FreshPlans visited the Museum of Discovery in Ft. Collins, Colorado. This hands-on science museum offers a wonderful experience for visitors. When you enter, you find yourself in one giant, buzzing, blinking room. The Museum of Discovery has lots of special programs and resources for area educators. If you’re not in or around Ft. Collins, you can still use our inspirations to recreate some of the experience in your own classroom.
Once you adjust a bit, you can see a number of different exhibits.
We started with music. The exhibit begins with a discussion of why music is important. Music is, anthropologists tell us, a basic characteristic of human beings. If you decide to set up a Music Discovery area in your classroom, you could create a bulletin board that explains why you chose this subject.
We tried out the jam session rooms. In these, you can try out different musical instruments, and you can invite the people in the other rooms to join you as you all attempt to play the instruments. Each room has some explanation about the nature of the instrument, too. Ask student families or the school music teacher to lend some instruments to the class for your Music Discovery area. Have students research the instruments you use and create signs to put near the instruments.
In addition to some interesting hands-on exhibits about different musical instruments and ways of recording music, this part of the museum had some sound science. The picture above shows a tube of Styrofoam pellets. As we turned a knob, a sound went from high to low, and we could see the sound waves moving the foam pellets, as you can see in the picture above. The pellets flew into the air as the sound waves went past, and we could clearly see the shape of the waves. We could also see that different pitches created different kinds of movement.
To recreate part of this experience, stretch a balloon over a bowl as a skin is stretched over a drum (don’t blow up the balloon, but you may need to cut it). Set some grains of rice on the balloon membrane. Now, as you tap on the membrane, you’ll see how the vibrations travel along the surface of your drum. There’s not much sound, of course, but it’s a way to make the sound waves visible in your classroom.
Another exhibit was the habitats area showing the kinds of habitats found in and around Ft. Collins. You can create a Habitats Discovery area in your classroom, too.
The first step is to determine what habitats are represented in your area. Do you have natural areas around a river? Then you, like the museum, have a riparian habitat nearby. You might have an urban habitat, tide pools, desert, or prairies. Create a bulletin board showing the habitats in your vicinity.
The museum had stuffed animal specimens, which you probably won’t have handy, but they also had photos labeled with information about the animals found in their region. Online research will probably turn up plenty of great photos. Use MS Paint or another graphics program to label your photos, print them out, and add them to the bulletin board.
Another of our favorite parts of the museum was the Nanotechnology area. If you have some science discovery tools you’ve collected over time, set up a Science Discovery area in your classroom. Create a sign explaining what students can do with the science experiences, and what they might learn. The museum used both directions (“Build a giant carbon nanotube!”) and questions to guide visitors through the experience, and you can do the same.
If you create a Museum of Discovery in your own classroom, you might want to invite other classrooms to visit and try it out. Better yet, team with other classrooms and prepare discovery experiences for each other. It’s a great project leading up to Open House!
There may not be many good local options for field trips when you’re studying Africa, but there are quite a few places you can go online. Check out our suggestions for virtual field trips.
Virtual Camera Tours
- Virtual South Africa
- Great Pyramids of Giza
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (above — click for full screen option)
- The Castle of Good Hope in South Africa
- The National Museum of African Art has online exhibits to explore. There are also lots of interactive and printable resources in the Playtime section.
- African Voices at the National Museum of Natural History has an interactive timeline, exhibits, and more to explore.
- The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium has a fun kids section and interesting exhibits and information primarily about the Congo.
- The Arts of Africa at the Brooklyn Museum
- National Geographic’s Crittercam game provides plenty of basic keyboard practice as players help film lions.
- PBS has an African Exploration with a challenging question and answer game, lots of information, and lesson plans. The “For Kids” section is no longer available, but older students will find many learning opportunities.
- The Brookfield Zoo has an animated game called “In Search of the Ways of Knowing Trail.” Kids make decisions to get through the story, encountering facts and challenges along the way.
Taking a virtual field trip or two will enrich your study of Africa and help students get a more accurate mental picture.
