Marco the Molecule Helps All Ages to Appreciate Water

Marco the MoleculeFor people to care deeply about conservation, they need to have an emotional connection to the environment. This can spring from a love of nature and birds, memories of happy family times on the beach, or even a beloved story or fictional character. That is one of the reasons why I wrote Marco the Molecule, a story focused on one microscopic water molecule and his 4-billion-year-long adventure. And it is great fun to see students learn important science concepts and meet other learning standards while they are enjoying a good story and entertaining activities.

The miracle of water and how it brings life to our beautiful world cannot be fully appreciated by simply learning about the water cycle. Ideally, people of all ages should visit diverse ecosystems like wetlands and deserts, and investigate how water has transformed those places and the organisms that live there. Whether or not this is possible, stories of those places can engage all ages and offer opportunities to connect with an important message on an emotional level. For example, Marco endures terrifying experiences, but along the way he also has a lot of fun and eventually learns how important he and his water molecule friends are to life on Earth. As I have been sharing the story, it has been so gratifying to see how all ages can empathize with his trials and join in with his jubilations, inspiring deeper connections to him, as well as creating more lasting memories of the importance of water and the water cycle.

The story is fully illustrated and designed for coloring, to engage young people with art, in addition to the story. Activities at the end of the book, such as a crossword puzzle, word search, maze, writing activity, and many more are designed to reinforce important concepts in enjoyable ways. It even includes a scavenger hunt, for fellow adventurers to find Marco and his friends outside in diverse places like the plants and animals they find. My hope is that the story and activities will tap into children’s innate sense of wonder about the natural world to further engage them and help them to connect on a deeper level.

My motivation—apart from the fact that Marco’s adventures are a blast to write and illustrate—is to inspire all ages, from the very young to adults, to better appreciate water and how it has transformed our world. From this understanding flows concern for the environment and a desire to conserve our precious resources like water. We can learn countless statistics about pollution, desertification, and all of the other challenges facing our world, but without the emotional component, like the connection than can be forged with a favorite endangered species in a local ecosystem or a fictional character like Marco, we will too often fail to act. This moment in history is a crucial one, when each of us—young and old—must do our part to protect our beautiful Earth for the generations of humans and other organisms to follow. By sharing Marco and other characters that all ages can connect with, such as the EverGreen Twins, I hope to help ignite a passion for conservation that compels people to act, not out of duty or guilt, but out of love for what they care about most.

Rick Reynolds, M.Ed.

SOLVE’S New Environmental Service-Learning Curriculum

SOLVE Environmental Service-Learning Teacher's GuideWe have been honored to work with SOLVE, one of the oldest and most-respected environmental organizations, to produce a variety of resources, including education boards, website content, and a 100+ page Environmental Service-Learning Teachers’ Guide with lesson plans aligned to standards and adaptations/extensions to meet the needs of diverse learners. This curriculum was developed in collaboration with the organization’s Education and Green Team coordinators, as well as a variety of other educators who have successfully integrated environmental service-learning projects, including riparian restoration and litter and marine debris education and removal. The project was recently completed and is in the process of being printed. Contact us or SOLVE’s Education Coordinator Quintin Bauer if you have questions or would like to receive a copy of the guide.

As it is distributed we look forward to gaining additional feedback which will be integrated into the guide and other resources over time. The guide also includes pre- and post-tests and feedback forms which will be given to every student who participates to gather additional data to measure outcomes and continually improve the program.

Producing resources like these which help teachers and students is a primary focus at Engaging Every Student, and we list a variety of other projects on this site, including training resources, multimedia content, and books of lesson plans aligned to learning standards in all content areas. Many of these were created in collaboration with other educators who tested the lessons with their students and provided feedback which we used to improve the curricular materials. It is so rewarding to work with like-minded colleagues to engage students . . . and hopefully also help those students contribute to making the world a better place.

The WELL Project & Place-Based Education

At a recent meeting of the Place-Based Education NW group I was so inspired to meet Stuart Perlmeter from the WELL (Water and Electricity Learning Lab) Project in Springfield, OR. He leads groups of high school and middle school students in professional-level water testing and other scientific investigations that result in usable data.

What has been the cost to the school district over the many years of this incredibly successful program? $0. The Springfield Utility Board and other agencies cover the entire cost of program, including Stuart’s compensation, high-end equipment for all of the students, and transportation. In return, they receive professional-quality data that support the health of all of the areas’ residents, human and non-human alike, and other benefits. And the students receive invaluable real-life experience that connects them to their local environment and allows them to give back to their community.

Watch the video below to learn more, or click here to learn more about all the innovative initiatives of the WELL Project.

