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Archive for the ‘Activities and Lessons’ Category

Bring on the (Educational and Fun) Song Parodies!

Musical Notes

Musical Notes (License: Public Domain, PublicDomainPictures.Net)

Song parodies are quite popular these days. A search of “song parodies” on the Web returns more than 30,000 videos—and some of these song-parody creators have quite the following. Shows like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon Tonight, or the Academy Awards boldly use song parodies to get laughs and make statements. Weird Al Yankovich, who caused quite a musical stir in the 1980s with his song parodies and satirical music videos, is still the biggest name in the genre.

And then…there are the educational song parodies [insert students laughing and/or groaning—it’s usually a mixture of both].

I’ve been in classrooms and have watched students watching educational song parodies.

Coming from 1980s classroom culture, which embraced video watching as a fun and wasteful day, I was a bit skeptical.

But the classroom came alive, and I witnessed learning happening.

Each of the educational song-parody videos I saw in the classroom—or heard about from my daughter and watched with her later—was created by an educator somewhere in the world singing or rapping (sometimes pretty badly) about a topic. (And let me just say that any teacher willing to put time and effort into creating an educational song parody and accompanying video gets an “A” in my book.)

So…we are in the classroom, the lights are dimmed, the screen goes down, the music and video come on and…education begins. The students snicker, groan, laugh, and sing along. The song parody ends, discussion concludes the lesson. Class is over, and students leave the classroom singing the song.

As I said, learning happened. And it was fun.

If you check some out, I think you will understand why. My daughter’s favorite is “Ancient Mesopotamia Song By Mr. Nicky.”  Mr. Nicky has recorded other World History song parodies, but this one is particularly enjoyable (and quite catchy). Another favorite of hers is “Five Themes of Geography,” by James B White. He calls it “hip-hop-tabulous.”

Math facts have made their way into educational song parodies, as in the song-parody compilation “Multiplication Mash Up – A Fun Way to Learn Your Multiplication Facts!” by McCarthy Math Academy . And be sure to check out this charming performance of “Perfect Squares (Dark Horse Parody, Katy Perry) Songs For School” by Songs for School.

Want some more? Web sites catering to teachers, such as TeachHub and Mental Floss, have compiled lists of the best educational song parodies: Top 12 Educational Music Videos and 19 Videos That Make Learning Fun, respectively. TeacherTube provides a search engine to find more educator-approved educational song parodies.

And if you’re thinking of getting in to the song-parody business, you’ll need to know how to write one. How to Write a Song Parody, complete with graphics, should cover it.

Song parodies are so popular that teachers are incorporating them into their class curriculum. Curious about how that would work? Check out this Student Parody Assignment. Wondering how a song-parody project fits into educational standards? To give you an idea, I found this handy Civil War Song Parodies assignment page from the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System site.

I’m going to end with a personal note–My daughter has written and performed two song parodies so far in her World History class. She was so proud of the finished work and loved the entire process. She and her partner called their second song parody “This Is Greece,” sung to the tune of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. If you know the song and can carry a tune, try it out–I’ve included the first verse and chorus below:

The Greek world is on a peninsula
In the meditteranean sea
You dream about myths
About every single god
Just look at those city-states
With history, art, and drama
Such architecture around you
What more could you be wishin’ for

This is Greece
This is Greece
Oh my, it’s better
Down here we’re voting
Take it from me!
Up in Sparta they fight all day
Out in the mountains they train away
While we’re learning
Full-tme democracy
This is Greece!

Happy song-parodying!

 

How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps

Fake news is a problem. Information illiteracy is an even bigger problem. A Stanford University study released last November found that most students could not identify fake news because they lacked basic information literacy skills. The good news? We are finally having a national conversation on the importance of teaching information literacy, which teachers and librarians have been talking about for years.

Unfortunately, a recent ProQuest survey found that only 25% of librarians thought their library adequately supported information literacy instruction. Thankfully, there are information literacy resources available on the web. Damon Brown’s TED-ED video “How to Choose Your News” offers a quick, student-friendly introduction to information and media literacy. ProQuest’s editable guided research worksheet “How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps” helps students become skeptical news consumers.

Want more resources? See eLibrary’s new comprehensive Research Topic on Fake News.