World War I can be confusing to modern students. Here are some lesson plans that help make sense of the events and the experience.
Virtual Field Trip
Visit the new online exhibit of the National World War I Museum.
- Begin with the Interactive Timeline. The events are listed and described, but in a format that encourages additional exploration. Turn students loose to figure out the best way to include these events on your classroom timeline.
- Add these events to your classroom map as well.
- Visit Harmonies of the Homefront and listen to the WWI-era songs there. Five songs are available for listening and there are six more sheet music covers to view. Depending on the grade level of the students, choose a selection of the songs and have students conduct a survey to find out how many people remember these songs. Again depending on the age of your students, they might ask their parents and grandparents, survey friends and neighbors, ask their Facebook or Twitter contacts, arrange to visit a local nursing home to survey the residents, or prepare an online survey with a tool like Survey Monkey. Create graphs and charts to show the results of the survey.
- Visit Man and Machine, an online exhibition with quotations and photos showing the German soldier’s experience. Challenge students to write about the effects of technology on the war, as reflected in these materials.
- Download the Family Guide and print it out for some fun worksheet activities.
- Teachers can also request lesson plans called Lessons of Liberty.
If you’re near Kansas City, be sure to visit the Museum in person!
One of the online exhibitions of the WWI Museum is a collection of Canadian propaganda posters. FirstWorldWar.com has an international collection of posters (plus lots of other resources). Learn NC has American propaganda posters, with interesting commentary on each.
Use these resources to study propaganda posters from World War I. Here are some questions to discuss:
- What did these posters ask people to do? (knit, enlist, give money, grow vegetables, etc.)
- Why were people asked to do these things?
- What emotions did they appeal to?
- Which groups did they reach out to? (women, immigrants, young men, students, etc.)
- Did they show bias against any groups of people?
- What colors did the posters use?
- What styles of art did they use?
- What kinds of lettering did the posters use?
Compare WWI propaganda posters with modern Homeland Security documents. We found the “If You See Something Say Something” campaign, but you may have other examples. Although the United States has been at war during our students’ lifetimes, the American people are not asked to make sacrifices, to enlist, or even to plant vegetables. Have students research or discuss why those requests were made in the past, and why they are not made now. This will help students to understand the way that World War II affected the people “on the home front.”
Challenge students to create a modern propaganda poster, either using the “If You See Something, Say Something” slogan or encouraging people to take some other action.
The Ozark Folk Center is a state park in Mountain View, Arkansas, where a mountain town has been recreated as living history. Here visitors can get a greater understanding of the life of American pioneers.
Certainly, most of the people in a town like this in the 1800s would have been farmers, growing their own food and making most of the things they uses. However, there were some special skills that a community would need, and we visited the people who had special jobs that shared those skills with their neightbors.
We visited a wood carver. Many men would whittle a spoon or other household objects, but there might also be a woodcarver in town, a person who could make special things like wooden toys. In the town where we live, the first Christmas tree was in the home of a German immigrant toymaker. He charged people ten cents to come see his Christmas tree, and gave each person a carved wooden toy. At the Folk Center, the woodcarver makes fine wooden toys.
Another woodworker was the cooper, someone who could make barrels, churns, and other large wooden objects.
The cooper at the Folk Center told us that a small town wouldn’t usually have a cooper, but there would usually be a farmer who did some coopering, making butter churns and wooden bowls for the people of the community.
A community might also be lucky enough to have a potter. The Folk Center’s potter makes beautiful pots, bowls, cups, and more. A pioneer community would count on a potter to make jugs and dishes.
A larger town might have a printer, someone who could print newspapers for the town, and possibly also signs and circulars for stores. The Folk Center’s printer showed us how he takes metal type, small metal letters, from wooden cases, puts them together, and then prints with his printing press. No electricity required. One of the things he printed was a set of rules for students from 1872:
It was fun to visit a pioneer town. It was interesting to see how people worked and went to school more than a century ago.
We went to a city market and a country one. Check out our Farmers Market Lesson Plans, too!
Dr. Douglas Hutchings tells us about his experience as an entrepreneur.