December 2014: Understand and Celebrate Winter Across the Curriculum

Winter-Related Resources in the Core Subject Areas

The word “winter” creates different images for each of us. Some think of sledding, hot chocolate, and navigating snowy roads. Others remember gray skies, reading by the fire, or just being cold. Whether you love winter or really dislike everything about it, there are many opportunities to use icurio’s resources to help your students understand and celebrate the season with winter-related resources in the core subject areas.

Elementary – Exploring Seasons

  • Get Ready for Winter – This non-fiction reading passage and question set from ReadWorks introduces the topic of hibernation and explains what animals do to survive the winter. The resource includes a question set and answer key.
  • Math is Fun: The Seasons – Help your students discover the reason it gets cold in a resource about the seasons. The explanation includes a wonderful animation of the Earth’s tilt and rotation around the sun and how that affects the weather.
  • The Ice and Snow Book – Students will enjoy reading this eBook about fun activities that they can do in the winter. Audio is available so students can listen as they read along.

Middle – Solstice, Symmetry and a Snowy Evening, Oh My!

  • CK-12: Seasons – What is an Equinox? What is a Solstice? Students will extend their knowledge about the reason for the change in seasons by using an in-depth resource from CK-12.
  • Khan Academy: Snowflakes, Starflakes, and Swirlflakes – How about using paper snowflakes when discussing symmetry? This video from Khan Academy will help students understand the concept even better.
  • Wellington Avalanche – Sometimes winter can turn deadly. Students can read historical accounts of the worst avalanche in the history of the United States during the winter of 1910.
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – This became one of the most beloved poems of American poet Robert Frost. Find information about the poet, student questions. And visit this PBS resource for a reading of the poem by Frost himself.

High – Winter Across the Subjects

  • Smithsonian Institute: Lakota Winter Counts – Have you or your students ever read about the Lakota Sioux winter counts? Learn what the winter counts contain and how different winter counts document the same events in this resource guide.
  • PBS Freedom: A History of US – Extreme winter conditions? It would be harder to get more extreme than the conditions faced by the patriots at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. Use these resources to help students understand the extreme challenges that were faced by the people who were fighting for our independence.
  • How is Artificial Snow Made – Sometimes warm weather prevents snow from occurring where it needs to be. Enter the creation of artificial snow. The following chemistry video shows students how it’s done.
  • Science of the Winter Olympics – Ever wonder what kind of calculations go into the making of an Olympic athlete? This video resource will explain how math is used to help athletes in the winter Olympics get their gold!

Find these winter resources and more in icurio with the keyword search: December Newsletter.

December 2014: Resources to Bring the Wonders of Winter into Your Lessons

Winter’s Wonders

What kinds of memories do you have of last year’s winter season? Do you live in an area that experienced so many Snow Days that you had to make days up to fulfill your state’s requirements? Or do you live in the West where you spent the winter wondering if it would ever rain again? Last year brought extreme conditions across the country, but this year might be just the kind of winter you are hoping for (whatever that may be). No matter what the next three months bring, though, it’s a sure bet that winter will slip into your classroom one way or another.

In netTrekker, you can find engaging resources to bring the wonders of winter into your lessons.

Early Elementary – Exploring Jan Brett’s The Mitten

The Mitten, by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s delightful interpretation of the Ukrainian folk tale, The Mitten, offers a wide range of opportunities to explore the role of literature in transmitting both culture and universal themes, as well as the relationship between illustrations and text.

Elementary – Learn about Snow Crystals from the Snowflake Man

Snowflake Man Video

Have you and your students read Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin? Then you’ll enjoy sharing these sites about his work:

Middle – Understanding Extreme Weather

Blizzards & Winter Weather

Severe weather is always big news, whether it involves hurricanes, floods, blizzards, or drought. What will this winter bring your area? More importantly, what causes these severe weather events? Can your students learn to predict the weather by learning these causes?

  • Begin with an overall view of extreme weather conditions and what causes them with this National Geographic site about Extreme Weather On Our Planet.
  • Use the Drought Monitor to track where the lack of rain is hitting our country the hardest this winter.
  • Learn about an extreme opposite of drought with Blizzards and Winter Weather. Then use the link at the bottom of the page to Predict the Weather so students can practice using what they have learned.

High – The Science of Winter Sports

Slapshot Physics

Even though it is not a Winter Olympics year, students in cold climates still participate in cold weather activities and competitions. Combine the science of physics with their love of sports by using some of the National Science Foundation videos on the Science of the Winter Olympics:

  • Slapshot Physics, about ice hockey
  • Science of Snowboarding, about (what else?) snowboarding
  • Science Friction, about curling
  • To see additional videos in this series, use the Browse tab on the netTrekker Home Page, and drill down through Science to Physics > Newtonian > Science of Sports.

