A Trip on the Wild Side: From the Rainforest to the Desert

March 2015

“Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

According to USGS, the earth’s surface is 71% water. What many students don’t know is that this doesn’t translate into an unlimited supply of drinking water, especially considering that 97% of it is ocean water.

With all lifeforms dependent on water for survival, it’s important that our students understand the role of water and how it affects our present and our future. Bring this lesson to life for your students by joining Kari Vigerstol, senior hydrologist on +The Nature Conservancy's Global Water team and science teacher Tyler DeWitt as they first visit Seattle’s unique watershed before zipping over to the Verde River, a vital water source for Arizona’s dry desert. During this live broadcast, one classroom will be chosen to participate live using Google Hangouts on Air.

Don't miss this great learning opportunity for your students! Event details are listed below:

“Wild Biomes: From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert”
April 8, 2015 at 12 pm ET.
Register here for this unique event.

Classes that would like to watch the live virtual field trip can do so by visiting this link. Classes can also watch an archived copy or other Nature Works Everywhere productions by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube channel.

After watching the virtual field trip, students can continue the learning by using these fantastic supplemental materials:

This virtual field trip is the second in a series of future broadcasts that will examine the interconnectedness of people and nature. This program is designed for students in the third through eighth grade.

Through this program, students will gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the following key concepts:

  • Biomes (temperate rainforest, desert)
  • Water quality
  • Water quantity
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Urban watershed
  • Arizona desert
  • Verde River
  • Geography
  • Rainfall
  • How water affects people and how people affect water
  • Where does your water come from?

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving the beauty of our natural world. That is why they created +Nature Works Everywhere “to help students learn the science behind how nature works for us -- and how we can help keep it running strong.”

The partnership between us and nature has never been as important as it is now. Do your students understand where we belong in this fragile relationship? Let’s bring this lesson to life for them and help them become our future changemakers!

Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by We Are Teachers.

The 9 C's of Digital Literacy

March 1, 2015


Click on the image above or 
click on this link to view a larger version of the above image.

Today, at my keynote for the California League of Schools Annual Conference North, I will be discussing what I perceive to be the 9 C's of Digital Literacy and how to integrate these skills in a Common Core classroom.

We all know that our digital natives are very at ease with technology. In fact, they’re in love with it, but does that automatically make them digital proficient?

When I originally pondered this question, I began to realize that the 5 C's often discussed in education today - communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship - needed to be expanded to include these other areas as well: curation, copyright, character and connectedness. I believe that these digital literacy skills are essential for success in today's modern world. It’s more important than ever for educators to teach students how to become digitally literate so that they are career and college ready.

Beyond the Textbook: Virtual Field Trips for Science & Social Studies

January 2015

Have you ever wanted to take your students on a field trip around the world? What if they could visit the deserts and grasslands of Africa for free? Would you jump at the opportunity? On February 5, 2015 at 12pm Eastern Time, this opportunity will become a reality for your students.

Join +The Nature Conservancy's Charles Oluchina and science teacher Tyler DeWitt as they host this wonderful learning opportunity for students using Google’s Hangouts on Air. This 40 minute live broadcast, "Take a Virtual Field Trip to the Deserts and Grasslands of Africa," will transport your students to Burkina Faso to learn how one African farmer solved the challenges of desertifcation before heading to Kenya to learn the benefits of ecotourism and how grasslands are vital to the sustainability of the earth. Then, teachers will be able to extend the learning for their students through a first peek at +PBS LearningMedia's fabulous online collection of videos, interactive games, and lesson plans from the new PBS series EARTH A New Wild.

To sign up for this unique event, register at the Nature Works Everywhere website by clicking here.

Classes can watch the live virtual field trip or the archived copy by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube channel. This virtual field trip is the first in a series of future broadcasts that will examine the interconnectedness of people and nature. This program is designed for students in the third through eighth grades.

Through this program, students will gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the following key concepts:

  • Working with nature so nature works with us
  • People and Conservation
  • Desertification
  • Smart Development
  • Ecotourism
  • Habitat
  • Grasslands
  • Reforestation
  • Land preservation

+Nature Works Everywhere also have fabulous lesson resources for science, geography, and social studies classes. Some examples of what you can find on the Nature Works Everywhere website are listed below:

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving the beauty of our natural world. That is why they created Nature Works Everywhere “to help students learn the science behind how nature works for us -- and how we can help keep it running strong.”

