A New Year for Trees: Digital Resources for Earth and Environmental Science

| By Yonah Kirschner, Program Manager, DigitalJLearning Network

The Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat begins this year on Sunday evening, January 24th. Tu Bishvat, the New Year for Trees, marks the beginning of spring in Israel, when the winter rains start to subside and tree blossoms begin to bud. As the Jewish holiday most closely connected to the environment and natural world, Tu Bishvat provides a yearly opportunity for teachers to include earth and environmental science in their curriculum. We’ve collected engaging and educational websites and apps that can find a place in both Judaic Studies and also enhance earth and environmental sciences curriculum.

 

Websites:

“Build a Tree” Dendrochronology Activity
This interactive website lets students experiment with dendrochronology, the scientific analysis of tree rings, through a tree ring building tool. Students can choose from various environmental conditions and see how they affect the growth of the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Cookies Learning and Game
While the previous tool focuses on the influence of temperature and precipitation on tree growth, this game includes several other factors. Students can first learn about how the various factors influence tree ring appearance. They can then test their knowledge through a fun game, matching the environmental factor to a section of the tree ring.

 

 

 

World’s Most Beautiful Trees Photography
If anyone in your class thinks nature is boring, show them these photos of the most stunning trees in the world. The best part is that the tree species is listed for each one, so this website could be the inspiration for a larger research project on a particular kind of tree and its adaptations to a specific environment. Bonus: There’s a Part 2 with more beautiful trees! And for more awesome photographs to get your students excited about the natural world, check out Earth Science Picture of the Day.

 

 

A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change
This comprehensive yet easily navigable website from the EPA can serve as a great introduction about climate change for your students. Though primarily text-based, there are plenty of great visual elements as well as a number of interactive elements, including a clickable clues of climate change section, challenge questions, a carbon dioxide emissions calculator, and a game to test your water sense. Additional features include a glossary of terms, frequently asked questions, and resources for teachers.

 

 

 

EcoKids Games
These simple educational games would be best for younger students and can be used to introduce environmental concepts, such as recycling, food chains, and energy saving. The games don’t take very long, so they could be used as part of a station model or as homework for a flipped classroom.

 

 

 

Project Noah
Launched by NYU and supported by National Geographic, Project Noah’s mission is to mobilize citizen scientists and collect important ecological data to help preserve biodiversity. Your students can join the project via the free mobile app, which they can use in three modes: Spottings (submit a photograph and get help identifying the species), Field Guide (browse through plants and animals that have been spotted in your area), and Field Missions (contribute to ongoing research projects). Students will enjoy being a part of the active community of science professionals and other students from around the world.

 

 

CK-12 Earth Science
This extensive resource includes lessons, activities, study aids, quizzes, and more, for dozens of topics in earth science. Teachers may want to let students explore topics that are interesting to them, or choose a few topics for students to study more in depth.

 

 

 

 

Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth
With bright, bold images and an easily navigable interface, this website is ideal for elementary and middle school students. They’ll be able to explore a number of topics related to Earth’s climate as well as play games, watch videos, and engage with other interactive elements like the Climate Time Machine. With plenty to see and discover, Climate Kids could become a favorite part of earth science in your blended learning classroom.

 

 

Mr. R’s Tree Song
This catchy song will introduce Pre-K and Kindergarten students to the basic anatomy of trees as well as what they provide for both animals and humans.

 

Albert & Junior - Why Do We Need Trees
With this fun, colorful animated video, Pre-K and Kindergarten students will be able to learn the various reasons why we need trees, including for their shade, fruit, oxygen, and wood.

 

Tree Videos from Veritasium
The casual, friendly host of this video series will keep both middle school and high school students engaged. Then they’ll be able to learn the science of how trees can grow so tall and discover the mystery behind where trees get their mass.

 

Interactive Ecosystem Activities
These interactives from Scholastic would be great as part of a flipped or blended classroom for elementary or middle school. There are 11 different modules to introduce and reinforce ecosystem topics, including biomes, food chains, the water cycle, symbiosis, and more. Each module comes with a video for students to watch first and then a quiz where they can assess their learning. Teachers may want to assign modules as homework or include them in a station-rotation model.

 

The Habitable Planet
This multimedia course for high school students can serve as a great supplement to your environmental or earth science curriculum. Developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field, the website includes 13 content units, an online textbook, videos, and visuals as well as interactive labs where students can experiment with population, ecology, disease, and energy. With such a variety of learning options, this resource has endless possibilities for blended learning.

 

Global Forest Watch
This awesome website has a number of features that can be used for teaching environmental science. The interactive map enables visualizations of forest data all over the world, such as tree cover loss and gain, land use, biodiversity hotspots, protected areas, and much more. Students can also choose a country of interest, view its statistics, and visualize its environmental data. All the data is downloadable, so the website could serve as a great start to an interdisciplinary project.

 

 

Apps:

EarthObserver
With this app, students can see the planet from a bird’s eye view and study geological maps, explore mountains, and delve into an incredible atlas of earth and environmental imagery. Some of the maps included are: nautical, topographic, ocean floor, atmosphere, and land surface.

 

 

Language Central for Earth Science
Middle schools students will enjoy reviewing earth science vocabulary with this app, which includes flash cards, a trivia challenge, and a word completion game.

 

 

 

Wonders of Geology (iPad only)
This highly acclaimed app takes students on a field trip over American’s great mountains. Through accessible narration, beautiful photography, and animated diagrams, they’ll be introduced to concepts and terms in geology, such as tectonics, faults, and erosion.

 

 

 

Want more tips for integrating these resources into your classroom? Contact us!