BioBreak PD: Become a Better Writer

edtech feb16


BioBreak PD: Using Student Voice

edtech Feb2


BioBreak PD: Databases and Exhibits

edTech Jan9


Venture into the land of Polar Bears

Photo Credit: katieforeman2010 Flickr via Compfight cc

Whether it is winter time or not these majestic white arctic beasts are a fascination with young and old. They are also a great cross-curricular subject area in the classroom!

Content Collection by Discovery Education (Canada)

  • has 2004 items from videos, interactives, images, audio, text, and boards that will allow students to get a solid understanding of Polar Bears. You can create greenscreening (with DoInk app) opportunities where students could be reporters on a Polar Bear Excursion or they can use the images in a presentation. Discovery Education also hosts an annual Live Virtual Field Trip from Churchill, Manitoba at the end of October. It is definitely one to participate in if you have a DE subscription.

Here’s Frank’s Polar Bear video (19:17)

explaining not only his trip but also tidbits about Polar Bears. Although it is long, a teacher could show bits of it at a time to students.

The Smithsonian TweenTribune also has some differentiated resources on Polar Bears:

The town that polar bears built

Churchill, Manitoba, a sparsely populated town at the mercy of the Northern winds off Canada’s Hudson Bay, might be just another dot on the map if not for its seasonal inhabitants of the four-legged variety. But like clockwork every fall, hundreds of polar bears trundle through town on their way to the freezing bay, where they will hunt for seals after the ice packs enough to support their weight. More >

Lexile Levels: 690L 840L 1030L 1260L

Discussion Questions

These questions below could be put onto a Padlet, a collaborative Google Doc, or even TodaysMeet for students or small groups of students to input their ideas and responses.

Grades 3-4: Would you want to live in a town that was visited by hundreds of polar bear each year? Why or why not?
Grades 5-6: According to the article, polar bear tours have helped the town of Churchill, Manitoba, survive. In what way, if any, do you think the bears have benefitted from this exposure?
Grades 7-8: According to the article, some 10,000 tourists go to Churchill, Manitoba, each fall to see the polar bears. People are not a natural part of a polar bear’s environment. How do you think the presence of so many people has affected the way these polar bears live?
Grades 9-10: Knowing that the polar bears’ future is questionable, do you think many people who see polar bears in person will be inspired to find ways to help the bears survive? Or do you think most people will simply be happy to see the bears “before it’s too late?” Why?


Raise Awareness of Polar Bears
Students will create a product that will raise funds to help save polar bears.

Visual Resources: Polar Bears

Smithsonian Resources

  • Polar Bear Town  – Visit this site to explore episodes of the Smithsonian Channel’s series “Polar Bear Town.” The site features short videos, biographies and a map of Churchill, Manitoba. It also includes a playlist of related videos that can teach you everything you need to know about bears.
  • From Impact to Action: Wildlife Experts Share Data, Stories, and Responses from Young People – Invite students to view this webinar in which audience members and a panel of experts from the National Zoo discuss climate change, wildlife and what young people are doing to make a difference. The discussion, presented by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, zeroes in on the specific impact of global warming on Arctic polar bears.
  • Save an Endangered Species  – Use this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to have students create a conservation advertisement aimed at saving an endangered species.
  • Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely  – Use the lessons in this National Museum of Natural History site to help students examine changes in the Arctic’s climate—which have been observed by both polar scientists and polar residents—and explore how those changes impact the Arctic’s wildlife and its peoples.
  • These Researchers Put a Camera on a Polar Bear  – Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a polar bear? Watch the video in this Smithsonian article to find out.
  • Climate Change at the Poles  – Read this article from the National Museum of Natural History to learn about the impact rapid climate change is having on polar bears in the Arctic.
  • The Politics of Viewing Polar Bears  – Tourists flock to a coastal Alaskan town to photograph the vulnerable icons. Read this Smithsonian article to learn why that is raising some hairy ethical questions.

World Wildlife Fund

has some fabulous cross-curricular Polar Bear lessons that are not to be missed!

LearnAlberta > Online Reference Centre

You will need to be an Alberta teacher to access unless your school division has subscriptions to these resources.


Get Techy w/Graphic Design, Team Tools, ELA, Note-taking

Photo Credit: palmerion Flickr via Compfight cc

 With access to a variety of digital tools and resources, students have the opportunity to consume, collaborate and create some pretty memorable learning. Check out the 4 specific resources below:

  • 7 Creative Student Design Projects to Try with Canva – a web-based graphic design platform (including apps for iPad and Chromebook) and a great tool for teachers to introduce and explore visual literacy. It also has a drag-and-drop functionality that makes the design process simple. Teachers and students can create sharp-looking presentations, posters, multi-page documents, marketing materials, social media graphics, and more using Canva’s 1 million+ photos, icons, and layouts.

Teachers should visit Canva for Education to get how-tos, lesson plans, and teacher-oriented advice. One of my favorite features: Student designs can be shared, allowing teachers to view and add comments.


Padlet (with new features in the last six months!) – With padlet you can create an online post-it board (with photos, documents, web links, video, and music) that you can share with any student or teacher you want. Just give them the unique Padlet link. Use it to brainstorm a topic/idea, a question parking lot, input student work in one place, online portfolio for projects or school year, exit ticket, icebreaker activities, mind maps, parent/school communication, book discussions, analyze a quote/poem/lyrics, current events discussions and sharing, complete the story, and so on.

Todaysmeet is an online backchannel that is quick and easy to set up and use. Pick a room name, choose to have it ‘open’ for one hour to one year. Use it for class discussions, sharing of information, questions, taking notes during speaker/meeting events, brainstorming, group discussions and sharing. Project it for all to see and even copy the transcript at the end of the event/time slot.

Socrative is an online classroom feedback tool. It takes a little bit more effort to set up but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty versatile! Quickly assess students with prepared activities or on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding. Then use the auto-populated results to determine the best instructional approach to most effectively drive learning. There is a Teacher and a Student app/website login.


From online videos, movie-making to virtual reality there are some fantastic ways to engage middle years and high school students.

  • The TurboNote Chrome extension enables students to take notes while watching any video. To take notes students just need to click the TurboNote extension icon in their browsers and start writing notes in the notepad that appears on the right-hand side of the screen.

BioBreak PD: Augmented and Virtual Reality


Don’t be Wasteful!

In Alberta, students in grade four study Waste and Our World where they look at their local, national and international environments and see how they can make a difference in being eco-friendly.

There are a variety of resources available for this unit for teachers and students to interact with. What I’d like to point out is how teachers can structure this unit so that students not only consume the pertinent information but that they also have time to collaborate and then create/demonstrate their learning.

Background information

The village of Kamikatsu in Japan has taken their commitment to sustainability to a new level. While the rest of the country has a recycling rate of around 20 percent, Kamikatsu surpasses its neighbors with a staggering 80 percent. After becoming aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide associated with burning garbage, the town instated the Zero Waste Declaration with the goal of being completely waste-free by 2020.

Possible Tasks

  • 7 Day Household Waste Challenge and then make a copy of this Google Form to tally the results. How can your home, classroom or school become a Zero Waste environment like Kamikatsu? Post your findings and ideas in an online environment to get feedback from other experts and/or classrooms around the world.
  • Make A Difference Presentation template – create a Zero Waste proposal for your teacher, your Principal, the Superintendent, the Mayor or even a local community store. Post this to a classroom blog or other online environment.
  • Videoconference with various Waste Management experts, other schools who have or close to Zero Waste
  • Waste and Our World Action Plan
  • Waste Reduction Challenge