Weekly Warm-Up: Must-See Environmental Films

The Oscars are just around the corner, and it’s a good time to remember that movies are a great way to inspire people and mobilize them to action. In the case of environmental or conservation-minded films, this is especially true. What do this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated films have to say about conservation and the environment? Here are five questions about some of the most … Continue reading Weekly Warm-Up: Must-See Environmental Films

Celebrate DEEPSEA CHALLENGE with National Geographic Education!

Filmmaker (Titanic, Avatar, Terminator) and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron has become the first person to complete a solo journey to Challenger Deep, the terminus of the Mariana Trench, and the deepest known point on planet Earth at nearly 7 miles below sea level.

Although it’s more like 2 leagues than 20,000, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE mission has the potential to bring mysteries of deep-ocean worlds to light for scientists, students, and dreamers alike. This incredible moment in the history of modern exploration is being reported by major news organizations around the world today (see stories on the New York Times and CNN), and the National Geographic Education team could not be more excited to share in the fervor.

As the educational outreach arm of the National Geographic Society, the organization sponsoring DEEPSEA CHALLENGE along with Rolex, we have developed a complete suite of materials to help teachers bring this scientific expedition to conduct deep-ocean research into their classrooms.  Here is a quick overview of the Nat Geo Education materials available.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE - National Geographic Education_IE_crop.jpgNatGeoEd.org/deepsea-challenge
The main DEEPSEA CHALLENGE education hub features maps, multimedia, reference materials, and more.  Below is a list of five favorite resources:

Learn about important milestones in underwater exploration, including the sinking of the Titanic and the inventions of Jacques Cousteau, through photos, illustrations, and maps.

  • Marine Ecosystem Illustrations

Explore the flora and fauna of ocean environments–from coral reefs to the deep sea–with these collections of beautifully detailed illustrations for grades 3-5 and 9-12.

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Using Avatar to Teach About Marine Ecosystems

Using Avatar as a Set Induction for National Geographic’s Imaginary Ecosystem Activity in a High School Biology Classroom

Lori Roberts is a high school biology teacher in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Lori is a leader in ocean education and is a graduate of National Geographic Education’s two-year professional development program, the National Teacher Leadership Academy.

The planet Pandora, the setting for the James Cameron film Avatar, is a world filled with unique organisms and ecosystems from the imagination of a visionary. Showing this film, or a portion of it, is the perfect way to introduce students to the National Geographic Education Marine Ecosystem Invention activity from the Marine Ecology, Human Impacts, and Conservation unit. Following is a description of how I used Avatar as this type of engagement exercise.

Students were asked to think about Pandora as they watched the film. I gave them a viewing guide that I adapted from a New York Times article (Drawing Inspiration from AVATAR) to help immerse them in this vivid imaginary world. I challenged my students with questions designed around topics such as, “Why blue Na’vi (the indigenous people of Pandora),” and “What is bioluminescence?” Students completed their viewing guides independently and then were asked to share with another student.

Then we followed the National Geographic procedure in the Marine Ecosystem Invention activity. 

Lori_Post1_MarineFoodWebEG.jpgAn example of a student-designed ecosystem from the Marine Ecosystem Invention activity

I placed students into groups and assigned them each one real-world
ecosystem, such as a coral reef. Students collaborated within their
groups to design their ecosystems, using butcher paper to draw and label
the trophic levels. Students were also asked to give their ecosystems
unique names.

Continue reading “Using Avatar to Teach About Marine Ecosystems”