The New Year of the Trees: Ecological EdTech for Tu Bishvat

| By Yonah Kirschner, Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications

The holiday of Tu Bishvat begins this year on Friday evening, February 10th. As the Jewish holiday most closely connected to the environment and the natural world, Tu Bishvat provides a great opportunity for teachers to include earth and environmental science in their curriculum. This year, we were inspired by Jewish texts about the natural world. For each text, we’ve taken out a particular topic you can focus on in your classroom and provided educational technology resources that can help your students reach their learning goals. Our hope is that after using these tools and developing a stronger understanding of Earth, your students will have a more meaningful Tu Bishvat.

 

Ecosystems

“It is good to pray and dialogue with God in the field amongst the grass and trees. When a person prays in the field then all the plants and animals join in the praying and help him or her giving strength to the prayer.” (Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav)

Our environment affects how we feel and how we function. Ecosystems affect animals and plants similarly. Your students can investigate different natural ecosystems, how they work, and how animals and plants survive and thrive there.

Technology you can integrate:

Ecosystems StudyJams - Explore modules on biomes, food chains, the water cycle, and more

Ecosystems HD App - View photos and videos about the major biomes of the Earth

HabiTactics App - Play a game to learn about predators and prey in different ecosystems

iBiome - Wetland App - Build bio domes from scratch and learn how to make them thrive

Feed the Dingo: An Ecosystem Game - Try a simulation that teaches about the food chain (There are also additional games from PBSLearning Media, such as the arctic, mangrove, and mountain ecosystems.)

 

Conservation

“In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: ‘See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.’” (Qohelet Rabbah 7:28)

It’s easy to take the resources we have for granted, but what we have on Earth is finite, and (so far!) we have just one planet that we can call home. Students may have a vague notion about recycling from home but may not fully understand the underlying reasons for conservation and sustainability. They can use the time around Tu Bishvat to investigate why it is important to conserve our natural resources for future generations.

Technology you can integrate:

Enercities - Choose energy resources and build a sustainable city

Earth Rangers - Watch videos, then choose a mission to protect the animals and environment

Gro Memo App - Play a game to clean up two polluted environments and help the animals

Water Cycles App - Guide water from the mountains to the sea in over 150 puzzle games

 

Botany

Rabbi Shimon said, “There is no plant without an angel in Heaven tending it and telling it, ‘Grow!'” (Bereishit Rabbah 10:7)

Plants manage to live with just sunlight and water (and perhaps with that angel’s help as well!) Their remarkable growth processes can be a bit of a mystery to students, who will enjoy learning all about the plant life cycle with these fun, interactive resources.

Technology you can integrate:

Reach for the Sun - Grow a plant, help it survive and thrive, and learn about photosynthesis

Plants StudyJams - Explore modules on plant cells, plant adaptations, flowers, and more

Life Cycle of a Seed Plant - Play a game to learn about parts of flowers and what they do (There’s also another game on this site to learn about photosynthesis.)

Plants App by KIDS DISCOVER - Discover plants through photos, videos, 3D models, games and more

Plants HD - Learn about seeds, germination, and pollination with photos, quizzes, and games

Gro Garden - Grow an organic garden and learn about sustainable farming along the way

 

Geographical Features

“In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature - meadows full of flowers, majestic mountains, flowing rivers. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.” (Rabbi Abraham ben Maimonides)

Geographical features are certainly some of the most intriguing elements on planet Earth. Before your students try to explain the complex meaning behind this quote, you can first have them investigate the science of Earth’s geographical features in more depth.

Technology you can integrate:

NatGeo Mapmaker Interactive - Create your own world map with customized features

Wonders of Geology App - Take a virtual field trip through mountains and learn about tectonics, faults, and erosion

EarthObserver App - Study the world from above with an atlas of earth and environmental maps

World Geography Games - Play games about mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanoes, and more

USGS Streamer - View the differences between waterways’ upstream and downstream flows

Google Earth App - Travel the globe virtually and zoom in on interesting locations

AirPano - Explore some of the world’s most incredible geographical features with 360 degree panoramic views

 

Are there other resources you use to teach about the earth for Tu Bishvat? Let us know in a comment below!
 

Related Resources:
A New Year for Trees: Digital Resources for Earth and Environmental Science
Virtual Field Trips for Students to Explore the World

 

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