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Mindful Breathing in the Classroom

Woman Breathing and Meditating (by Joellepearson) gerokee
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out.

How many times a day are you aware of your breathing?

Our breath connects our bodies with our minds.

Try the above exercise for a minute and feel the truth of that statement.

Breathing is a physical action that occurs instinctively…over and over and over and over and over again. Our breath connects us to life. Without it, we do not bring oxygen into our lungs, our blood cells do not absorb it and transport this essential element to our organs and other cells, our bodies no longer sustain themselves and their animation.

Our breath connects us to each other.

Imagine the infinity sign: You breathe out, I breathe in. I breathe out, you breathe in.

Breathing is integral to many religious and spiritual practices. Beautiful philosophies about the spiritual impact of breathing abound. Some spiritual leaders, including Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, believe that taking control of one’s breath will lead to healing and enlightenment. Proper breathing is part of a practice called “mindfulness” in the Buddhist tradition.

Mindful breathing is an integral part of mindfulness practice.

Imagine a classroom in which the teacher and all of the students are breathing together, aware of their breath. They are in control of their bodies and minds in a way that others, who not aware of their breathing, are not. Because they are in control of their bodies and minds, these students are calm, open, balanced, ready to engage, prepared to learn.

There have been many studies conducted to prove the beneficial impact of controlled breathing on students and in the classroom. Check out this one from the University of Ontario, which concluded that the classroom practice of mindful breathing improves academic success. Other studies show the same, and also document other favorable effects, such as reduced stress, improved social behavior, and even increased feelings of happiness.

So learning to breathe, or more accurately, learning to breathe properly, is a life skill that is taught with enormously successful results in classrooms. Deep belly breathing, paying attention to one’s breath, following the breath in and out, practicing movement (such as yoga) while breathing, incorporating guided meditations while breathing, using sound to punctuate the breath—these are all ways educators incorporate mindful breathing into their classrooms.

Try the super-simple breathing technique at the top of this post again. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe low into your lungs, exercising your diaphragm and expanding your belly. Can you feel the power in your breath? When I am anxious, stressed, feeling out of control, or generally not OK, I feel my breath turn shallow and somewhat erratic. Mindful breathing brings me back to myself, back to my center physically and emotionally.

I am not an educator, nor a yoga or breath-work practitioner. But I found a few very useful resources that can help any teacher—or anyone, really—get started with proper breathing techniques.

This five-minute guided breathing meditation from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center encourages listeners to sit, listen to and feel their bodies, and breathe. Five minutes can do a world of wonder for anxiety and other stress-related issues.

The Mindful Classroom is an educator’s blog about mindfulness in the classroom. This post on deep breathing discusses why this practice is so important to classroom efficacy. It provides a script for teachers to guide students in breathing and offers tips and techniques in leading healthy breathing exercises.

Teacher Meena Srinivasan’s book Teach, Breathe, Learn offers guidance to teachers on ways to bring mindfulness into the classroom. Breathing is one of the tools she utilizes to create a calm and compassionate classroom.

Let’s all learn to breathe. Not just for our students, but for ourselves.

Training for Your ProQuest Resources

Libraries see surge in e-book demandDon’t forget that ProQuest provides free training.  Our Training and Consulting Partners team is available at any time to meet with you via a privately scheduled webinar.  Just email us to make an inquiry.  We also provide regularly scheduled public webinars.  You can contact our team to discuss your questions about ProQuest resources, and we are also happy to focus privately scheduled sessions on topic areas of particular interest to you. 

This is just one of the many benefits you derive from licensure to your ProQuest resources!

 

CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt

Are you looking for an engaging way to help your students learn about the countries of the world? We just want to remind you that we’ve put together a scavenger hunt that will help them do that, and students will become familiar with some of the content and features available in the CultureGrams World Edition as well. The activity requires students (either individually or in groups) to answer a series of questions on an assigned country by “scavenging” through the product. And in the process, they learn about some of our standard CultureGrams categories, plus features like the Currency Converter, Data Tables, Famous People, Photos, and Recipes.

world-edition

CultureGrams World Edition via ProQuest

Most of the questions are factual in nature, but there are critical thinking questions as well. The scavenger hunt can be an activity that you use on its own or it can be a way to teach students how to use CultureGrams for country research as preparation for working on their own.

cg-learning-activity

CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt via ProQuest

Check it out by clicking here. Enjoy!