– Rick Reynolds

The Power of Peace and Place in Education

The San Juan Islands were in dispute.Did you know that the United States and Great Britain narrowly averted a third bloody war with each other in 1859? In a crisis known as The Pig War on San Juan Island in what is today northwest Washington State, anger over a shot pig and a long-simmering territorial dispute nearly led to untold deaths, calamity, and economic losses.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the pig was the only casualty in this lesson on how peace can be achieved. Instead of attacking one another, the Americans and British established a peaceful joint occupation on San Juan Island while the dispute could be decided by an international arbiter, who happened to be Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. Yet how many students–and even well-educated adults–know this story? Nearly every student learns of the bloody conflicts in our history, in which war is often glorified–or at least justified–as an appropriate means of resolving disputes, yet far too few learn about the true costs of war and how throughout history equally courageous men and women have successfully fought to prevent it. These alternative stories–like all education–are even more powerful if they are connected to the places in which they live, in this case the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

From learning about an episode such as this one–ideally through a visit to the place, or at least some kind of virtual field trip, many students would no doubt be inspired to learn more about the history of the time. This might include investigating the role of the governor of the Oregon Territory at the time or how Native Americans might have been impacted by the political maneuverings. By inspiring students with stories and investigations that connect with real places close to home, teachers can dramatically increase student engagement and learning. If done right, this can even help teach essential concepts such as how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Engaging Students with Games

Have you noticed that even students with otherwise short attention spans often enjoy playing games for hours on end? This is true for any well-designed game, be it a video game or one in the “real” world. As Jane McGonigal explains in her fascinating new book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, new research into gaming and “positive psychology” explain why this is the case, and how “gamification” of education and other aspects of our lives can lead to increased happiness, enhanced learning outcomes, and even real-world productivity and societal advancement.

We recently had the opportunity to provide consulting for the World of Naaya, a new immersive virtual world for elementary-age students that challenges them to use 21st Century Skills to solve problems and develop an increased understanding of global studies and other social studies and science concepts. The very exciting project is currently in the pilot stage. Click the link above to learn more!

Join the Hour of Code!

Students across the country are learning how to program computers with a variety of fun activities…anyone can do it!

Learn more at csedweek.org and then try one of the fun tutorials.

 

 

Start the video below to hear what President Obama had to say about why this is so important.

Environmental and STEM Education: A Natural Connection

We partnered with the Environmental Education Association of Oregon and the Portland Metro STEM Partnership to create an interactive Prezi presentation that briefly explains the natural connection between environmental and STEM education, or E-STEM. Check it out below or download the Prezi app for iPad or iPhone if you are currently using one of those devices.

You can read most of the script of the presentation below, but we highly recommend you explore the multimedia content, too!

E-STEM engages students and develops skills for a sustainable, productive society. E-STEM promotes the development of systems-thinking skills that employers want and our society needs to thrive.

Example Strategies

Opportunities for incorporating E-STEM abound both in and out of school. E-STEM gives students the tools to build sustainable, informed communities that are economically, environmentally, and socially sound.

Data Collection and Analysis

Programs such as StreamWebs support students and teachers in monitoring local streams and analyzing collected data, empowering them to improve water quality through their research while meeting critical science and math standards.

Campus Learning

Schools and school yards are ripe with opportunities for exploration and inquiry. All grades at Joseph Gale Elementary School in Forest Grove use campus features such as gardens and the solar energy system to drive learning. For example, first graders designed and tested rain gauges, then analyzed their results and improved their designs using engineering practices.

Students at Kennedy High School in Cottage Grove are reinforcing math lessons through hands-on problem solving to enhance school gardens, environmental service learning projects, and the livability of their community. Attendance has improved 91% since adopting this environmental lens for learning through which students develop a wide range of STEM skills.

Hood River Middle School students meet standards through the exploration of permaculture design principles, which examine the links between living and nonliving systems. School gardens and the greenhouse complex provide focal points for STEM investigations, and students harvest the food they produce for School Feasts, as well as their own weekly Farmer’s Market. In the process they gain valuable experience while learning first-hand about their local economy. Students also participate in Outdoor School, and build on those experiences through field research with partners such as the US Forest Service.

Need for Environmental and STEM Education

E-STEM creates the real-world context in which to develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills that every citizen needs in the 21st Century.It prepares students for today’s jobs and those of the future, strengthening our economy, conserving resources, and informing wise decision making in the face of complex choices. Universal access to these opportunities is essential for a just, sustainable society.

STEM and Our Planet

Our long-term prosperity depends on students choosing to enter STEM fields that are heavily influenced by environmental education.For example,environmental science jobs are expected to grow 25% by 2016, outpacing all other science jobs, and green chemistry alone is expected to grow 35-fold to become a 100 billion dollar industry by the year 2020.

E-STEM helps students understand concepts and investigate real issues. It prepares them to be engaged citizens who evaluate multiple perspectives and make informed decisions.But just as one would not expect kids to learn how to read by dropping them off at the library, we cannot expect them to become environmentally literate by simply taking them outside.

Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan

In 2009, the No Oregon Child Left Inside Act directed Oregon to create an Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) as part of a nationwide movement supported by over 50 million Americans. The Plan seeks to inspire deep environmental understanding in all students.

