For those of you who think I (Mrs. Kolbert) know everything about computers, I will now share my secret. I definitely do not!

Look at this cartoon and you’ll see exactly what I (and most people who you think of as very “techy”) are doing when trying to troubleshoot a computer issue. Follow these steps and you can be a local computer expert too!

image credit: http://xkcd.com/627/

Filed Under (science) by Lee Kolbert on 19-04-2010

Photo Credit: Earthday.org
The following is a guest post by Earth Day Network, an environmental non- profit based in D.C.

Forty years ago, on April 22, 1970, more than 20 million people converged in small towns and major cities across the United States to help launch the modern environmental movement. That first Earth Day was part teach-in, part call-to-action and part celebration. At Earth Day Network, our Education program continues a successful history of environmental education initiatives dating back to the first Earth Day in 1970. We are continuing this tradition for the upcoming 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day on Thursday April 22, 2010. We have hundreds of resources to help go green and get involved in Earth Day.
Here’s a list of fun activities you can do with your kids to teach them about the environment.
· Pull out invasive plants and replace them with native species.
· Ride bikes, walk or take public transit.
· Volunteer at a local Earth Day event.
· Write a letter to a local policymaker.
· Start a family garden and grow healthy food. Start a compost pile and use a rain barrel.
· Switch out light bulbs for energy- efficient CFLs.
· Learn about the history of the environmental movement. Use activity ideas from Earth Day Network lesson plans.
· Paint an eco- mural. Use green art supplies.
· Make art from recycled objects.
· Play educational games Environmental Jeopardy.
· Use the interactive online Ecological Footprint quiz.
· View and discuss films on Earth Day TV.
· Clean up your playground, schoolyard, walking paths or watershed.
· Hold a recycling or waste reduction contest.
· Take your class outside.
· Compost your good scraps.
Need Help? Contact education@earthday.org for resources, ideas and support!
Filed Under (Discovery Education, science) by Lee Kolbert on 15-04-2010

On April 14, my students (along with thousands of others around the world) participated in an online webinar with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau. His message to our youth of taking care to preserve and restore our world’s oceans was very encouraging.

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day coming up next week, I was happy to hear that Discovery Education would be hosting a webinar where Philippe would speak directly to our students. I’ve heard Philippe speak (I’ve met him twice before) and I know he is very engaging, so I was really excited to make this an interesting experience for my 4th graders.

I prepared my students for this by downloading Ocean’s Deadliest from Discovery Streaming (if you are a subscriber, just click the Discovery Streaming link, log in and you will be brought to the video). As we watched Philippe on this exciting documentary, we got a good sense of Philippe’s mission. It was good for the students to have a sense of connection with Philippe prior to the webinar.

While Philippe spoke about the oceans, overfishing, pollution and simple changes we can all make to create a positive change, he shared some photos and videos. My students recognized much of what he shared from the documentary. It was familiar and made sense to them. There was also the backchannel scrolling up on the sidebar. (It was fascinating to watch how well the students attended to the chat as well as to what Philippe was sharing.)

Later that evening, I noticed that one of my students, Julia, blogged about the webinar. Reading her post was such a heart-warming, proud moment for me because it was unprompted. Julia is one of my best writers and brilliant thinkers. If you read her post and see what she came up with, you will see why.

Thanks to Philippe for sharing his message in such a friendly, down-to-earth manner. Thanks also to Discovery for hosting the webinar. Special thanks to Julia for an awesome blogpost!

Filed Under (Collaboration, science) by Lee Kolbert on 10-04-2010

Janna and  Chelsea, a couple of students from Dean Shareski‘s class at The University of Regina, created these videos for my students. The videos are just a few minutes long and follow the fun theme of “Jay Leno meets Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The girls ask random university students some basic questions that focus on our science standards, “Can you name the planets?” and “Why do we have seasons?”

We will soon begin our unit on Earth and Space science and it will be good for my students to see how well some university students know some of the same concepts they will be expected to understand. I plan to share these videos with my kids and then challenge them to create a project that will explain the concepts to others. This will be a great way to kick off our unit and will give my students a good sense of purpose while working on their projects.

Thanks to Janna and Chelsea for their hard work! Thanks also to Dean for connecting Janna and Chelsea with my class.


Filed Under (reading) by Lee Kolbert on 04-04-2010

I found this site on the Internet where you can read entire books for free! It’s called ManyBooks.net. They have over 26,500 books that you can read online OR download for free to your computer or handheld device like iPod Touch, Kindle and the new iPad. Many of the texts are from Project Gutenberg but many books from other sources are here as well.

Although most of the books are old, there are many classics and non-fiction books that could prove very helpful for research. On a quick search, I found Alice in Wonderland and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (in addition to many of his plays). Some other interesting titles:

You can search by keyword and also browse by author, title, genre and language. I found browsing by genre to be the most fascinating; clicking from topic to book to book to author back to book and to another book. I spent quite a bit of time exploring the site and even found that if you search the author’s name, there’s a link on the right-hand side to Wikipedia where you can learn more about that author.

I hope you’ll try it and leave a comment telling what was the most interesting book you found. Is this something you think you would use? Would you download a book on your computer and read it (PDF) or read it on your iPod Touch or iPad or Kindle? Or are you a hard-copy book kinda person?

I look forward to your comments.

Image credit: Valentina Photography on Flickr (Creative Commons)