#FeatureFriday: Editorial Cartoons in SIRS Discoverer

It’s #FeatureFriday! Learn about editorial cartoons in the Spotlight On… feature of SIRS Discoverer.

The origins of editorial cartoons date back to the eighteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, several magazines such as Punch and Harper’s Weekly were publishing editorial and political cartoons. It was during this time that Thomas Nast,  known as the “Father of the American Cartoon,” popularized editorial cartoons with his take-down of corrupt politicians–particularly “Boss” Tweed. Nast is also known for his creation of the Republican Elephant and Democratic Donkey.

"Boss" Tweed as illustrated by Thomas Nast.

“Boss” Tweed as illustrated by Thomas Nast
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Visual Literacy and Common Core Standards

Several forms of literary and visual devices such as exaggeration, personification, symbolism, irony, satire and caricature are often used in editorial cartoons. Because of this, editorial cartoons support dynamic classroom lessons in Visual Literacy. Cartoons invite students to think critically and analyze what they see in the images. Such cartoons also provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate bias and point of view as most cartoonists illustrate their beliefs towards their subjects.

Find Editorial Cartoons on SIRS Discoverer

Editorial and political cartoons are featured throughout SIRS Discoverer on a wide variety of topics. Cartoons are editorially selected from prize-winning and reliable sources. These cartoons can be located through a Subject Heading search and a Subject Tree search. In addition to these searches, a cartoon can be found within the In the News feature (located in the Spotlight On…) where at the beginning of each month, SIRS editors hand-select an editorial cartoon that focuses on a news event. Students are then invited to answer a question based on the featured text and cartoon.

ProQuest SIRS Discoverer: In the News

ProQuest SIRS Discoverer: In the News

Want to know even more about the editorial cartoons? Patrick Chappatte is the cartoonist who is often featured within SIRS Discoverer. Take a look at his TED Talk where he discusses the power of cartoons.

STEM/STEAM Programming Doesn’t Have to Be Scary, Unless It’s Halloween

By Dawn Treude, Library Assistant, Scottsdale Public Library

This month the Scottsdale Public Library is offering our young patrons Scream STEAM, science with a Halloween twist. With activities like Frankenstein’s Hand, Balloon Banshees and Troll Boogers (don’t worry, it’s liquid glue and starch), we took a departure from typical coding or robotics programs and let simple household items shine as the stars in simple, yet satisfying activities. The results sent happy shivers down my spine.

As the demand for STEM/STEAM programs continues to grow, two responses typically come to mind—delight or fright.

Youth Librarians never tire of engaging with our young patrons, but not all of us have a background in math and science. Figuring out what to do with the kids can be tricky and time-consuming as you study and practice STEM/STEAM activities.

The turning point for me came in earlier this spring when I read an interview in YALS, the journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association, with Shannon Peterson of the Kitsap Regional Library in Washington State about its Make, Do, Share: Sustainable STEM Leadership in a Box program, which was funded through IMLS grant. The grant proposal made the point to identify “librarians as co-explorers and community builders instead of experts” when it came to STEM/STEAM participation.

As I read those words a weight lifted off my shoulders. I don’t have a strong background in math or science, but I certainly know how to explore new things.

About this time I’d been preparing for what we call Slimeology. In studying about polymers and slime making, I happened on The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science by Sean Connolly (2008, Workman Publishing). In it, Connolly uses everyday items to create catchy-sounding experiments, like Frankenstein’s Hand, which simulates a gloved hand coming to life under an acid (vinegar) and base (baking soda) mixture. This was the activity that inspired Scream STEAM.

Once I had a theme, it wasn’t too difficult to find other experiments that could be tailored for a Halloween program. I used the Balloon Banshee (a lesson about friction and sound) from Connolly’s book, re-named Slimeology to Troll Boogers and discovered a fantastic dip-your-hands-in-it blood tray that I christened Werewolf Blood from the I Can Teach My Child website. I wanted to do a candy dissolving experiment as well, but thankfully the Youth Services Coordinator and STEM/STEAM Librarian reigned me in a bit and helped me design a workable forty-five-minute program.

