by Ser Anderson, Teaching Naturalist
We are all facing a lot of uncertainty and fear right now. The spread of coronavirus and our personal and government-mandated attempts to slow that spread are impacting our lives in large and small ways. There are a lot of challenges to navigate, from how to pay the bills to what to do with the time spent in isolation, especially if that isolation involves kids.
Fortunately for our mental health and for keeping ourselves and our kids entertained, we can still get outside and we can still learn and engage with the organizations in our communities that are dedicated to nature and science education.
Even as events and regular programming are getting canceled, organizations around the state, country, and even the world are producing new material and highlighting or making available to larger audiences materials they already have to help keep us learning and engaged while in isolation. However, it can be difficult to find some of these resources if you don’t know where to look.
So here is a list of some of the resources we here at the Montana Natural History Center have found and enjoyed, with a focus on what organizations here in Montana have to offer. Click here for our resources page, which we are continuing to update as we hear of new educational opportunities.
Montana Natural History Center – Missoula, MT
Starting Tuesday, March 24, at 10:30 a.m. MST, we are hosting NatureWebs! – weekly free nature and science webinars through ZOOM for grades 3 – 5. We will also soon be providing free ID Naturalist subscriptions, which provide interactive video lessons introducing and modeling journal prompts to help students discover their naturalist self.
Previously available resources:
- MNHC YouTube channel: educational videos including our Evening with a Naturalist conversations and our fun Science Shorts
- Field Notes: short essays on Montana’s natural history recorded on Montana Public radio, available in both in text and podcast form
- Montana Naturalist Magazine: back issues available for free download including great articles and Get Outside Guides for younger readers and families
Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium – Missoula, MT
Beginning with their first Facebook Live Animal encounter on Wednesday, March 18, Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium is hosting unique Virtual Animal Encounters Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. and Fridays at 3:00 p.m. MST through the end of March and possibly beyond. Watch live on Facebook or later on Facebook or through their website. Each video will be accompanied by fun, family-friendly activities to do at home.
- What’s Buzzin’: short blog posts cataloguing fun arthropod sightings over the seasons here in Montana
- Notes from the Lab: more in-depth life-histories of some of the animals the Insectarium works with
spectrUM Discovery Area – Missoula, MT
Since March 16 and continuing as long as their discovery area is closed, spectrUM is releasing videos about their science exhibits, activities, and things you can try at home, available from their website and their Facebook page.
ExplorationWorks! – Helena, MT
Exploration Works has recently started releasing a new video series called Science @ Home with Sara! which is available on their Facebook page as well as their website. They also have instructions for how to do several of their TinkerLab activities at home available as PDFs.
Montana Outdoor Science School – Bozeman, MT
Over the last several days, the Montana Outdoor Science School has been sharing links to activities and other educational resources on their Facebook page. Their instructors are also live-streaming on Facebook multiple times a week to offer engaging science content for families at home.
Montana Audubon Center – Billings, MT
Wise Wonders Children’s Museum – Billings, MT
ZooMontana – Billings, MT
ZooMontana is starting to post fun videos of and with their animals on their Facebook page. On their website, they have a Meet Our Animals page that provides fun facts about the animals at the Zoo. Their Executive Director, Jeff the Nature Guy, has a YouTube channel that shows off cool animals, fun crafts, and interesting nature facts.
- Science Mom Channel and website (science demonstrations with a recent Livestream series called QuaranTime): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-QcZISbFb9EiIEQ41cVhxw/featured https://science.mom/
- PBS Eons (hosts Hank Green, Kallie Moore, and Blake de Pastino take you on a journey through the history of life on Earth): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzR-rom72PHN9Zg7RML9EbA
- SciShow (Seven days a week, Hank Green, Michael Aranda, and Olivia Gordon delve into the scientific subjects that defy our expectations and make us even more curious!): https://www.youtube.com/user/scishow
- SciShow Kids (Jessi and her robot rat Squeaks answer your questions and explain fun, complex science concepts for young, curious minds): https://www.youtube.com/user/scishowkids
- CrashCourse (great approachable “courses” on topics like biology, anatomy and physiology, and ecology): https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/featured
- CrashCourse Kids (“courses” designed for kids focusing on grade school science): https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcoursekids
- MinuteEarth (Science and stories about our awesome planet!): https://www.youtube.com/user/minuteearth
- Animalogic (examining the nature of the beast): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwg6_F2hDHYrqbNSGjmar4w
- The Brain Scoop (Emily, Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum in Chicago, shares the work and research of natural history museums with the world): https://www.youtube.com/user/thebrainscoop
- Journey to the Microcosmos (Take a dive into the tiny, unseen world that surrounds us with music by Andrew Huang, footage from James Weiss, and narration by Hank Green): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbnbBWJtwsf0jLGUwX5Q3g/