Environmental Literacy Strands

The ELP includes 5 interconnected Strands that deal with students’ understanding of the system dynamics of humans and the environment:

  • Systems thinking
  • Physical, living and human systems
  • Interconnectedness of people and the environment
  • Personal and civic responsibility
  • Investigate, plan and create a sustainable future

Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards are a natural fit with the Environmental Literacy Plan. All emphasize development of practices and skills, providing greater flexibility to explore content areas deeply in the context of addressing real-world problems. Environmental education allows teachers to utilize key teaching practices that are tied to student interest and success.

The alignment of the Plan to the standards gives teachers a wealth of opportunities to use E-STEM to really engage students AND address the standards. For example, one strand of the Plan involves understanding of the interconnectedness of people and the environment. This aligns with Next Generation Science Standards concerned with ecosystem interactions, energy, and dynamics.

Benefits of E-STEM

E-STEM engages students in the real world, employing the most effective strategies to help us meet rigorous standards. And it cultivates young thinkers to build sustainable communities.

Thank you for helping us to implement the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan as part of a growing E-STEM movement and essential complement to the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Download the plan from the Environmental Education Association of Oregon’s website at EEAO.org

References and Resources

Here are links to more information and ideas for helping students participate in meaningful E-STEM experiences:

Archie, M. (2003). Advancing Education through Environmental Literacy. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Download at: http://repositories.tdl.org/tamug-ir/handle/1969.3/27975

Bell, J., Wilson, J., and Liu, G.. Neighborhood Greenness and 2-year Changes in Body Mass Index of Children and Youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(6):547-553. Download at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000844

The National Education and Environment Partnership. (2002). Environmental Education and Educational Achievement: Promising Programs and Resources. Washington, DC: National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. Download at: http://www.neefusa.org/pdf/prom-programs.pdf

The National Environmental Education Foundation. (2000, Sep). Environment-Based Education: Creating High Performance Schools and Students. Washington, DC: National Environmental Education Foundation. Abstract at: http://www.neefusa.org/pdf/NEETF8400.pdf

Ritz, Stephen. (2012). A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx. TED.com. http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_ritz_a_teacher_growing_green_in_the_south_bronx.html

Taylor, A. & Kuo, F. Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better after Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2008;12(5):402-409. Abstract at: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/12/5/402

More Research, Case Studies, and Ideas at:

Dual Immersion Spanish Resources

I have been inspired by the success of dual immersion language programs, which are engaging students and supporting the development of two languages, such as Spanish and English, naturally and enjoyably.

The proliferation of technology resources provides countless additional ways to meet the needs of diverse learners, both during and beyond the school day. In addition, the readily available language learning tools provide opportunities for everyone to learn a new language and support dual language immersion students, including family members who want to better support children enrolled in the programs. And for people like me who are brushing up on Spanish skills that have been dormant for too long, interactive e-books, games, videos, and other Spanish language resources can help build proficiency incredibly fast…painlessly and joyfully. Have fun exploring these wonderful resources for building Spanish language skills for all ages!

Spanish Language GamesCurious George Juegos

Spanish Portals

Spanish Language E-Books and More for Emerging Readers

  • Cuentos Interactivos
    Wonderful interactive stories for Spanish immersion students
  • BookFlix (subscription or available through your local library)
    Sort by Spanish; includes many nonfiction books, including those paired with engaging fictional stories
  • StoryPlace
  • TumbleBooks (subscription or available through your school or local library)
    Search Spanish or just click Language Learning; also includes some games and video
  • WiggleWorks (grades preK-3; subscription or available through your school or local library)
  • Library2go (access through Oregon libraries)
  • ABC Literatura Infantil
  • Caballeros y Castillos

Spanish Language Reference Websites

Spanish Learning Activities to Print

Apps for Kids / All Ages

Software / Apps for Adults / Teens

Spanish Language Theater

More Resources

Enjoy and please let me know about other exceptional resources!
Rick Reynolds

Digital Citizenship for All Ages

I recently attended a meeting of knowledgeable instructional coordinators, library media specialists, and district administrators from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District in Oregon who shared strategies for promoting the digital citizenship and media savvy of our students and families. The proliferation of digital technology provides countless potential benefits, but it also necessitates thoughtful discussion and critical thinking exercises to ensure that it is used appropriately in ways that maximize its benefits and minimize potential harm.

Kate Donegan, the instructional coordinator at Trillium Creek Primary, shared a letter to parents which explained the concept of digital citizenship and how it was being taught at the school. The letter struck just the right balance between the need to educate our students about the appropriate, safe use of technology without making parents or students overly fearful. Parents were given examples of digital citizenship skills being taught and how they related to important learning standards.

Below are some of the best resources on the Web for promoting a higher level of understanding about appropriate and responsible technology use for all ages.

Resources for All Learners, Educators, and Parents

Elementary Activites, Articles, and Lesson Ideas

Activites, Resources, and Lessons for Teens
(and their Teachers and Parents)

Thank you for engaging others in this important topic and feel free to suggest more great resources!
– Rick Reynolds