Find these winter resources and more in netTrekker with the keyword search: December Newsletter.

2014 Digital Learning Awards Winners Announced

Congratulations to the Top 100 Districts

2014 Digital Learning Awards

Today we announced the recipients of the 2014 Digital Learning Awards, which honors the top 100 school districts using digital resources to enhance their classroom experience. The program honors districts across the country using netTrekker to deliver educator-vetted, standards-aligned digital resources to every student and teacher in their district.

Knovation congratulates these 100 school districts for their outstanding commitment! The list was broken out by small-, medium-, and large-sized districts. View the Full List

The top three school districts in each enrollment category include:

Large-Size Districts (more than 25,000 student enrollment)
  1. Forsyth County Schools, Cumming, Georgia
  2. Fort Bend Independent School District, Sugar Land, Texas
  3. Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore, Maryland
Mid-Size Districts (5,000-24,999 student enrollment)
  1. Fort Smith Public Schools, Fort Smith, Arkansas
  2. Akron Public Schools, Akron, Ohio
  3. Naperville Community Unit School District 203, Naperville, Illinois
Small-Size Districts (less than 5,000 student enrollment)
  1. La Grange Elementary School District 102, LaGrange Park, Illinois
  2. Canton Public Schools, Canton, Connecticut
  3. City Schools of Decatur, Decatur, Georgia

For more information, please read the full press release.

Super Storms, Icky Illnesses and Wild Winters: Keep on Learning Through it All

Winter Storms

Planning Ahead to Ensure Continuity of Learning

Continuity of Learning

Tis’ the season to be prepared. Once again, school districts across the country are determining best practices and guidelines to ensure continuity of learning in their schools in order to prepare for extended student absences due to many different circumstances. These “bad guys” trying to keep learners from their classrooms include viruses, inclement weather and other emergency situations. The United States Department of Education has published multiple recommendations for the Continuity Planning Teams at schools and districts to consider. The DOE suggests a variety of options to provide students at home with class materials, advocates digital and technology-based resources to help close the gap and reminds schools to keep all student contact information up to date.

A Plan for Sustained Learning

At the heart of a continuity of learning plan is the delivery of instruction and instructional content to students. While some content may be distributed as traditional print materials, many digital tools make that content available anytime and anywhere when you are online. Putting instructional content online allows it to be easily updated and accessible to many students.

Planning Questions

Think about these questions as you consider your plan for continuity of learning:

  1. What content can be given to students in hard-copy? How will hard-copies be delivered (pick-up location)?
  2. What content can be given to students in digital form (CDs, DVDs, flash drives)? How will digital copies be delivered (pick-up location)?
  3. What content is available online to provide to students at home anytime and anywhere?
  4. Do you have an online repository of all district curriculum offerings?
  5. How is digital content/curriculum created or selected?
  6. How is digital content managed, housed, updated, and delivered?
  7. Do you have emergency lessons prepared for students for short-term absences? How will students receive the lessons?
  8. What happens if a student is absent during mandatory testing periods?
  9. What tools will be needed to deliver instruction in the short term? Long term?
  10. Should online curriculum mirror what is being taught in the face-to-face classroom?
  11. Should educational activities be sustained for all courses or limited to core courses?
  12. Are any of your textbooks available online or in digital format?
  13. Are teachers aware of what their team members are teaching in the event that they must temporarily take over a class?
  14. How will you deliver instruction to a student who is quarantined?
  15. How will teachers deliver and collect student work?
  16. How will you decide what lessons to make available for an immediate continuity need since you will not know where you are in your teaching plans if a disaster strikes?

Going Digital for Those Going Home

Many K-12 districts are leveraging digital resources like those provided by Knovation through netTrekker and icurio, to facilitate at-home instruction. netTrekker provides students and educators with over 360,000 educator-reviewed and state standards-aligned digital resources. icurio takes digital learning one step further by offering both resources and ways for educators to create digital learning opportunities and easily assign and deliver those to students, for anytime, anywhere access.

History teacher JoAnne McClelland adds, “We have been told by our administrators if our school were to close because of an epidemic, that we are still responsible for educating all students during that closure. Most teachers panicked when they heard this. I didn’t. I feel confident that I would be able to produce effective online lessons for my students with Knovation content. I can develop a lesson in a short time, and once the lessons are created, it is very easy to alter them and reassign them to different students.”

Screen Time Versus Seat Time

Thinking about what instruction you can cover without having students in the classroom is a real shift for many teachers, and having access to digital content and the technology tools to build and deliver lessons to students who will be out of school for a period of time or even one day is a huge help. Whether you are offering instruction to span closings due to weather or creating strong learning connections for students who are home-bound, there are endless possibilities to extend educator reach outside of the school walls and overcome the unplanned breaks in the instructional calendar.

