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.


I recently “attended” a webinar about reaching reluctant readers, and the presenter frequently referred to ePals as a resource. In that context, he explained it as a great place for age-appropriate articles that would entice fans of nonfiction to read. Sign up for the service and articles from Smithsonian are delivered straight to your inbox.

It wasn’t until I went onto the site to sign up that I saw the true scope of ePals, and its intended purpose. While it hosts a great variety of teacher-friendly resources (lesson plans, projects, articles), it is in fact a service that matches up classes around the world as pen pals. A teacher simply signs up and makes a profile, indicating the type of classroom he or she is interested in connecting from (Spanish-speakers, students in China, students in grade 3).

Watch this video for a quick overview.

The site makes communicating with classes around the world so easy, with video-chat and email services incorporated. You can search for a class to talk with, or join a project that other classes are doing. With all the great resources (from trusted sources like National  Geographic, Cobblestone/Cricket, and Smithsonian), your class can read an article on global warming, then discuss it with another class in Argentina! Having a common discussion point can help to dispel any awkwardness.

Even if you aren’t interested in connecting with international classes, the resources on this site are top notch. There are some great project ideas, and Learning Centers with games, quizzes, articles, and videos on topics in science, current events, and books.

The site has a lot, which means it can be a bit overwhelming. I encourage you to take a look, though, because ePals is a portal to all kinds of innovative learning.

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!

Everything You Will Ever Need for Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve found the motherlode. A website so comprehensive, I didn’t think such a thing could ever exist. Cybraryman has put together an exhaustive collection of MLK resources, from lesson plans, to exploration sites, to articles, and even puzzles. Check it out here!

Fun fact: Often, we assume sites with the “.org” domain are reputable. Sometimes, people use this to their advantage. One example of this is (I won’t link to it here). It’s a site I use in my lessons on evaluating websites for bias; it’s a propaganda site by a white supremacist group! 

How to Use the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has an overwhelming amount of information, much of which is available online. With just a bit of effort, you can access and use this information with your classes. Jeff Dunn at the blog Edudemic has discovered a fantastic infographic to help us all understand the wealth of relevant, curriculum-aligned content available at our fingertips from the LOC. (Click on image to view larger.)

Teaching with the Library of Congress

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.

All Things Titanic

I am fascinated by the Titanic disaster, and as we approach the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the unsinkable ship, all kinds of fantastic resources are popping up to further fan the flames of my curiosity. I don’t know if any of you are planning on covering this piece of history in your classes, but if you are, I’ve found some really sensational resources.

“1300 Passengers Are Rescued At Sea From The Sinking Liner Titanic, Wrecked In A Night Collision With An Iceberg.”

This was the headline of the Milwaukee Daily News on April 15th, 1912. Imagine the shock when the news came out that it was, in fact, more than 1300 killed on that fateful night. The History Buffs newspaper archive is an incredible repository containing scanned photos of newspapers from important historic events, including a few from April 15th and 16th, 1912. What a powerful discussion on information, misinformation, and journalism you could spark by showing these newspapers to your class! You’d think that major newspapers would no longer be making such enormous errors, but even now, in this age of instant news, reports are being published that are completely wrong. Remember when the Daily Mail’s website published a report that Amanda Knox’s murder conviction appeal had been denied?

Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron

James Cameron has put together a brand new documentary, titled Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron, that pieces together the latest scientific research on the sinking of the Titanic. This National Geographic documentary includes a stunning computer simulation of the sequence of events that led Titanic to the ocean floor. It’s pretty incredible.

Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship

Finally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the Titanic (how it was built, who was on it, a timeline of events, and even some interactives), Britannica has you covered. Their site on Titanic links together all the information available in the encyclopedia, including pictures, into one-stop-shopping for all of your Titanic needs.

Of course, if you’re looking for more, Mr. Goodwin and I have put together a display in the library, complete with fiction, non-fiction, and magazines on all things Titanic.