Digging into Plants and Animals: Videos for Middle and High School

A collection of links on for middle and high school students:

Chemistry

Science Out Loud (MIT)

Science Out Loud Video: Understanding Molecules in Plants


Materials Science

MITx Engineering Course: Mechanical Behavior of Materials, Part 1: Linear Elastic Behavior

How Woodpeckers Avoid Brain Injury

Part 1 The Question

Part 3: Why Peck?

Part 2: Woodpecker 1010

Part 4 Impact and Deceleration

Part 5: Measuring Speed and Impact

Part 6: Size Matters

Part 7: Scaling in Nature

Part 8: Hall’s Pond and Bird Conservation


This post was written by Julie Croston. If you use Instagram and Twitter, check out and use our hashtag #CambMAOutdoorLearning.

Junior Kindergarten: Learn Outdoors

If you want to continue your child’s education even when schools are closed, keep reading. You can help your Junior Kindergarten student learn science by going outdoors and learning. JK kids can directly observe plants and animals outside—in their own neighborhood, in a nearby park, or in a larger open space.

Student naturalists explore plants and animals in the classroom and outside. They ask questions and gather information about:

where animals live and why,

the parts of plants and animals, and what they do, and

the needs of living things.

Think of yourself as a guide, but not an expert or a teacher. Learning can be strongest when a child is allowed to discover and focus on something outdoors that captures their own interest. You can be the best role model for science learning by demonstrating your own curiosity and following up on it by making guesses and collecting data.

Try this :

Take a short walk and ask your child to describe three (or five, or seven) plants or trees on the walk. You can ask your child to draw them, or instead, just remember them. Together with your child, make up your own name for each plant or tree, if you want. You can use your own language or English for the name. You can write the names down if you want to, but that’s not necessary. If your child likes to draw, you can ask them to draw each plant.

Examples of names: “big tree with feather branches in front of the library.”

Ask your child to use as many ways of describing each plant or tree as they can think of.

Examples: “It is taller than our home, ” “I could fit three of me in the trunk,” “the tree’s bark feels rough.”

Take the same walk on a regular schedule. It could be Mondays and Thursdays, or just once a week, or at the same time every day.

TIP: Children are comforted by a regular routine, even if they don’t say so. School routines and schedules help them stay calmer and more focused and ready to learn. You can set up your own routines for home learning, if possible, but don’t worry if you can’t. Going outdoors for this activity will still benefit your child.

Each time you take this same walk during spring, ask your child, “What is different about this plant (or tree) since we saw it before? Let your child have time to think about shape, size, smell, color, or parts of the plant, and tell you about it. You can suggest some descriptive words, but let your child take the lead.

Observing seasonal changes in the environment is a great way to build vocabulary, and to build a set of observations that will naturally lead you and your child to form questions: why and how do plants grow? what do they need to grow and live? What is a flower, and what does it do?

EXTRA: If you want, take pictures (or draw) the plant weekly. You can go back and look at them arranged in time over the next few months, and use them to start a discussion with other family members. Learning words to describe the environment and seasonal change is an important part of science learning for a child at this age, and they can benefit from telling other adults what they saw (just like a scientist communicates to others!).

SCIENTIST: Adults and older children in the family may enjoy this interview with Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General of the  International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.

Cambridge Outdoors is working to expand our existing library of resources for outdoor learning with this post and future posts. We hope these posts will address some of the needs of parents during school closures in March/April/May 2020. Come on over to our Facebook Page, and tell us what you like about it, and what kind of other posts you’d like to see here. And tell us about your outdoor explorations, too!

This post was written by Julie Croston. If you use Instagram and Twitter, check out and use our hashtag #CambMAOutdoorLearning.

Logan Airport shows the way as snowy owls alight

Amid reports that in the last few days a Snowy Owl has perched at the Boston Museum of Science (on the Cambridge side), easily viewed by passersby, I offer this news on air traffic and owls in one city.

Logan Airport shows the way as snowy owls alight – Metro – The Boston Globe.

Happy Park[ing] Day, from a New England City

This just in.

Plankton have been sighted on Huron Avenue.

Children have been observed observing pond water through microscopes.

A new arboreal species has been discovered: the Tree of Really, Really Small, Teeny Tiny Things, whose symbolic foliage depicts the minerals, water, microarthropods, bacteria, and mycorrhizal fungi critical to good tree health.

Fragilaria algae handpuppet created at the Park of Microscopic Life, Park[ing] Day 2013, Cambridge, Mass.
Fragilaria algae handpuppet created at the Park of Microscopic Life, Park[ing] Day 2013, Cambridge, Mass.

The tree of really, really, small, teeny tiny things.
The tree of really, really, small, teeny tiny things.

Models of algae have been multiplying rapidly on the site, says Kristin L., a volunteer ranger at the corner of Huron and Chilton who preferred to remain semi-anonymous.

Paparazzi snapped photos of Fresh Pond Reservation’s ranger, Jean Rogers, transporting phytoplankton from Black’s Nook across Chilton Street well before working hours. Stay tuned for all the news from microorganism’s reporter in the city of Cambridge, Mass., yours truly.

Photo of kindergarteners and teacher looking through microscopes courtesy of D. Jamas.
Photo of kindergarteners and teacher looking through microscopes courtesy of D. Jamas.

Photo courtesy of D. Jamas.
Photo courtesy of D. Jamas.

fragilaria
Fragilaria (non-puppet version).

Citizens and Microscopes. An excellent match.
Citizens and Microscopes. An excellent match.