October 2014: Getting Girls Excited About STEM

Develop a Lesson that Gets Girls Excited About STEM Careers

If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

First Lady Michelle Obama,  September 26, 2011

Across the nation school districts are placing an emphasis on encouraging young women to study STEM-related subjects.  Knovation takes this responsibility seriously by supporting young women in seeking role models in STEM-related fields of study.

We’ve pulled together these icurio resources that you can mix and match depending on grade level. Create an engaging lesson on Women in STEM that will encourage the young ladies in your classrooms to become more interested in learning about science, technology, engineering and math. These resources provide everything you’ll need from an introduction to core instructional content to resources to support extended research on STEM careers.

Lesson Introduction Resources

The White House: Girls in STEM: A new Generation of Women in Science – Appropriate for: Elementary, Middle, High

This resource features young women scientists and engineers who wowed the President and the nation at the White House Science Fair. This short video shines a spotlight on these extraordinary young role models and their exciting projects. Go to The White House: Girls in STEM: A New Generation of Women in Science

Teaching Channel: STEM Education for Girls (Deeper Learning) – Appropriate for: Elementary, Middle, High

Witness a female student transform from a shy 9th grader to a confident senior, all the while embracing STEM education. This resource is a perfect opening activity to inspire and ignite passion for science. Go to Teaching Channel: STEM Education for Girls

Instructional Resources

Engineer Girl: Why Be an Engineer – Appropriate for: Elementary, Middle, High

The National Academy of Engineering promotes engineering as a career, especially to women and girls. This resource answers questions one may have about becoming an engineer. This interactive resource provides a platform for students to conduct research about the many engineering fields of study as well as provide real-life profiles of amazing engineers in the current work force. Go to Engineer Girl: Why Be an Engineer

Women in Science – Appropriate for: Middle, High

Women in Science, is a new interactive tool which presents the latest available data for countries at all stages of development. This resource allows you to explore and visualize gender gaps in the pipeline leading to a research career, from the decision to get a doctorate degree to the fields of research women pursue and the sectors in which they work. This resource is perfect for exploring the different facets of science career opportunities. Go to Women in Science

Resources for Extended Research

PBS Kids: SciGirls – Appropriate for: Elementary

This PBS resource provides a venue where girls can share information about science projects they have created. These projects are organized by science discipline and feature photos and descriptions about what the girls learned. This resource is geared towards elementary and middle school students. The site can easily be used as a catalyst to spark interest in the science fields. Go to PBS Kids: SciGirls

STEM Connector: 100 Women in STEM – Appropriate for: Middle, High

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnector™ unveils, in hard copy and online, its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publication. This resource includes 100 Women Leaders in STEM who share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the STEM jobs pipeline. This resource is an absolute must for researching current women leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Go to STEM Connector: 100 Women in STEM

Looking for More STEM Resources?

To find even more STEM resources to engage both the girls and boys in your classrooms, login to icurio and do a keyword search for STEM education or STEM resources.

Going Digital: Wake County’s netTrekker Experience

Shifting from Print to Digital Resources


As districts shift from print-based to digital learning resources, they are looking for educational content that is relevant and appropriate for students and pre-vetted to save teachers time. With the rise of 1:1 and BYOD initiatives, there’s an increasing need for high-quality content that students can access on any device.

Marlo Gaddis, Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media Services at Wake County Public School System in North Carolina, was looking for an online solution that provided vetted digital resources and literacy support while being accessible to students at home. Since Wake County had few digital resources for its K-8 classrooms across 137 elementary and middle schools, they needed content to help teachers with lessons and personalized learning.

In her interview, Marlo discusses how her district is using Knovation’s resources as they shift to digital.  She explains, “In our district, we were very textbook-driven. Where we’re trying to go is in line with the state of North Carolina; we’re trying to go digital by 2017.”

Saving Teachers Time

In today’s world, teachers are extremely busy. Knovation helps them save time with vetted, high quality content that supports personalized learning better than other resources on the market. netTrekker personalizes learning by allowing teachers to quickly identify resources according to the needs of their students (readability levels, language needs, specific types of resource, etc.)

Impacting Students

Wake County values netTrekker because it’s safe and allows students and teachers to find useful content quickly, as opposed to sifting through long lists of content that aren’t relevant.  This process ultimately gives students the opportunity to take an idea and turn it into a meaningful project.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Since teachers are so busy, districts need to find ways to help teachers work smarter, not harder. With netTrekker, teachers can immediately find the resources they need to use for instruction.


