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Secondary Smorgasbord #3 Out of the Deep Freeze: Revisit My Planet Earth Awards

Secondary Smorgasbord 
January Blog Hop 
(Month #3) 

Once again it is time for the Secondary Bloghop event.  The theme for this month is "Out of the Deep Freeze" and is about an idea whose time has come (could be something we are currently working on), or a product that doesn't get the attention we'd like it to get and should get because, darn it, it's really good! 

I'd like to tell you about one of my products that I would like to see get more attention.  It is called "The Mother Nature Awards for the Planet Earth."

Over the years of teaching I have come to realize that some topics are very difficult for my students.  I find that the students learn and perform much better if I teach in spurts.  I teach a new concept for 15-20 minutes, and then I give my students a "brain-break".  

A "brain-break" is a 2 or 3 minute break away from the topic currently being taught.  It is a couple of minutes where the student can relax, and it relieves the tension of a very complex lesson.  I am still a teacher who wants every minute to count.  So during a "brain-break" I usually throw out a bit of science trivia.  These are just fun and interesting facts that teach the student about the amazing natural world we live in.  Over the last few months my "brain-breaks" have consisted of the Mother Nature Awards for Planet Earth.

Here is an example:

These are PowerPoint slides.  I insert one of these slides into a PowerPoint on cellular respiration or photosynthesis or enzyme-catalyzed reactions.  My students have come to expect these little surprises and they get excited when one of these pops up into my otherwise overly technical lecture.  This is fun, it teaches a bit about the wonders of nature, and best of all, it gives the student just a minute to relax and get focused again before I launch back into the real topic of the day.

After a slide has been viewed, I print it, laminate it, and place it on the wall in my classroom.  I have been very pleasantly surprised at how often students stop by the wall to look at the Mother Nature Awards.

I have put together a group of 20 of these awards and placed them in my store on  There are two product listings, one for Grades 2-5 and a separate listing for grades 6-12.

The listing for grades 2-5 comes with a set of activity worksheets (42 pages) for the students to complete as the PowerPoint slide is being viewed.  The finished worksheets can be put together to make a great Mother Nature Award book.

The listing for grades 6-12 comes with a worksheet for students to conduct their own research to develop a PowerPoint slide for a Mother Nature Award of their own choosing.  This makes a nice homework assignment for a grade, or for a great extra credit opportunity.

Don't forget that Earth Day is coming up soon.  The Mother Nature Awards are a perfect Earth Day activity.

Did you miss the first two months of this fun blogging event?  Those posts can be viewed by clicking these links:
Month 1: A Buffet of Resources
Month 2: Favorite Holiday Traditions

Be sure to check out all of the other participants in our monthly blog hop. Thanks to Darlene Anne Curran (The ELA Buffet) and Pamela Kranz (Desktop Learning Adventures) for hosting our monthly blog hop event!

Have fun teaching!

Insects: A Dichotomous Classification Key Activity

Dichotomous Classification Keys:  KIDS LOVE 'EM!

There is just something about working through a classification key that is fun.  I love them, the students love them .... and the result is a classroom activity that is stimulating, educational, and ... well, it is just FUN!

In my 30+ years of teaching biology, I always look forward to my unit on classification and taxonomy. As a result,  I have developed quite a few teaching materials and lessons on this topic.  After posting these materials in my TpT store, I began to get more and more requests for additional activities that use a dichotomous classification key.  Well, here is the newest addition to this type of activity.

Click image to view product in my TpT store.

There are actually two activities in this product.  Students begin by using the included dichotomous key to the insects to identify 9 different insects. Second, students are given pictures of a representative organism from each of the five classes of the Phylum Arthropoda.  Students are asked to make good observations and develop their own dichotomous key for these arthropods. The dichotomous key and the two pages of pictures can be laminated and used year after year.  Student handouts include 2 pages for their written work. Analysis and follow up questions are also included to extend the activity.

I wrote this activity in response to requests from many upper elementary and middle school teachers.  Therefore, I feel this activity is most appropriate for grades 4-7.  However,  my experience teaching high school tells me that my first year biology students will love this as an introduction to classification.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed developing it.

Links to this and related products:

Insects: A Dichotomous Classification Activity
Dichotomous Key to a "Crazy" Animal Kingdom
Dichotomous Key to the Genus "Smiley"
FREE Dichotomous Key to Holiday Giving and Community Service
Classification and Taxonomy Task Cards

Giant Bundle of Interactive Notebook Pages and Warm-Ups

The feedback I have been receiving on my biology and life science interactive notebook pages has just been phenomenal!  Thank you so much!  I have received numerous requests to bundle all the sets together.  So for those of you who have been waiting, the "Bundled Set Part 1" is ready!

This bundled set covers an entire semester of topics taught in a typical high school biology class.  There are over 300 student pages, and teacher answer keys are included very every student page.

Yes, there will eventually be a"Bundle Part 2", but it is not likely to be seen until the summer of 2015.

So without further ado, here is a preview of the first bundled set of warm-ups, bell ringers, and interactive notebook pages.  Click on any image below to view this product on

Science Stuff: Top 5 Blog Posts of 2014

At the end of each year, I enjoy reading articles or watching TV shows about the the "most, best, greatest" things that happened in the year.  In doing so this year, it occurred to me that I should check my blog stats to determine "The Best of Science Stuff for 2014."

I looked at each blog post and picked out the top five that had the highest number of hits.  Already this is flawed..... A post written in January 2014 had a lot more time to receive hits than a post written in December of 2014.  Nonetheless, I stuck with the original plan and went with the five getting the most hits.

Of the five, three of them were no surprise.  They covered topics that are highly popular right now.  But I was a bit surprised by the other 2.

I am very pleased with all five of these posts.  I believe that each and every one of them offers tips, suggestions, and valuable information for the science classroom teacher.  I may be living in a world of denial, but it is my hope that some of my ramblings have been helpful to other teachers.

Below is the countdown to the top five.  Each is hyperlinked to the original blog post.  Click on the image to read the full article.  

So without further ado.....

And finally.....  The #1 post of 2014

Wishing you a very Happy New Year, and a successful second half of your school year!