All About Earth Day: STEM and MakerSpace challenges, research with Wonderopolis, book suggestions, and engagement with Hyperdocs
Earth Day is one of my favorite times for programming! It's a fantastic time to focus on climate change, connect with experts, and connect with other classrooms on projects to make the world a better place. Usually, I would have Skype-a-Scientists lined up for the week, collaborations going on with teachers on research skills with climate change, and our MakerSpace challenges set up in centers, but remote learning has paused those activities until next year. In the mean time, here are some awesome activities you can do from HOME!
MakerSpace & STEM Challenges for Earth Day
Wonderopolis Article - Earth Day Research
I love Wonderopolis! I've been using it for years to teach information literacy and inquiry-based learning. With our move to remote learning, I finally took one of my graphic organizers for this activity and made it virtual using Google Slides. Find the template here.
Wonderopolis is perfect for studying aspects of Earth Day. Check out the wonders below:
There are tons of articles on Earth, biomes, animals, and more as well.
Earth Day Hyperdoc Scavenger Hunt
Teaching research skills directly at the beginning of the school year and continuing to collaborate on embedding those information literacy skills with teachers on projects, assignments, and lessons throughout the year is essential in fostering an inquiry-based environment for our students. If students feel confident in their ability to locate information efficiently and effectively, they will naturally begin to use credible resources for their own inquiry-based projects.
With that being said, I want to focus on a way to passively keep students engaged in practicing research skills like finding credible resources, analyzing information, and sharing their findings with others. I use #WonderWednesday as a means to promote a fun research learning experience for our students.
What is #WonderWednesday?
What is #WonderWednesday? I pose a question on social media and on our Wonder Wall in the library with a hint as to where to find more information about the subject. Students then discuss the question on the Wonder Wall throughout the week. I tend to post questions relating to issues in the news or about holidays/monthly celebrations to have more engagement in the practice.
Why do I do this?
What library standards does this cover?
SLEI (School Library Evaluation Instrument) Performance Standard 5: Effective Practices for Research
The school library media specialist teaches and models developmentally appropriate best practices for learning and research.
• Promotes and models an inquiry-based approach to learning and the research process
Future Ready Librarians Framework
Ensures Equitable Digital Access: Provides and advocates for equitable access to collection tools using digital resources, programming, and services in support of the school district’s strategic vision.
Builds Instructional Partnerships: Partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation, and the active use of technology.
Designs Collaborative Spaces: Provides flexible spaces that promote inquiry, creativity, collaboration, and community
ISTE Standards for Students
#3 Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others
#6 Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
The Setup of our Wonder Wall
I used book fair funds to purchase a gigantic whiteboard from Amazon. Our amazing custodians helped me install it on our wall (which took a very noisy drill and some muscles but was overall painless). The board has held up over time and is super easy to clean with glass cleaner or whiteboard cleaner. Normal whiteboard markers do not work well so I use chalkboard paint markers instead.
This is open to all of our students and staff to use, but I do closely monitor the board for comments. Be prepared for comments like "Mrs. B was here" the first few weeks as students get accustomed to having the extra power to communicate. However, with middle schoolers being the lovely risk takers they are, I make sure to monitor for some more inappropriate comments that may arise. Luckily, we have some amazing students and this has not been an issue.
Who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman?
After originally posting a #WonderWednesday to our school library Instagram, a group of students and I got into a rich, albeit nerdy, discussion on who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman? So of course I capitalized on this and posed it to our Wonder Wall. This is just an example of how to utilize this method for your students.
Where to go from here?
After having done this for 6 months, I have learned how excited students get in the discussion aspect of the questions. I would like to start implementing an action step to go further with their learning - like creating a video or something similar to show their thought process, what they learned, etc. Is this realistic for them to do every week? Probably not. However, I would love to see this go beyond a Wonder Wall discussion! I'm trying it this week with Earth Day so we shall see how it goes.
Looking for a presentation I have done or a resource I have shared? Look no farther, friends!
This year I established the Lions Literacy Alliance Club, a book club that focuses on books that offer windows, a story that offers you a view into someone else's experience, and mirrors, a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity, with teachers and students throughout the entire school. We have even had some parents participate! The topics have touched on racial injustice, recognizing bullying culture, appreciating the religious and cultural differences that make our community great, and mental health. The conversations have run deep and provided us a way to reflect thoughtfully with one another. When our teachers and students feel empowered that their voices are heard and matter, they are more engaged in the learning community. When our teachers and students learn about others in this way, we all become more empathetic individuals who are more understanding and respectful of the various paths our individual lives are moving along.
Our book selections are listed below. What do you think we should have on the list for next year?