September 2014: Remembering How 9/11 Shaped American History

Remembering How 9/11 Shaped American History


September 11, 2001 … the day that changed America forever.  Few events have changed our country in the way that the horrific timeline of that September morning did.  Because this topic can be difficult for students to study, teachers need quality resources to help them build meaningful lessons regarding this chapter in America’s history. The following resources from icurio can help teachers approach this task appropriately.

Introduction for a lesson on 9/11:

Associated Press:  September 11:  Ten Years Later: A Lasting Impact (Middle/High)

  • The first resource from this site, a video titled Video: Sept. 11, 2001 shows a timeline of events from 9/11 and the number of people who lost their lives. The video length is 1 minute 45 seconds, and it provides a great starting point for a lesson on 9/11.
  • The 14th resource, a video titled Video:  9/11 Generation, includes students explaining their thoughts about being called the “9/11 Generation”.  The length of the video is 1 minute 35 seconds, and it shows the emotion of other students related to this topic.

Core instructional piece for a lesson on 9/11:

  • 9/11 Memorial:  Teach + Learn (Elem/Middle/High). Teachers can use the variety of materials on this site to develop lessons or share with students.  The site includes a timeline for students, and information on rescue and recovery efforts that took place following 9/11. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum are also highlighted on this site.
  • One notable lesson involves an oral history project involving middle school students who interview friends and family about their memories of 9/11.

Academic practice for a lesson on 9/11:

  • Readworks:  Always Remember (Elem/Middle). This non-fiction reading comprehension passage discusses the events of September 11, 2001, and contains questions and a teacher’s guide. The resource could be used by teachers as the basis for classroom discussion or individually by students. Free registration is required to access the passage and question set.
  • Awesome Stories:  America Attacked:  9/11 (Middle/High). This learning module focuses on the events of September 11, 2001 within 12 chapters. This resource contains 12 brief digital chapters, along with photos and videos, and it could be used as part of a whole class lesson, divided up for small group work or used individually by students.  Free registration may be required to access some features of the site.


September 2014: Remembering How 9/11 Shaped American History

Remembering How 9/11 Shaped American History

For your students, 9/11 is part of history, not a current event. The world your students live in today continues to be affected by the events of that day and its aftermath. netTrekker can help you with resources that are appropriate to your particular teaching situation.

Early Elementary

The events of September 11 may not be part of your social studies lessons, but students might ask questions about it, after hearing older siblings or adults talking about it.

Middle School

Students will probably have some knowledge of the events and aftermath of 9/11.

High School

Students will likely know quite a lot about the events of 9/11 from studying it in earlier years. Now you can extend that knowledge by encouraging the use of both primary resources and critical thinking skills as they analyze and compare news coverage from around the world on 9/11 and the week that followed.


National Digital Content & Curriculum Survey Findings

Summary of Results and Implications for School Districts Released

As districts are shifting from traditional textbooks to digital content to provide more relevant and more personalized learning experiences for their students, they are faced with revising their resource selection process. No longer can they look to a single publisher or content provider to deliver the wide range of instructional materials they need to address college- and career-ready standards and support their individual students’ learning needs.

To understand which attributes of a K-12 digital curriculum strategy are most important to educators and administrators as they embark upon the process of acquiring new digital content, Knovation conducted a National Digital Content & Curriculum survey this spring. The summary of results and key implications for school districts were announced in a press release today.

Key Areas of Digital Curriculum Strategy Addressed

The report reveals what is most important to educators across the U.S. as they implement their digital curriculum strategy and how school districts can leverage that information, in the following areas:

  • Selecting digital resources to purchase
  • Ensuring quality and rigor of digital resources
  • Organizing learning resources and aligning them to district curriculum
  • Prioritizing learning object attributes

Download the summary of results to read the key implications for school districts.

What other attributes are critical for you to consider as you plan your digital curriculum strategy and select digital content for your district?

5 Tips to Find the Right Ed-Tech Partner

Five critical points every district should consider when choosing an ed-tech partner

Our chief academic officer, Steve Nordmark, recently contributed an article on the eSchool News site, where he shared five critical points every district should consider when choosing an ed-tech partner. As many schools are transitioning from print-based instruction to digital curriculum, there are so many products, vendors and resources available. How can you decide what will work best for the teachers and students in your district?

 Consider these 5 tips:

  1. Create a clear vision for your transformation.
  2. Develop a plan that supports your vision and curricular objectives.
  3. Search for partners that can address multiple challenges.
  4. Identify partners that can assist with current and long-term needs.
  5. Choose a partner with proven results.


You can view the article on eSchool News in its entirety here:
Five tips to find the right ed-tech partner for your school district.