Teach Super

We live in a society that idolizes super heroes. Everyone wants to be super, and teachers are no different: They can teach super. An elementary school teacher’s impact on a child surpasses almost anyone else in their life, other than parents and close relatives.

Do you know how important you are to your students?

By sparking curiosity and interest in a subject like science, you can build the foundation for a future career and lifelong passion. But it takes more than just an attentive teacher; it requires making STEM fun and playful.

Just last December, Getting Smart magazine noted how important it is to make science a fun activity. “Implementing a STEM curriculum during the early elementary grades which combines play with direct instruction can lead to long-term interest in these subjects,” writes Tracy Derrell. Maintaining interest from elementary and through middle school requires engagement.

That’s where teaching super comes into play.

The Need for Super Teachers

Teachers can be super by engaging students in science lessons.

The need for super teachers is real. Only 34% of 4th grade students achieved a score of “At or Above Proficient” on the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The United States needs its youth to take on STEM careers. The country is currently reliant on foreign workers to fulfill its STEM workforce.

So how does an educator make science fun and playful?

For starters, you can make a game of it. That goes well beyond Legends of Learning’s elementary suite of games. There are many ways to make content accessible to students.

For example, consider these eight fun resources we found to help teachers preparing science students for tests. Or find a different way to make science more interesting and applicable to students’ real lives. There are hundreds of such activities across the Internet.

When You Teach Super

Two Legendary science teachers at FETC in Florida.

Experienced teachers know success often bubbles up as singular breakthrough events that occur during the long march of a school year. Teaching can become a slog, particularly in the winter months when the days are short and the work is long.

But then there’s that student who suddenly comes alive. Or that class that really gets into a lesson. Maybe a former student comes back to visit or reaches out and thanks you for providing that spark.

Consider how these two students fell in love with science as a result of witnessing the total solar eclipse last summer. The experience infused them with a new excitement for science.

So, Legend, every day is a great day to teach super.

Let us know how we can support you.

The Sun, Moon, and Stars Lesson Plan

One of our most popular learning objectives on the Legends platform is
The Sun, Moon, and Stars: Patterns of Apparent Motion. This is one of those learning objectives that also has a lesson plan associated with it. Here is a web version of that lesson plan.

Learning Objective:​ The sun, moon, and stars: Patterns of apparent motion

NGSS Standard: MS-ESS1.A-1 ​ Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models.

Objective
Students will be able to:

1. Explain the locations of the Earth, moon and sun and describe their relationship

2. Explain the movements of the Earth, moon and sun by developing models

    3. Explain the different phases of the moon by manipulating models

Time Required:​ 90 minutes

Preparation

Materials Needed:

  • Teacher computer with internet access and projector
  • Student computers/laptop/tablet with internet access (preferably one per student but at least enough for small groups of 3 -4 students)
  • Plastic spoons
  • Oreo cookies (or a like substitute)
  • Black Sharpie pens and colored magic markers
  • Construction paper
  • Paper towels

Teacher Preparation

  • Create Playlist 1, a 10 minute playlist in Legends of Learning with the following game found in “The Sun, Moon and Stars: patterns of Apparent Motion” objective page: Apparent Motion: Orbital Command
  • Create Playlist 2, a 20 minute playlist in Legends of Learning with the following game found in “The Sun, Moon and Stars: patterns of Apparent Motion” objective page: Sun Shooter
  • Separate Oreo cookies, Sharpies and plates for each group (at least 8 cookies per group)

Introduce Topic

Engage: 10 min

1) The teacher will play the video “5F Sun, Earth Moon The Science Video”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTDcfI2dabk

2) As students watch the video, they will write 3 or more new facts that they learned about the earth, moon, and sun in their science journal.

    3) The teacher then leads a discussion about the video and the relationship between the sun, moon and Earth.
    4) The teacher will instruct students to answer 3 questions from the video.

  • How many days does it take for the moon to orbit Earth? (28 days​)
  • How many days does it take Earth to orbit the sun? (365 ¼ days​)
  • How many hours does it take for Earth to complete one rotation on its axis? (24 hours​)

Explore: 10 min

1) Students will sign in to Legends of Learning and enter your teacher code.