We started with Frankenstein’s Hand because I knew the kids would enjoy it through the entire program. I prefilled cups with the vinegar and the baking soda in the latex glove. The kids then placed the glove over the mouth of the cup, shook the fingers and waited for the hand to come alive. I used this time to talk about chemical reactions, acids, and bases and share some facts about sodium bicarbonate.

frankenhand

A Finished Frankenstein Hand [Photo courtesy of Dawn Treude]

Next, we moved on to Werewolf Blood (I chose the name due to how closely related humans and werewolves are). I’d hydrated the water beads (from the floral department at Michael’s) the night before in a large plastic tray. The beads have this fantastic soft, slimy feel to them and shimmer in the right lighting. These were the red blood cells. We added white blood cells (ping pong balls) and platelets (small foam rectangles) and renamed the leftover water in the tray plasma. The kids had a blast running their hands through the mixture but I didn’t manage to convince everyone it really was Werewolf Blood.

wolf-blood

Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells & Platelets – Oh My! [Photo courtesy of Dawn Treude]

After cleaning our hands, we moved on to ghost lore with Balloon Banshees. Most of the kids had never heard the word banshee before and were interested in this Irish lady specter, but I did modify the facts slightly and said she signaled bad news, rather than death. This experiment uses only a balloon and a small hexagon nut but does require adult-level balloon blowing skills. The nut is placed inside the balloon and it is blown up. Then you grab it from the tie end and move your hand in a circular motion and wait for the shrieking to begin. The friction as the sides of the nut move along the inside of the balloon produces an eerie sound. The rate of motion effects the sound, so the kids were able to try a variety of speeds. We had a few balloons pop and rather than cause a fright, that served to increase the excitement level.

Before we moved on to our last experiment, we checked on the hands to see if they were still alive. They were.

greenbooger1

Hands on with Troll Boogers [Photo courtesy of Dawn Treude]

By far the best experiment in terms of interest and ick-factor was Troll Boogers (Slimeology in disguise). The experiment failed. I’d poured too much water in the mix, resulting in a blob of glue and starch boogers in a watery soup. This gave me a great opportunity to talk about mistakes in the lab and how important they are to learning. The kids still had a blast with their creations and delighted in picking the right color to add to the mix based on the type of troll whose boogers were in your bowl. (For example, Garden Trolls have green boogers.) The kids loved all my snot and booger facts. The most expressive looks and groans came when I held up my one-quart pitcher as a visual aide to demonstrate how much snot your body produces in a day. We talked about polymers, liquids and solids as well. Everyone’s hands were filthy with sticky goo and I don’t think I’ve seen a happier group.

purplebooger2

Under-the-Bridge Troll Boogers in Purple with a Frankenstein Hand Nearby [Photo courtesy of Dawn Treude]

My takeaway from this program is that there is definitely a place for a variety of STEM/STEAM programs in the library. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring, and for systems or schools without the funding for robotics materials, household science packs a big punch in terms of payoff for children to see, feel and understand. Adding a seasonal or pop culture theme can create more interest and draw bigger attendance. The response was positive enough that we’re creating another seasonal program this February, You Gotta Have Heart.


dawnpicDawn Treude is a Library Assistant in Youth Services at the Arabian branch of the Scottsdale Public Library in Scottsdale, Arizona. She enjoys creating themed programming for youth of all ages and has been known to create wizard wands and lightsabers when the need arises.

 


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Libraries and Halloween STEAM

Libraries across the country are celebrating Halloween with spooky stories, devilish decorations, and clever costumes. Some are even adding an educational twist to the festivities through the use of enriching Halloween STEAM activities.

A handsome young scientist delighted with gooey green slime.

A handsome young scientist delighted with gooey green slime. [Photo Courtesy of Children’s Librarian Jennifer Boyce, Fairview Branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

What is STEAM?

STEAM is an acronym that stands for the integration of an A for the arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning. STEAM activities help equip kids with essential 21st-century skills that will help prepare them for the job market. The creative arts component — the “A” — in STEAM activities can engage students and spark interest in science and technology. STEAM is especially useful for helping students develop skills that are necessary to prepare for creative industries, including digital games, software, design, and marketing. However, research reveals the importance for all employees, not just those in creative industries, to demonstrate creativity in the workforce.

Libraries to Inspire You

Are you working on a STEAM Halloween project and need a little inspiration? The libraries below caught our attention for adding STEAM to their Halloween.

