National Park Service for Teachers

 

 

 

 

Update: Shortly after I posted this, the NPS did, in fact, shut down all its web content, as well. Sad! So bookmark this one for another time. Thanks to Anne D. for discovering this.

 

National Parks Service

So you can’t visit National Parks in person due to the government shutdown. Thankfully, there is still lots of great content available online via the National Parks Service to take you on a virtual field trip!

The NPS website for teachers offers distance learning, videos, and materials lists. Their lesson plans are searchable by grade level and subject, so you can easily find standards-aligned lessons on everything from wild horses to Ben Franklin.

There’s lots of content here, and I love the idea of learning about history, biology, and ethics through the lens of our nation’s landmarks.

My New Favorite: Crash Course

Every once in a while, I find a resource that just clicks. It’s informative, exciting, and relevant. The Crash Course video series, easily found for free on YouTube, is one of these resources.

These beautifully-produced videos are funny, hip, and chock-full of great facts. I will say right out of the gate, though, that they are obviously intended for high school and college students: material is covered VERY quickly, and occasionally the content leans in the direction of mature (think PG-13). If you do choose to show a video in class, be sure you have watched it all the way through first, so you aren’t surprised. However, for more advanced middle school students, or for unit review, these videos are aces.

There are six video series: World History (42 videos), Biology (40 videos), Literature (8 videos), Ecology (12 videos), and US History (2 videos so far, but growing every week), and Chemistry (just added last week!). Videos in a series follow a set format, complete with great explanatory animations. Complex ideas are explained in a way that even the most bored teen will follow.

The series I have watched most extensively, World History, does a great job of putting events in context and explaining why on earth this stuff matters. It also comments upon the nature of historical study, and the fact that history is often written by the victors. Even if you deem it too advanced for your students, I highly recommend watching for your own enjoyment and education!

Encyclopedia of Life


The Encyclopedia of Life is a free, online encyclopedia that catalogs Earth’s diverse life-forms. The encyclopedia was created with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which, if you listen to NPR, you’ll know is “committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.” In keeping with this theme, the site is filled with gorgeous photos, sound bytes, and videos so that you can see and hear different species. Each entry also contains taxonomic information and a complete list of sources, making it a great resource for studying life, biodiversity, and ecology.

The writing and tone of this encyclopedia is scientific and academic, making it more suited for older students, but it can certainly be used as a media resource with younger kids who are interested in animals.

National Geographic Field Test: On Everest

National Geographic does an incredible job of pulling together words and images to tell powerful stories. Right now, they’re co-sponsoring (with The North Face) an expedition to Mt. Everest. They have sent a photographer and a writer to accompany mountaineers up the deadly mountain, and their trek is being documented every step of the way.

With dispatches arriving daily, you get a truly in-depth look at just how much goes into a trek like this: the preparation, the waiting, the endurance. The most recent dispatch (including video) recounts the story of how their photographer, Cory Richards, had to be rescued from the mountain after experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. It’s pretty gripping stuff!

In addition to the current expedition, the site has pulled together great resources on the history of Everest, including this fascinating article on the evolution of climbing gear from the days of Sir Edmund Hillary to now.

Cool Stuff: The Scale of the Universe

 

This amazing interactive model has been floating around for a while, passed along via Facebook and other social networks. It presents different organisms, buildings, and planets to scale so that you can see their relative size differences. You start at the level of a human, but can scroll to zoom in to the level of strings (the quantum kind, not the yarn kind), or out to the non-observable universe. It’s quite a journey! Each object that is shown can be clicked on for an explanation (which is a good thing, because I had no idea what quantum foam is).

YouTube for Schools

Though it is one of the most commonly blocked websites at schools across the country, YouTube is trying to get into the education game. A new channel on the video service website curates videos that can be used in classes, sorted by grade level and subject.

The quality of the videos varies, but there are some good resources here. The organization is also really helpful, saving you lots of time by making it easy to find videos on the topic you’re looking for. As a matter of fact, the slogan of YouTube for Schools is “Spend more time teaching, less time searching.”

Take a look at this video on magnetic breakfast cereal!

African American History and Heritage

As you may know, February is Black History Month. Hopefully, you’re finding ways to incorporate the accomplishments of African-Americans into your lessons, but if you need some help, check out the African American History and Heritage site. This site is currently School Library Journal’s site of the week– talk about just-in-time resources!

It may not be pretty, but it’s chock full of great resources: biographies, links to books and videos, and a Teacher Toolkit. The Toolkit contains links, lesson plans, and more, and is organized by discipline.

It’s pretty hard to navigate, and is so full of resources that it may be confusing, but if you’re willing to go exploring, you can find cool resources like the African American Inventors database.