2) Teacher will launch Playlist 1.

    3) Students will complete Apparent Motion: Orbital Command as the teacher assists students as needed. Stopping game play to address the questions asked in the game may be needed.

Expand on the Lesson

Explain: 10 min

1) The teacher will demonstrate the orbital and rotational relationship of the Earth, moon and sun by having students in groups of three demonstrate this concept using their bodies to represent each celestial body. If there is limited room in the classroom, the teacher can simply demonstrate this with one group of three students by moving desks enough to clear a space large enough for the demonstration. Optimally, the teacher will be able to use hallway space so several groups can demonstrate this concept. Each group will get a sheet with the following diagram, which demonstrates direction of rotation. (see Appendix A in the lesson plan)

2) As students demonstrate the rotational movements, the teacher assists students as needed as well as pausing the activity to ask questions to assess knowledge.

  • a. In which direction does the Earth rotate on its axis? Does the Earth rotate in the same direction as the Moon? as the Sun? i. The Earth rotates counter-clockwise on its axis. Yes, yes.
  • b. Does the moon orbit around the Sun or the Earth? Why does the moon orbit where it does? i. The Moon orbits around the Earth. This is because of its proximity to the Earth. Although the Sun has a greater gravitational effect due to its size, the moon is close enough to the Earth so that it is caught in its gravitational pull.
  • c. What is a solar eclipse and how does one form? i. A solar eclipse is when the sun is blocked, either partially or fully, by the moon. This occurs when the Moon’s orbit causes it to pass between the Earth and the Sun.

Elaborate and Evaluate

 

Apparent motion of the sun, moon, and stars.

Elaborate: 40 min

1) Students will separate into small groups (three or four)

2) The teacher hands each group a zip-lock bag with at least 8 Oreo cookies and plastic spoon, a blank piece of construction paper and markers.

3) The teacher then hands each group a sheet with the following diagrams: (see Appendix B in the lesson plan)

    4) Using the information on these sheets, students will construct a moon phase chart on the construction paper using the Oreos with various amounts of icing scraped off to represent the various lunar phases. The cookies are then arranged in a linear fashion on the construction paper to mimic the eight phases of the moon. The markers will be used to draw representations of the sun, Earth, directional arrows and titles of each lunar phase. A student example is provided below.

Evaluate: 20 min

1) Launch Playlist 2 for students.

2) Students will play Sun Shooter and be assessed on their ability to answer the questions provided in the game correctly.

3) Teacher will analyze student results to determine what concepts need to be a focus for reteaching.

Possible Extension activity:
Have students participate in the World MOON Project, which is a globally collaborative project that allows students from all over the world to observe and report on lunar phases. http://worldmoonproject.org/

Game Based Learning and the Blended Classroom

Game Based Learning (GBL) and the blended classroom have become increasingly popular instructional options as teachers strive to improve teaching and learning. These two instructional forms complement each other well. Both serve the 21st century classroom by engaging students in their education and giving them opportunities to develop not only basic curriculum mastery but also critical thinking and problem solving skills.

GBL uses games to aid students’ learning. Although GBL can drastically transform instruction, as in the case of using World of Warcraft to teach humanities, GBL can be as simple as playing Jeopardy to review materials before summative assessment. Both applications involve games to complement or replace more traditional instructional methods, such as lectures, Q&As, and worksheets.

Most teachers employ some form of GBL. However, we must be careful not to confuse GBL with gamification. In gamification, a teacher incorporates the mechanics of game play and game design into the curriculum. Teachers who espouse GBL take a very different approach. They infuse the curriculum with games, and the games become primary methods to introduce, explore, explain, and reinforce material.

Blended Learning

Blended learning fuses online and traditional “brick and mortar” instruction. Some teachers assume using technology equals a blended classroom; however, blended learning should be viewed as more of a spectrum between traditional “brick and mortar” instruction on one end and online-only classes on the other. Most truly blended classrooms feature 1) students who access some class content and instruction online outside of the traditional time and space of the classroom, and 2) a Classroom Management System (CMS) such as Edmodo or Moodle.