Champaign Public Library:

Today (October 26), middle school and high school kids will be creating 3D pumpkins from 3:00 to 5:00 at the main library. Sarah Butt, the library associate we contacted at the Champaign Public Library in Champaign, Illinois, explained that she created a pumpkin template in a program called Sculptris. The kids are then able to use the tools and create faces for their pumpkins. Once they are finished, the files can be printed on the 3D printer and ready for the kids from the middle school next door to pick up.

Sculptris Pumpkin Template at Champaign Public Library [Photo Courtesy of Sarah Butt, Library Associate]

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STEAM 3D Printed Pumpkin at Champaign Public Library [Photo Courtesy of Sarah Butt, Library Associate]

Santa Monica Public Library (SMPL):

SMPL (Yes, the very same library we blogged about that has a summer beach library!) is also holding STEAM events at their Ocean Park and Fairview branches.

Ewok Launcher (marshmallow launcher)

Ewok Launcher (marshmallow launcher) [Photo courtesy of Youth Librarian Julia Casas, Ocean Park branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

Also today, in connection with Star Wars Reads, SMPL’s Ocean Park branch is holding a Star Wars STEAM program from 3:30 to 4:30 for kids and teens. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes at the event.

Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite STEAM activity

Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite STEAM Activity [Photo courtesy of Youth Librarian Julia Casas, Ocean Park branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

Youth librarian Julia Casas, who is coordinating the event, has planned several activity stations that will give kids the chance to explore science concepts at their own pace. Among the activities are an “Ewok Launcher” (marshmallow launcher), which helps kids to learn about force, motion and gravity, and a “Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite” (lego minifigs trapped inside a baking soda mixture), which explores chemical reactions.

Children’s librarian Jennifer Boyce let us know that on October 31, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., the Fairview Branch will be featuring a program, “STEAM Craft: Glow-in-the-Dark Slime,” for children ages four and up. According to Ms. Boyce, the program will explore science concepts (in this case, chemistry) in a “fun, unstructured way.” Fairview’s Halloween STEAM event is part of their monthly STEAM programs, which in the past have included events such as a DIY Girls Club that focused on creative electronics and a “Build with Minecraft” program.

North Mankato Taylor Library:

north-mankato-halloween-steam

2016 Halloween STEAM event [Photo courtesy of Children’s Librarian Michelle Zimmermann, North Mankato Taylor Library]

Children’s librarian Michelle Zimmermann of North Mankato Taylor Library in North Mankato, Minnesota, hosted a spooky science lab for their Halloween STEAM event, which was held on October 20th. The event, for ages eight to 12, was part of a monthly program, STEAM Rollers.

The mad scientists — some of whom had an evil laugh down perfectly — learned how sound is made with vibrations by making eerie sound devices with plastic cups, yarn, paper clips and water. They also made slime to learn about chemical and physical properties and examined how using different ratios changed the composition of the material they were making. The third activity involved making pumpkin lava lamps and dealt with the concepts of polar and non polar molecules. Kids also learned about how oil and water don’t mix. According to Ms. Zimmermann, the lava lamps seemed to make the biggest impression on the young scientists.

 


More Halloween STEAM Activities

Still looking for inspiration? Below are five spooktacular links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your Halloween event:

Special Guest Post

And be sure to check back tomorrow for another wicked STEAM/STEM post with featured blogger Dawn Treude. The Library Assistant in Youth Services will explore the Halloween activities at the Scottsdale Public Library. She will be discussing how to create science-based projects by using everyday items with a spooky theme.

Tweet Us!

If you’ve implemented a Halloween STEAM activity in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

Star Trek is 50!

On September 8, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of a show that lasted only three seasons. The network could not have predicted that the show, whose introduction announces a five-year mission, would spawn a franchise that would persist for 50 years and have a profound effect on culture and science.

Star Trek RT

Star Trek Research Topic page via ProQuest eLibrary

Of course, the show was Star Trek. And, to celebrate its birthday, here are some easily digestible bullet-pointed facts:

-The show was created by Gene Roddenberry and starred William Shatner as the dashing Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as the logic-driven Spock and DeForest Kelley as grumpy doctor Leonard McCoy, who resumed their roles in the movies of the 1980s. In the reboot films, those roles are played by Chris Pine, Zachary Qunito and Karl Urban.

