial eagle, Polemaetus bellicosus
All in all, despite averaging over 15 km a day of strenuous walking and hiking, I came back from the trip refreshed and energized because of the chance to get out of the city for a week. If you have the chance to visit the East Usambara Mountains, please do – you won’t regret it.
We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite things about my job: the Extended Studies Program, or ESP. ESP is our school’s “week without walls,” when students and teachers leave the comforts of classrooms and campus and travel to different parts of Tanzania to learn about and experience the people and ecology in those locations.
Each year, students in grades 6 through 11 spend a week in one of an awesomely diverse locations around Tanzania:
- 6th graders go to Zanzibar for an exploration of art and architecture, reef and mangrove ecology, and a history of the east African slave trade.
- 7th graders spend a week in the Uluguru Mountains on a service learning trip with the Waluguru, the only matrilineal ethnic group in Tanzania.
- 8th graders venture to Amani Nature Reserve, where they experience the differences between managed and natural forests, as well as night hikes searching for rare species of chameleons and frogs (my personal favorite).
- 9th and 10th graders have several options for their ESP trips:
- Mountain biking in the Usambara Mountains
- Service trips in Arusha or in a Maasai boma
- Hiking in Lushoto district
- Trekking across the Ngorogoro Crater Highlands
- Ecological monitoring at the Makatube Island Marine Reserve
- Service work on the Chem-Chem school project
- Morogoro photography
- IB1 students in grade 11 engage in a field course for biology and geography
In my opinion, these kinds of trips provide the most engaging educational experiences our students will get during the school year. There are no worksheets, no essays, no problems to solve, no presentations to make. Students push themselves, and teachers push them, in ways that are generally not possible during lessons. The interconnectedness of different fields of study becomes evident while out of the classroom – the impact of climate on agriculture, which in turn influences economics, culture and family structure, which then have further knock-on effects on music, literature, and politics.
ESPs are wonderful because of their ‘big picture-ness’.
Posted in biology, MYP Science, Random Thoughts
Tagged biodiversity, biology, conservation, cool stuff, ecology, Education, ESS, science, Science education, Tanzania