Game Based Learning and Blended Learning in Practice

GBL fits seamlessly into a blended instructional model. Games can act as bridges between the physical, face-to-face environment and an online classroom in at least three ways.

First, a student could play games independently, outside the regular class time and setting. Sites like Quizizz and Quizlet have popularized this method. For this to be successful, teachers must possess some way to track student progress and learning. This usually occurs in the form of tracking time spent on the game and assessing students’ answers and feedback to questions.

Second, a teacher could meet with students in a virtual environment. Examples of such environments include Minecraft: Education Edition and Second Life. With this method, the teacher schedules a time to meet in a virtual space within the game. Students and teacher are therefore in different places but meeting at the same time. The mode of instruction varies depending on the virtual environment and game limitations. A lecture is possible in Second Life, for example, but not Minecraft.

Third, a student could meet and play with other students in a game environment without teacher supervision. The situation arises when students are assigned collaborative Minecraft projects or asked to compete against other students in some games found on ABCya!.

GBL perfectly suits a blended classroom framework. With it, teachers meet students’ expectations—today’s students already “game” with other students. Teachers also overcome challenges found with typical homework assignments and assessments.

Games can reduce testing anxiety and increase student motivation to engage and learn. In fact, some teachers see students playing games outside of class sheerly for the joy of it. For those reasons and many more, game based learning will become a more common mode of instruction that extends learning beyond the classroom.

Scott Beiter teachers science at Rensselaer Jr. Sr. High in Rensselaer, New York. Follow his blog, Full Sail Science, to learn more.

Teacher Discovers Students Want More Learning During Spring Vacation

In two weeks, middle school students across California will be back in the classroom from spring break and taking the California Science Test for the first time. While this is only a pilot year, a committed teacher like Elizabeth Lewellen is worried about how her 8th grade students will perform on the assessment.

So Lewellen, who teaches at Mary Fay Pendleton School on Camp Pendleton, is spending part of her time during this week’s vacation helping students prepare. This has involved letting them use a new game-based learning platform called Legends of Learning that they can access remotely from their homes.

“Legends of Learning is tied to the new Next Generation Science Standards for California so it helps me teach the standards, especially ones I haven’t had time to cover in-depth,” she says. “The key is that the kids enjoy the games and really get engaged…I’m not fooling myself into thinking they would want to learn during time off if it wasn’t for this platform.”

Lewellen says she’s already seeing students achieve learning growth because Legends of Learning lets her observe their activity on an electronic dashboard, even when they aren’t in the classroom.

She is the 2012 Teacher of the Year in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. Her students come from military families or families who work on the base.

Legends of Learning launched at the end of March with more than 500 curriculum-based education games for middle school earth and space science, life sciences, and physical science curricula. The games, created by over 300 games developers, are based on rigorous academic research conducted in partnership with Vanderbilt University.

The platform was featured in a recent USA Today article that explained how it could overcome a barrier to “getting high-quality learning games into K–12 classrooms.”

5 Earth Day Playlists to Engage Your Students

Earth Day is coming quickly (April 22nd, remember?) and it’s a great opportunity to teach students about conservation, responsibility and being part of a global community.

There are so many ways to make this happen. In addition to the many project based learning opportunities we listed on Monday, you can use games to help students engage in Earth Day.

See our Earth Day Activities and Ideas page for free games, additional resources and lesson plans!

The following is a list of Ambassador recommended playlists of games you can use for Earth Day. They drew from our 90 learning objectives, and more than 600 NGSS aligned science games for middle school that engage students in virtually every topic for Earth, Life and Physical Sciences.

We are dedicated to incorporating Ambassadors’ content suggestions on how to use games in the classroom. In addition, our own team offered an additional playlist.

Without further ado, check out these awesome recommendations and give your students an amazing new Earth Day experience this year.

 

Janessa Slattery’s Earth Day Playlist

Learning Objective: Increasing and Decreasing Impacts on Earth Systems

Games: Defender: Human Impact on Earth, The Big Picture Hosted by Zedd: Animal Agriculture, Mini City

Synopsis: These games show students the impact of human activities on our planet and ways we can build sustainably to avoid doing major harm.

