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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Ahhhh, February. The shortest, bleakest, and often chilliest month (well, at least for those in the northern hemisphere). The holidays are well behind us, but spring seems a long way off. So what teaching and learning inspiration can we pull from the flurries, the gray skies, the cold?

While you're scraping the ice off your car, take a moment to consider the beauty, the power, and the potential teachable moments of winter. To get you started, I've gathered a collection of videos that explore winter themes in every subject. Snowflake geometry? Check. Winter poetry? Check. Speed skating physics? Check. So bundle up and have a look! And if you're in New Zealand, just wait until July.

Video Playlist: Best Videos for Teaching in Winter

Keep watching the player below to see the rest of the playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. The Chemistry of Snowflakes - Bytesize Science (02:07)

    This little animated piece from the American Chemical Society tracks the journey of snowflakes, from their origins in bits of dust in clouds to the crystalline form we all love so well.

  2. An Old Man's Winter Night by Robert Frost (02:18)

    Good idea for an ELA project: have students make a video for a reading of a winter poem. This lovely example is made by a visual artist to the music of Satie, but your student projects may come out more like "Reading a Winter Poem (but mostly sneezing)."

  3. Winter Walk | Natural History Museum (05:20)

    Take a virtual stroll with botanist Fred Rumsey in this delightful bit from the Natural History Museum in London, then visit the accompanying Wildlife in Winter activity page. Ready to take your students or for a winter flora and fauna walk in your own neighborhood? Go on, give it a go!

  4. Snowflakes, Starflakes, and Swirlflakes (04:04)

    YouTube math video superstar Vihart makes the most mesmerizing videos, where she explores advanced math concepts and connects them to music and art. In this one, she takes the cut paper snowflake to incredible new levels while explaining the geometry behind them.

  5. Sesame Street - Hace Frio (02:45)

    My love for Sesame Street is no secret -- especially clips of the vintage variety. This one from 1992 features the muppet Telly singing about learning how to say "It's cold!" in Spanish.

  6. March of the Penguins Official Trailer (02:26)

    This phenomenal 2005 documentary follows emperor penguins as they travel across Antarctica to their mating grounds. The film really is as epic as the trailer makes it seem. And you can find some penguin-related learning materials from National Geographic here.

  7. Science of the Winter Olympics -- Short Track Speed Skating (04:18)

    Explore Newton's first three laws of motion with this video, from a series called "The Science of the Winter Olympics" that the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn created a few years ago. You can find free supplemental curriculum at Lessonopoly.

  8. The Sub-Zero Classroom @ University of Minnesota (00:34)

    Founder Aaron Doering speaks about GoNorth!, an incredible "adventure learning" program that brings arctic dog-sledding expeditions into the K-12 classroom. Students follow the action online and collaborate with other participants around the world to complete interactive lessons.

  9. The People vs. Winter (03:12)

    Hat tip to excellent edu curator Larry Ferlazzo for this one -- a sort of fail compilation of humans battling the elements of winter -- and not always winning. Kind of makes me glad I live in California.

  10. History of Winter -- Introduction (03:22)

    Every year, NASA offers a week-long workshop called History of Winter (HOW) in Lake Placid, New York, for a group of teachers to become citizen scientists and help gather information about ice and snow. This video gives a nice intro to the program, or watch this NASA promo for more details.

  11. Andy Goldsworthy -- Rivers and Tides (04:30)

    If you're not familiar with earth artist Andy Goldsworthy, you should be. Goldsworthy creates art from natural elements, often temporal, as in this excerpt from a 2003 documentary about his work, where he attempts to make a delicate sculpture with icicles before the rising sun melts it.

  12. Arctic Animal Adaptations (03:00)

    This endearingly low-fi student project for an honors class has two girls giving a sort of puppet show about, well, animal adaptations in the Arctic.

More Resources for Teaching About Winter

Put the kettle on and wrap that scarf around a few extra times... now that you're sufficiently warmed up, let's dig in to more resources for teaching about wintery topics. There are a whole lot of them out there, and for all ages -- this is just a sprinkling. Stay toasty!

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