Virtual Endangered Zoo

I’ve been working with one of our second grade teachers (she of the superior graphic organizers) on a project with her reading/social studies class.

We have now reached the culmination of our project, and the Virtual Endangered Zoo is now open for business! Each child researched an endangered species of their choice, and built a website about them. Their teacher, Mrs. Pancake, created a hub website where you can easily access all their sites.

This was a fun project that also turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. Firstly, students did research projects earlier this school year, so they already knew research methods basics. Secondly, Weebly For Education was very easy to use once we played around with it. We discussed other ideas such as publishing an eBook, but I thought more parents would be able to see a website than would be able to download an eBook. Plus, Weebly uses responsive web design by default. This means that their sites adjust accordingly when viewed on a smartphone or tablet. My guess is that means even more of our families will be able to see our sites, since not every family has a computer hooked up to the Internet at home, but many may still have smartphones.

In addition to research methods we used in the past, we added a social media element for kids who were up for it. When a student got stuck with one particular detail, we sought out a zoo or aquarium we thought might know the answer. Then, we tweeted them. Students wrote their question on a dry erase slate and I took a photo of them and tweeted at the zoo or aquarium. This got us around Twitter’s 140 character limit, and I think it also displayed to others that these were real kids asking questions.

How long does it take to tweet a zoo? Minutes, fellow educators. Mere minutes, even if you include a photo or a video. (I’m trying to convince more of my coworkers to sign up for Twitter, can you tell?)

On Weebly, we could even embed the responses to our tweets thanks to the “embed code” widget!

(Another thing I really liked about Weebly for Education was its image search. It has its own search engine for images, and if you include a free-to-use image, Weebly automatically appends the site with a Creative Commons attribution. Digital citizenship win!)

I would like to thank the following zoos (particular whoever runs their social media accounts) for their help:

The students who did not use my Twitter account still may have used social media in the form of Youtube. We used specific search terms and checked that videos we put on our websites were from sources we trusted, like the Oregon Zoo or National Geographic.

Students who finished early also entered the Akron Zoo’s snow leopard naming contest that we discovered from looking at their website. So if anyone at the Akron Zoo peeps this, sorry for the sudden influx of multiple entries from my and Mrs. Pancake’s email accounts!


Thank you again to the zoos and aquarium that reached back out to us over social media. I got excited simply because I’m a giant nerd, but our students were excited because they felt like someone out there was listening to their questions and taking the time to answer thoughtfully. It’s hard to put into words how respected that makes a kid feel, to be taken seriously by an adult they don’t already know. So thank you for taking the time to teach us about animals, as is surely your mission, but also thank you for making the effort to reach out to a kid hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

Elephants and Honeybees

Sometimes a simple solution can be the best solution, no matter how big the problem is. And we’re talking about elephant-sized.



The Elephants and Bees Project aims to save elephants by preventing human-elephant conflict. Specifically, they are trying to prevent elephants from raiding agricultural areas and causing great damage to crops. Doing that makes farmers upset, and understandably so. But trying to scare the elephants away with firecrackers and bullets also risks making them more aggressive, making the situation more dangerous for elephants and humans alike. But how do you solve this conflict over resources? Electric fences are not affordable for many an African farmer, nor is it feasible to power them.

That’s where the bees come in! See, elephants don’t like bees — their stings hurt very much on their trunks — but they also don’t see the point in charging them. So researchers have started testing out “beehive fences.” Elephants disturb the hives when they come too close to the crops. The bees come out of the hive to protect it. The elephants hear the bees and decide to make like a banana, and split! As a bonus, farmers can harvest honey and other products like beeswax and royal jelly from the hives. Bees are also good to have around crops for pollination purposes.

Sometimes you don’t have to go super techno or fancy to fix a problem. Sometimes all you need is a good idea and a whole bunch of bees.


How many senses do we have? Show Notes

Show Notes for How Many Senses Do We Have?

Research sources:


Image: Light Traces 1 by magstefan at

Are Blue Whales, Like, the Biggest Thing? Show Notes

Resources used to research and write this podcast include:

Music included in this episode:

Post image by Marcin Rybarczyk at

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