Mariana Garcia-Serrato‘s Earth Day Playlist

Learning Objective: Global Climate Change

Games: Warm Planet Adventure, Escape Global Climate Change, Greenman and The Global Climate Change, Preventative Measures

Synopsis: Student learn about harmful greenhouse gases, ways to combat a warming atmosphere and environmentally friendly sources of alternative energy.

Caitlin Unterman‘s Earth Day Playlist

Learning Objective: Natural Resources

Games: Wealthy City, Resourceful Adventure, The Story of Natural Resources, Pipe Mechanic: Natural Resources

Synopsis: This playlist is great because it takes students through different games that express the importance of natural resources in our everyday lives. Without natural resources from our Earth, many of our daily activities and technologies would not be possible!

Jennifer Pendleton‘s Earth Day Playlist

Learning Objective: Greenhouse Effect

Games: Infrared Escape, Green Planet Adventure, Little Green Planet

Synopsis: Infrared Escape would be a good refresher on the greenhouse effect. Green Planet Adventure helps review more concepts about the greenhouse effect and reinforce them. Little Green Planet is a chance to apply the concepts learned to make decisions.

Jennifer's Earth Day playlist.

Legends of Learning’s Earth Day Playlist

Learning Objective: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Games: Oscar’s World: Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems, Dam Planner, Bottles: Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems

Synopsis: These three games use a variety of methods to help students understand how their actions have a direct impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Dam Planner really puts students in the drivers seat and helps them actualize their decision making.

Legends of Learning's Earth Day playlist.
 

You can log in and play these games today on the Legends of Learning platform. To become an ambassador, visit our site and fill out this simple form.

35 Earth Day Ideas and Resources for Your Science Classroom

Earth Day is coming up, April 22! This year, Earth Day Network, the nonprofit dedicated to growing the global environmental movement, asks educators, community members, and others to focus on climate change and environmental literacy. The site already boasts Earth Day ideas and science lesson plans for kindergarten through twelfth grade.

See our Earth Day Activities and Ideas page for free games, additional resources and lesson plans! Or, sign up and explore our full platform of games!

And of course, there are many learning objectives and games within the Legends of Learning platform that you can use to make Earth Day fun and engaging. But you might want to integrate other Earth Day ideas for your classroom, particularly if you’re using blended learning strategies. If that’s your case, we have you covered. We’ve got two giant lists of resources and activities to celebrate Earth Day.

14 Earth Day and Science Activities for Your Middle School Classroom

If you want to forego the usual painting of planet Earth or planting of bean sprouts, consider these 14 ideas. Many offer long-term benefits, inside and outside the classroom.
 

1. Conduct a science experiment. Some students learn by reading or seeing. Others learn through practical application. You can incorporate all your students’ learning styles and levels with Earth Day science experiments. Plus, science experiments give students real-world experience in developing hypotheses, exploring results, and correlating human endeavors to the ecosystem. You’ll want to focus students’ efforts; Earth Day covers a lot of science material. To be most effective, integrate your Earth Day experiments with the science curriculum and learning objectives currently being taught in the classroom.

2. Form a GREEN committee. To make a difference in the local environment, form a GREEN committee of faculty, administrators, and staff. Next, create a corollary committee of students and parents. The two committees work hand-in-hand to organize and oversee environmental projects, such as a community garden or recycling program. The National Wildlife Federation offers an excellent resource for starting an environmental committee at your school.

3. Get outdoors. Ted Wells, a fourth grade teacher, says students need to connect with nature so that they’ll be intrinsically motivated to protect it. With that in mind, get the kids outside. If you’re studying the water cycle or stamens, pistils, and petals, ask students to call out those things as they explore the outdoors.

4. Get some (pretend) funding. Create student research teams and give them a special Earth Day WebQuest, courtesy of Education World. The students’ mission, if they choose to accept it, is to research a critical environmental threat and develop a solution that could win up to $1 million in funding from the fictitious “Help Our World (HOW) Foundation.” The project increases science comprehension and research skills and teaches students how to apply for grant money.

