How I Use It
I use the Guiding Question wheel interface as this guides students directly to the richest content. My third graders, working in partners or groups, pick one area under a sub-topic to explore, research with addition sites, and present through a discussion, a graphic, a brief dramatic performance or musical piece, explanatory art, or in written form.
For shorter lessons, I have used some of the interactives to generate discussions and short writing assignments. I have students manipulate the Climate Change Interactive and then write up a paragraph about their overall observation(s) supported by specific evidence.
This site is visually appealing and does a thorough job of chunking this complex topic into manageable pieces for younger learns. The initial interface shows a wheel with 7 big questions and from there students can drill down to a particular aspect of climate change, from basics such as “What is Climate” to more advanced specifics such as “How Can So Little arming Cause So Much Melting”. The final reading passages have simple supporting images and the text is again chunked into manageable pieces.
Another way to navigate the site is by the top menu bar, which has the headings: play, make, know, keep, watch, dream, teach. I have found that these tools are more appealing to the students when they are given free choice about how to use the site. The materials in these categories is variable.
For example, in the “Make” category, some activities such as “Make an Ocean Ecosystem” contain no scientific content in the core activity itself. There is a passage that can be pre-read prior to the recipe for an edible ocean but students skip to the recipe. This fun activity would be better suited to camp or play at home than educational use. A second activity, “Make a Butterfly Garden” is rich in content, but in order to complete the actual activity students would need to do additional research on the plants of their area. As a third example, “Birds and Climate Change” has content best suited to 4th-8th grade, but an activity (peanut butter bird seed feeder) more suited to much younger children.
Many of the activities listed under “Games” are actually interactives. A useful one is The Climate Time Machine is an example of an interactive that enriches student understand with specific information and clear, easily manipulated graphics. It demonstrates exponential (check term) rate of ice depletion far better than numbers alone, yet pair with numbers younger students may be able to start to develop an understanding of relative size over natural numbers.
Another interactive, Coral Bleaching, gets its point across with possibly intentional inflexible. Students are able to toggle the amount of pollution in the water and the the temperature increase but almost all combinations lead to irreversible bleaching. While this is accurate, it might be helpful for students to have a wider range of choices with these variables so they understood that that in the past the ocean was indeed able to rebound from changes.