- Tyler DeWitt (videos on chemistry topics): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj3EXpr5v35g3peVWnVLoew
- Cornell Lab Bird Cams: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Cams: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams
- Other cool livestreams: https://explore.org/livecams
Well-known National Organizations
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: explore their main page https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home or focus on K-12 Education https://www.birds.cornell.edu/k12/
- NASA: explore their main page https://www.nasa.gov/ or focus on resources for students and educators https://www.nasa.gov/stem
- Smithsonian: explore their main page https://www.si.edu/, access distance learning resources https://learninglab.si.edu/distancelearning, or go straight to their online learning lab https://learninglab.si.edu/
Museum Virtual Tours
- Idaho Museum of Natural History Virtual Museum: https://virtual.imnh.iri.isu.edu/
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour
- Interesting Engineering list of 11 Science and Tech museum virtual tours: https://interestingengineering.com/11-science-and-tech-museums-you-can-tour-virtually
- Little Pine Learners: https://littlepinelearners.com
- The Well-read Naturalist: natural history book reviews https://www.wellreadnaturalist.com/
- SciStarter: online citizen science projects – https://scistarter.org/
- Zooniverse: online citizen science projects – https://www.zooniverse.org/
- iNaturalist (also an app): contribute your flora and fauna observations to biodiversity science – https://www.inaturalist.org/
- eBird (also an app): contribute your bird sightings to science – https://ebird.org/home
Resources for Educators and Parents
- Streamable Learning: Different content providers offer engaging programs on a variety of subjects via live video conferencing. https://streamablelearning.com/
- Mystery Science: Standards-based and hands-on science lessons. https://mysteryscience.com/
- Exploratorium Online Learning Toolbox: Resources to make sense of timely topics and find general science support for your virtual classroom or learning together at home. https://www.exploratorium.edu/learn
- Webinar: Edmodo for Distance Learning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fzmOIRix9M&feature=youtu.be
- Center for Interactive Learning Community of Learning: Beginning March 23rd they are offering free, fun, interactive, live-streamed programs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time, covering topics in STEM, social studies, literacy, and art/music. Most of the programs will be recorded so that students can access them at any time after the live program. https://www.cilc.org/Interactive-Content/Community-of-Learning.aspx
- PBS LearningMedia: MontanaPBS and PBS have curated FREE, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more for teachers https://montana.pbslearningmedia.org/
- Morningside Center Guidelines for Addressing the Coronavirus Outbreak: https://www.morningsidecenter.org/teachable-moment/lessons/guidelines-addressing-coronavirus-outbreak
- Pear Deck: Pear Deck can help your classroom stay connected during changes to your learning environment. They’re opening up 90 days of free Pear Deck Premium access to every teacher to help keep students engaged. Visit https://www.peardeck.com/ for more info and https://calendly.com/sharepeardeck/distancelearning/ to sign up for an introductory webinar.
- Science Buddies: Hands-on science resources for home and school. https://www.sciencebuddies.org/
- Howtosmile:Searchable science and math activities. https://www.howtosmile.org/
- World Wildlife Foundation Wild Classroom: Connects educators and parents with the tools and resources they need to help kids explore and understand the world around them. https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources
- Concord Consortium STEM Resource Finder: Free interactive STEM activities for classrooms. https://learn.concord.org
- Inspired Classroom: Helps virtually connect organizations that have rich educational content centered around a specific subject, with educators who seek to engage learners with authentic experiences (for Montanans, particularly, Inspired Classroom has content from MPG Ranch in the Bitterroot Valley on Golden Eagles and mountain lions for all grade levels). https://www.inspiredclassroom.com/
- PBLWorks: Resources to help teachers design and implement Project Based Learning with specific resources for doing this during school closures. https://www.pblworks.org/
- National Association of Biology Teachers Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NABT.LeaderinLifeScienceEd/
- NGSS Chemistry Teachers Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1336627269828505/
- National AP Biology Teachers Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1430374047229038/
- Science with Mrs. Lau: An independent curriculum and teacher resource company dedicated to helping teachers teach rich science content. https://www.scienceandmathwithmrslau.com/
- Turner’s Graph of the Week: Improve math literacy with assignments based on real world issues. https://www.turnersgraphoftheweek.com/
- Science & Nature Ideas for Cooped Up Kids Facebook group
- Motus Wildlife Tracking System: https://motus.org/education
- John Muir Laws: https://johnmuirlaws.com/
- Leave No Trace Recommendations for Getting Outside During Covid-19: https://lnt.org/the-leave-no-trace-recommendations-for-getting-outside-amidst-covid-19/
- Ranger Rick website has lots of fun activities for kids: https://rangerrick.org/
These are certainly not the only resources available. Feel free to share your favorite resources so we can keep adding to this list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep exploring!