5. Get some Google Cardboard. Virtual field trips on the big screen are one thing, but immersive ones are something else entirely. Invest in Google Cardboard headsets, then take students on a journey via Google Expeditions or The New York Times. Ms. Frizzle’s got nothing on you anymore.

 

6. Hear from an environmental expert. Microsoft claims a multitude of ecological experts, all who would be happy to join your classroom via Skype. Prepare kids for the conversation and, to make sure they take something away from the discussion, ask them to recap what they learned in a paragraph or two.

7. Join the PepsiCo Recycle Rally School Recycling Program. Up the typical recycling ante by participating in PepsiCo’s Recycle Rally. The free, nationwide program offers resources and incentives to “make recycling easy, fun, and rewarding.”

8. Partner with the art teacher. The usual Earth Day arts and crafts may be blasé, but don’t ditch the arts just yet. PBS offers some great Earth Day crafts, some of which can be used in science experiments or outdoor excursions. Plus, some of your students may absolutely adore the “Recycled Cardboard Rings.” If you only teach science in your classroom, buddy up with the art teacher.

9. Plant a garden. Heighten the local aspect of Earth Day with something other than planting a tree. Plant a community garden instead and invite parents to participate. The long-term project will instill a sense of ownership in students and produce fruit and vegetables that can be sold at a local farmers’ market. Another good resource for this activity is KidsGardening, an organization committed to engaging and teaching kids through gardening.

10. Solve a mystery. Give students a “mystery box” of supplies and task them with creating a product that solves an environmental challenge. The assignment will encourage creativity, critical thinking, dialogue, and collaboration.

How are you celebrating Earth Day in class?
 

11. Start a recycling program. Kids learn what they practice, so implement a recycling program this Earth Day. Accompany the effort with lessons about why recycling is important and how “reduce, reuse, and recycle” makes the world a better place for everyone. To expand the program across your school, check out RecycleWork’s guide.

12. Take your students on a virtual field trip. If you can’t go to the desert or visit the polar bears, bring them to you with Discovery Education. You can view archived footage or join an upcoming Virtual Field Trip. You can even share science and engineering opportunities by taking your students on a virtual tour of 3M. Now that’s snazzy.

13. Turn your students into film directors. Enhance students’ critical and creative thinking abilities by transforming them into film directors. With the Tellagami app, students can create animated videos about a local or global environmental issue and share it with the classroom on Earth Day.

14. Visit a local museum or science center. Get kids out of the classroom for the day and take them on an exploration of a local museum or science center. Tie the trip to learning objectives to guarantee engagement and impact.

21 Earth Day and Earth Science Resources

Use Earth Day to teach students about preserving natural areas, such as coral reefs.
 

If you want to do some Earth Day sleuthing, check out these 21 sites. They feature lesson plans, activities, and additional resources.

1. 48 Days of Blue, backed by the National Aquarium, provides challenges you can use throughout the year. This is a great resource if trying to extend climate and environmental literacy to students’ home lives. The challenges also are great fun, including things like a “Lights Out Dinner” and “Beware of Vampires.”

2. The American Museum of Natural History only offers a few environmental and ecological lessons, but they’re robust. Your students can explore existing case studies and scientific data to learn about scientists at work today, to analyze findings, and to grow their understanding about the relationship of man and environment.

3. BBC Science & Environment gives a global perspective on climate change and environmental issues. Not everything will apply to Earth Day or middle school science learning objectives, but you’re sure to find something to entice and inspire students—maybe, for instance, this article about air pollution.

4. Earth Day Network’s lesson plans, contests, and activities align with Next Generation Science and Common Core standards. You’ll find resources for all grade levels, as well as an abundance of Earth Day and general science concepts.

5. Education World offers more than 24 classroom activities, across several grades. Most of the activities coordinate with other subjects, helping your students apply their scientific know-how in different contexts.

