Sunday, December 5, 2010

Global Warming – How can it fit in YOUR classroom?

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. ~Barack Obama

This week on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills, Joann is highlighting resources about mass extinctions. The relationship between mass extinctions and global warming makes it a surprisingly relevant topic in students’ lives. The topic can be tailored to work with many age groups, and you can use elements from the theme in all different subject areas. Lessons and activities about extinction can lead classes to investigations into other areas such as global warming, understanding the scientific method, community service, math, and debate skills. Extinction investigations like the ones we are featuring this week might truly resonate with your students and pique their interest. If you are like many teachers, your year is so packed with required topics, standards to cover, and tests to take it’s hard to include lessons on things that aren’t directly related to those requirements.

It can be a real trick to find a way to incorporate activities into your existing curriculum without just piling extra activities on top of it. When you discover a theme (such as extinction) that you think will be successful in your classroom, there are a few ways you can make it a part of your curriculum while still teaching all of the standards you need to cover during the year and preparing your students for the standardized tests they will be taking.

If you know what standards are covered in a particular lesson, it’s much easier to find a perfect place for it in your school year. Figuring this out can be a very time-consuming task when you have to look up standards for every lesson you want to do. You may find that the new lesson will be a perfect replacement for one you have used every year. A great tool for this type of discovery is the standards suggestion tool on The Gateway. When you find an activity you like, make sure you view the full record of the activity by selecting the “View, Share, Comment” button. Choose your state and subject at the bottom of the record and click “View Standards.” This will give you a head start on figuring out where to use the lesson in your class.

Another thing to consider as you try to incorporate new themes like this is that you don’t have to teach everything about the topic to use it successfully in your classroom. You aren’t creating experts on every topic you teach, you are using the topic to create interest and to teach the particular skills your students need to learn during the school year. If you are a science teacher, you might want to focus on the science behind global warming or meteor strikes. Social studies teachers can bring out the historical aspects of the topic. Math teachers can use extinction data to teach students to analyze data, graph results, and make predictions about the future. English classes might debate possible causes of past mass extinctions or the probability of future ones.

Some teachers I know have been very successful at including a variety of topics to meet the needs of the varied types of learners in the class by assigning a few home learning assignments throughout the year. You can select a list of possible topics with activities that you find on The Gateway, and let your students fly with the rest. You will be sure that the appropriate standards are being covered, and the students will have a feeling of freedom and responsibility for learning the topics they chose themselves. If mass extinction is a topic you want to include in your class, check out the resources Joann featured in her post as well as the following 3 that I found on The Gateway this week.

Climate Change Kids Site from the Environmental Protection Agency - games, links, animations, and related teacher materials for teaching students about global warming.

Creative Climates activity from National Geographic Xpeditions – a simulation where students head up a climate observation post and create a climate map of the different climate zones.

Mercury Rising: Bearing Witness to Climate Change from Fusionspark Media– a virtual expedition of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. You can use this with your students to see how the earth responds to global warming.

~Peggy's Corner - 12/3/2010~

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