Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Greatest Show on Earth--Earth

Americans strongly support providing environmental education in schools and the National Environmental Education Foundation has taken up the challenge by building environmental education resource guides for teachers at classroomearth.org and eeweek.org. These sites were designed to strengthen environmental education across the curriculum and provide lesson plans, multimedia and other resources to help teachers prepare students to meet the environmental challenges that face the global community.

NEEF was chartered by Congress in 1990 to advance environmental knowledge and action, as well as to activate environmentally responsible behavior in the general public. Classroom Earth was established to promote environmental literacy for school children. Major funding for the Classroom Earth site was provided by the Weather Channel and it was developed by harnessing the expertise of committed educators to help define the scope and content of the resources.

The site is geared to secondary educators and offers interdisciplinary classroom resources that are not limited to the science or social studies classroom. If the site is used in conjunction with the resources on NEEF’s National Environmental Education Week initiative then you can span the K-12 curricula in almost every subject area.

The well-organized home page classroomearth.org features glimpses at newsworthy items, but easily leads you to resources, grants, professional development and testimonials from teachers.Check the resource tab near the top of the page.If you are looking for something more specific you can also search by keyword.

While it has been traditional to teach about the environment in the science classroom, the search tool also points to lesson resources in foreign language, language arts, mathematics, social studies and the arts.

The foreign language resource is limited to one Spanish language Web site — somosamigosdelatierra.org — but it is a destination rich with vocabulary, cartoons, music and a host of activities that emphasize the global nature of environmental issues. You’ll find articles concerning the Area de Libre Comercio de las Américas and other Spanish-language information about ecology.

The language arts resources contain lesson plans and activities like analyzing and reporting on the impact of epidemics on world population and creating a brochure on alternative energy resources like photovoltaic cells. The lesson plans are excellent examples of an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies.

In mathematics we find very sophisticated lessons like “Meadows or Malls: Using Matrices to Make Decisions,” and others that are less complicated like analyzing tree rings where students become dendrochronologists. The math lesson plans also include energy audits and exercises that help explain how to determine population through random sampling.

If you teach younger children, don’t be daunted by the sophistication of the secondary level lessons on Classroom Earth. NEEF also created a site to meet the educational needs of younger children as part of its effort to promote National Environmental Education Week.

This year’s Environmental Education Week theme is “Ocean Connections,” and will feature resources about our dependence upon the ocean. There are grade-appropriate lessons for teachers across the K-12 spectrum including lessons about Gulf oil spill.

At a time when schools are strapped for cash, you will be interested to know that many organizations offer grants to promote environmental education. For instance, the Captain Planet Foundation offers grants ranging from $250 to $2,500 for school projects that promote understanding of environmental issues. Many other grant opportunities are listed under Funding Resources on the EEWeek site, or by clicking on the Grant tab near the top of the page of the Classroom Earth site.

NEEF has done a good job in aggregating these resources and has made a lot of progress in promoting our national environmental literacy. By using these sites, you may learn as much as your students.

Online template resources can reduce teachers' paperwork burden

Creating individual forms for every task can be tedious and require specialized software or knowledge. That’s why seamstresses, woodworkers, lawyers, accountants and teachers all use templates to help simplify routine tasks.

Templates¬—predesigned layouts or patterns that help reproduce the original item—can help you work more efficiently and accurately. Educators use standard forms all the time and those templates are usually supplied by the school or the school system. But what about those individual templates you use with students? Certificates immediately come to mind. But what about short answer quizzes, class calendars, graphic organizers or bulletin board postings?
Fortunately, there’s a treasure trove of templates that you can find online.

If you use Microsoft products there is an extensive library of free templates at your disposal. Once there you can view the templates for teachers that include formatted quizzes and tests and classroom management templates like a “testing in progress” sign for your door, seating charts, trip permission forms, certificate of excellence or student of the month awards, and even a substitute feedback form. Some templates require that you have other programs that are part of the MS Office Suite® like Excel® and PowerPoint® but most of them can be used with Word®.

If you would like to expand the menu of items designed specifically for teachers, then go to Education World® to see a list of tools and templates that include all the standard items like awards, and calendars, but also include teacher friendly items like graphic organizers, flyers and posters, icebreakers, and goal setting contracts.

The graphic organizers include two and three circle Venn diagrams, KWHL and KWL charts, and a research notes chart. In addition, there are worksheets that have holiday themes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Halloween. There are also fiction and non-fiction book report forms and culturally sensitive reward coupons for students. There is even a personalized license plate form that allows students to create their own vanity plate and can be used as an icebreaker at the beginning of the school year.

If you use MS PowerPoint for classroom presentations, then you’ll be thrilled to find Brainy Betty’s catalog of PowerPoint templates. This is a rich resource that can help you create some nifty backgrounds that will jazz up any presentation. There are even video and audio clips that you can download to enhance your presentations, as well as, flash programs that can animate even the driest subject.

Also, don’t neglect the obvious. The NYC Department of Education includes templates for schools, administrators and teachers on its Web site. Take a look at the templates regarding the discipline code and behavioral contracts, for example. As with most templates on the DOE’s site, they are available in several languages. The DOE’s site http://schools.nyc.gov is very extensive, so try to narrow the search by using phrases like mathematics, language arts, and social studies templates, but place the phrase between quotation marks.

If you can’t find what you want online, then create your own templates. Every word processing program includes template files that you can customize. In MicroSoft Word® you can use a template wizard to customize your template. Just click on “file,” then click on “new,” and then on “general templates” and you will see many commonly used templates. Customize the template and then save the file as your personal template that you can use again without reformatting the document.

A teacher’s time is a terrible thing to waste. For teachers, it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel. That’s why templates are important. These online resources can help make your life easier.