 

6. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes teachers, scientists, and citizen activists for their work to protect the New England environment. Your classroom could participate in an environmental activity, which you could then nominate for the EPA’s Environmental Merit Award. The application provides several criteria that can be used to define a classroom project. The EPA also offers a number of Earth Day events and projects that can be tailored to the classroom. And, if those two things aren’t enough, you can always look into the EPA’s Environmental Kids Club.

7. Get to Know contains a variety of educational resources related to Earth Day and science. The activities include raising tadpoles, converting salt water into drinking water, and studying fractals via “snow paint.”

8. Google Maps for Education. You’ll love this resource. It’s so much fun! Google’s mapping tools allows teachers and students to “explore, create, and collaborate.” The combination of ecology and geography teaches students how humans and the environment interact and affect each other.

9. Green Education Foundation focuses on “creating a sustainable future through education.” The site shares a couple of interesting ideas, including the organization’s “Adopt-a-Plant” contest.

10. NASA ClimateKids offers all sorts of resources and activities, ranging from online games to videos. The site even features a “dream” section, which teaches kids about opportunities to work in an environmental field. NASA ClimateKids also includes a number of lesson plans and ideas for educators.

 

11. National Education Association provides Earth Day curriculum resources that span all grade levels. The resources linked to here are for sixth through eighth grade. They include individual and group projects that help students develop investigative and collaboration skills.

12. National Environmental Education & Training Foundation offers a “Greening STEM Educator Toolkit.” You’ll want to give the resource a look if desiring to teach climate change and the environment as cross-curricular concepts.

13. National Wildlife Federation provides all sorts of fun resources and programs. For example, you can get students involved in the “Young Reporters for the Environment,” an environmental journalism competition for kids ages 13 to 18.

14. Nature Works Everywhere is on a mission to “help educators teach how nature works.” The site includes everything from videos and lesson plans to garden tools. Nature Works Everywhere is another place to go for virtual field trips, too.

15. PBS Nature offers a lot of video content that can support Earth Day and physical science lessons. The site boasts a number of films, with many of them exploring how humans impact ecosystems. Many of the videos come with supplementary materials that can be used in the classroom or home.

 

16. Project Learning Tree offers suggestions for how to incorporate the environment into your science lessons, helping students engage in learning inside and outside the classroom. The program has received several awards for its work in helping educators, parents, and community leaders teach kids.

17. Project Wet provides lesson plans specific to water and conservation. The organization’s mission statement says it all: “We envision a world in which action-oriented education enables every child to understand and value water, ensuring a sustainable future.”

18. ReadWriteThink offers lessons plans and parent and afterschool resources for just about every grade and learning level. Much of the activities emphasize writing and literacy. Visit this website if you want to strengthen students’ science, writing, and critical thinking skills.

19. ScienceNetLinks is another go-to spot for lesson plans and resources spanning all grade levels. You’ll want to make note of ScienceNetLink’s ““How We Know What We Know about Our Changing Climate.” It provides a wonderful introduction to climate change and the environment.

20. Teachers Pay Teachers offers 14 activities designed for middle school and high school. Many of the ideas are cross-curricular, as with the Scientific Notation and Water Conservation” resource and the “Financial Costs and Benefits of Going Green.” Some of the resources are free, but others require a nominal fee.

21. USDA Forest Service focuses on national forests and grasslands. The site’s “Educator Toolbox” contains vetted resources and professional development opportunities. Some of the organization’s educational themes include climate change, exploring the great outdoors, and wildfires.

With all the Earth Day ideas and resources listed here, you’ll have plenty of choices for tools to teach, engage, and inspire your students. Now, onward, heroes. Let’s be legendary this Earth Day by using some Google Cardboard or starting a community garden.

PODCAST #4: Chris Aviles on the Ethos of Game Based Learning

Chris Aviles is a teacher in New Jersey who is actively bringing game based learning to schools. He describes himself as http://www.techedupteacher.com/about-chris-aviles/

Game based learning is an ethos, not a tool that you buy, said Chris in our podcast. Still we pressed him for some recommendations. He also shared his insights about smartphones in school, and why banning them is a mistake.

Also a blogger and thought leader online, too, Chris is a great follow. Be sure to check out his profiles and chat with him.

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