iCivics.org is a great resource for secondary educators teaching social studies, government, and civics courses. Originally founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the non-profit site provides full-unit lesson plans, interactive activities and games to engage students on important topics such as the foundations of government, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the 3 branches of government. There are also a wide variety of interesting games to help students apply their knowledge in real-life situations. (The games are created in part by Filament Games – the same company who works with the JASON project and BrainPop!)
All of the materials on the site are free, but there are additional resources and game-play options when teachers and students create free accounts. I forwarded the link to the Social Studies teachers on my campus, especially since a lot of the curriculum matches up with the 8th Grade curriculum here in the state of Texas. It seems like they have enjoyed using it so far – hopefully it can help you, too!
I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time this summer with my family, and I was amazed at expansive “The Smithsonian” actually is. It is much more than the name initially sounds like – it is actually the largest museum complex in the world with 19 museums, 9 research centers, and over 100 affiliate museums. We were only able to visit a few facilities on our short trip, but I could not believe how many awesome things there were to explore for free!
While doing research for another project, I came across the Smithsonian’s History Explorer website. From the About page on the site, the “Smithsonian’s History Explorer was developed by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Verizon Foundation to offer hundreds of free, innovative online resources for teaching and learning American history.” I immediately forwarded the resource to my Social Studies teachers on campus!
The site includes easy-to-use search tools to sort resources by type, grade level, historical era, and cross-curricular connections (my favorite!) There are primary sources, videos, and even full lesson plans available for teachers. The page is very simple to navigate, and there are even tutorials to help users access all the features of the site. Even if you don’t teach a US History or social studies class, I think that there are some great resources for teachers of all subject areas. Let me know if you find something that works for your classroom!
PhET Interactive Simulations
The University of Colorado Boulder continues to update the interactive science simulations on the PhET website. These free sims are excellent ways to expose students to often complicated topics in new ways. The site was originally designed to deliver physics simulations and virtual labs, but they now offer all kinds of tools for chemistry, biology, graphing, and other math/science topics. I recently discovered the teacher resources, that include lesson plans, handouts, and assessments that help teachers better integrate these simulations into their classrooms in a meaningful way. Users can upload their own activities or documents, and as they are reviewed, the best ones are given “gold star”, high quality status.