The partnership between us and nature has never been as important as it is now. Do your students understand where we belong in this fragile relationship? Let’s bring this lesson to life for them and help them become our future changemakers!

This blog post is sponsored by We Are Teachers.

Teach Your Students How to Dumpster Dive

October 2014

"Teach Your Students How to Dumpster Dive" was the name of my presentation at the San Gabriel Valley CUE Tech Fair on October 18. My session was on how to teach students to be expert researchers and great content creators. I also focused on the concepts of copyright, fair use, free to reuse, and public domain since most students (and even many teachers) don't understand that the Internet is not a free buffet where you eat without paying the bill. The goal is to teach students how to sift through the trash to find the treasure.

Incidentally, while searching for a good (free to reuse) image for my presentation, I discovered that dumpster diving is considered a recreational activity for some and a philosophical way of living for others. The latter group are known as freegans, people who adhere to an anti-consumerist lifestyle. But I digress....

In addition to explaining how to use Google Advanced Search, I also wanted to build a list of credible websites that teachers and students could use.

Below is the list I'm developing. I plan to add to it if I come across anything new.


Nope. Kidshealth.org is not on the list by mistake. In my class, my students learn about disabilities while reading Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon," and that's where they go to find articles about the different disabilities that people have. I like the fact that it's medical information written in language that kids can understand. Plus, all articles are reviewed by doctors so I take that as an opportunity to discuss with my students the importance of discerning true medical facts from myths written by people outside of the profession.

I hope this list is helpful. If you have a great website to share, please add it as a comment.

Amplify the Learning with PBS LearningMedia


Why PBS Digital Innovators love teaching
July 2014

Everyone loves summer - students and teachers alike. We can easily guess what students like to do with their summer, but what about teachers?  I, like many other teachers I know, actually spend a part of my summer planning for the next school year and working on professional development.

This past June I had an unique opportunity to take my learning to a new level when I was chosen as a Lead PBS Digital Innovator.  Earlier this year, PBS selected 100 educators from across the country to join their LearningMedia Digital Innovators program.  From this group, they then choose the top 16 educators to attend the PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Summit in Washington, D.C.  We were also accompanied by our local PBS station representatives for two-days of professional development in our nation’s capitol.

While at the Digital Innovators Summit, I learned a wealth of information and connected with some of the most amazing educators in the country.  I discovered that PBS LearningMedia weaves all forms of media - texts, images, videos, and interactive games - into a dynamic learning experience for all students.  Some great resources shared were PBS NewsHour Extra, a site created to teach current events in the classroom with accompanying lesson plans for teachers to use.  Another was a self-paced lesson on the The Powers of the Government where students can work independently at the speed that is customizable to them.  For hands-on learning, I was impressed with the Nova Elements interactive which allows students to build their own atoms to reinforce their learning.  There are also adventure games like Mission U.S. where a student can role-play to learn about an important historical event.  Lastly, what English teacher wouldn’t appreciate having a go-to place when teaching Shakespeare?

Not only has PBS LearningMedia created and curated great resources for teachers to use in the classroom, they also provide professional development collections like Professional Development for the Common Core, a rich resource for teachers who want to learn how to adapt their lessons to these new standards.  For those who want to create a 21st Century classroom, they need to visit the Digital Tools webpage to enhance their curriculum with technology.  PBS LearningMedia is also constantly evolving and many great additions like Interactive Quiz and PuzzleMaker tools will be added this fall.

PBS LearningMedia is a treasure trove of primary sources, interactive content, and lesson ideas.  Teachers, if you haven’t delved into this online resource yet, you need to start today.  My brain has been churning with all that I learned from the Digital Innovators Summit, and I can’t wait to try them all out when school starts again for me in August.

If you already use PBS LearningMedia in your classroom, please share your favorite PBS resources below.

This post originally appeared on the PBS SoCal Education Blog on July 24, 2014.