-Desilu Studios, the company founded by famous TV couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, produced the show, and the call to go ahead with production was made by Lucy herself. She was running the company following her divorce from Arnaz and decided to pull the trigger because she she thought Star Trek promised something different from the average TV fare.

-Trek fans have been devoted from the very beginning. Due to low ratings, the show was threatened with cancellation in the second season, but a write-in campaign by fans helped keep it on the air for a third. All these years later, fandom is still strong.

-Roddenberry, hoping to break from the tired tropes of TV, intended Star Trek to explore topics that weren’t normally allowed on the air. “You really couldn’t talk about anything you cared to talk about. It seemed to me that perhaps if I wanted to talk about sex, religion, politics, make some comments against Vietnam, and so on, that if I had similar situations involving these subjects happening on other planets to little green people, indeed it might get by, and it did.”

-Which brings us to …

Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura engaged in what is often referred to as the first televised interracial kiss. This was, of course, controversial in 1968, and there were efforts to avoid showing the actors’ lips touching before the scene was allowed to run as written.

-To date, Star Trek has resulted in six TV series (and one on the way), 13 movies and hundreds of books, making it a very profitable “enterprise.”

-The Original Series, or TOS, predicted and even directly influenced many technological developments, including mobile phones, computer tablets and plasma TVs. For example, Martin Cooper, inventor of the first cell telephone, said that the Star Trek communicator was the inspiration for the now-ubiquitous device.

-From over-budget to big profits: The pilot for TOS went over budget and cost $616,000 ($4.7 million in 2016 dollars), and then was scrapped by NBC before it greenlighted the series. The 2009 reboot movie brought in $385.7 million.

Besides those found in the links above, here are some more resources you can beam up from eLibrary:

Science Fiction
Television
1960s Popular Culture

CultureGrams: Critical Thinking

A great way to foster critical thinking and engaged learning in your students is to help them learn to ask good questions, to push beyond the obvious, to see purely factual data points in a broader context. Asking good questions promotes independent thinking, stimulates curiosity, increases understanding, and helps people see how seemingly disparate ideas connect.

We encourage teachers to use CultureGrams to promote critical thinking in their classrooms. There are many ways to do so. You might ask students, for example, why many major metropolitan areas are often located in coastal areas or near major waterways. Take Australia, China, Canada, or Brazil, for example. Look at where many of the largest cities are concentrated. Why aren’t the cities scattered more evenly across these countries? The answers to these questions may vary, depending on the country. You could discuss the significance of trade and access to foreign markets; the importance of water to sustain life and as a means of travel; the influence of history, geography, and climate on settlement and growth; etc. Encourage students to ask why things are the way they are. This can lead them to insights they may not have had previously.

Brazil Simple Map

Brazil Map via ProQuest CultureGrams

You could also ask students to think about what countries in a particular region have in common besides just occupying a particular part of the world. Have students think about the many of the island nations of Oceania, for instance. Do they share common geographical features or similar climates? Are there common languages, a common religion, or similar cultural attitudes? How do their economies compare? What common challenges do countries in Oceania face? Also, what differentiates countries in the region? And what is the impact of these similarities and differences on the region as a whole?

Tahiti

Aerial View, Tahiti, French Polynesia (photo by Peter Stone via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Another fruitful area of exploration might be to ask students how the content in one CultureGrams category impacts the content in another. How does the land and climate in a particular country influence the economy? How has a country’s history shaped its linguistic or religious development? How do a culture’s attitudes about family affect how they view dating and marriage?

And lastly, you could ask students to compare statistical data between two or more countries. What does the data reveal? How can the differences in data be explained? For example,  below is a customized table that provides data related to health and life expectancy for Belgium and Uganda. What does the data reveal? What might be some of the root causes for the differences in the numbers?

Belgium Uganda Comparison

To be clear, teachers will need to monitor these kinds of activities/discussions to make sure that students are coming to sound conclusions and not speculating wildly about cause and effect. But that process in itself can be useful in teaching students how to analyze factual information.

Of course, there are many other areas in CultureGrams that you could use to foster critical thinking, but we hope this gets you started thinking of some of the possibilities. Please let us know if you have any great ideas on this topic or if you come up with interesting activities that foster critical thinking.

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