I can hear you!
A couple of months ago, I discovered a fantastic educational website for children. And since I am a music teacher, I knew right away that I wanted to review this website. It sounded exactly what I wished I could have had when I was an elementary music teacher.
The site is Rockford's Rock Opera. It is subtitled "The Creatures Have a Secret." I am enthralled by it! It has an interactive portion of the site where students age 11 and under (and possibly even older--it depends on the child) can play the story, read along, read the songs/lyrics, and so much more. I think what intrigues me even more is that it has an ecological message. "Being Green" is all the rage now, and I am thrilled that the site uses music and so much more to get the idea of responsible living across.
As a music teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the educational area. There are lesson plans that cover each area of the story and opera. They are perfect for cross-curricular teaching. There are lessons for music, reading, art, science, and so much more. I only wish I had a class right now so I could teach these fantastic lessons!
This site is free to a certain point, and after that, one has to become a member. If I were a full-time teacher, i think I would investigate more of the paid areas. I love pre-made lesson plans and interactive sites like this. Not only does it inspire the students when a teacher brings technology like this into the classroom, but it is ideal for "filler" time. There are always those students who finish early, and this is the ideal thing to keep those students on task and under control. And for making up absences? Fantastically easy!
What I am most happy about is that it uses the term "opera," and makes this genre of music less scary for children. If you ask just about any school-age child (my daughter included) to tell their thoughts about opera, you will hear all sorts of things. Some students confuse "opera" and "Oprah." Others have the concept of opera where "the fat lady" sings a song at the top of her voice. It was my perception as I grew up as well.
I cannot recommend this fantastic website enough. In fact, I would say this would be ideal for homeschool as well as public/private schools. It is appropriate for almost any subject, and I would highly recommend the full area of the site--you will not regret it!
Rockford's Rock Opera
Elaine and Matthew Sweetapple live in the UK and are adoptive parents of Elaine the manatee. They are also creators of Rockford's Rock Opera, a musical story that teaches children about ecology and extinction. Rockford's Rock Opera is currently used in 15,000 schools worldwide and is a hit with children and adults alike with well over a million downloads to date. Recently, the Sweetapples created a new character for the story called the "Interstellar Sea Cow" together with a captivating song that's now available on Amazon (UK residents click here) or at iTunes, with all proceeds going to manatee conservation efforts.
Rockford's Rock Opera tells the story of a boy named Moog and his dog, Rockford, who arrive on the mystical Island of Infinity, which is home to the last one of every extinct animal species. The rock opera has been featured on the BBC and has received rave reviews, including a description by The Times as "an amazing mix of story, songs and sound effects." Matthew writes, produces and performs all the music for the rock opera, Elaine creates the designs and illustrations, and writer Steve Punt - a well-known comedian in the UK - provides the script and many of the voices.
The Sweetapples are currently hard at work on Rockford's next adventure, due out in 2012, and which features the Interstellar Sea Cow, an animal character based on the Steller's sea cow, a relative of modern day manatees and dugongs that was hunted to extinction in 1768. In Rockford's Rock Opera, the Interstellar Sea Cows are the last of an imagined herd of creatures that wander the universe spreading peace and love with their siren's songs. "We thought that the tale of the Steller's sea cow, and its fate at the hands of man, could be told to make the world aware of the plight of its modern day relatives," said Matthew. "The character was also inspired by the fact that the collective scientific name for all sea cows is 'Sirenia' - which both suggested the idea of music and sirens, and sounded to us very 'alien'!"
The Sweetapples believe it is important to use the success ofRockford's Rock Opera to support organizations that are helping to protect endangered species, especially when they have relevance to their animal characters. So as a gift for Matthew's birthday last year, Elaine adopted her namesake, Elaine the manatee, from Save the Manatee Club, and the couple later contacted the Club to offer the proceeds from the Interstellar Sea Cow Song. "Over the past year - although we're in the UK - we were really impressed with the charity and its work, so when we wrote our sea cow song, it was obvious that Save the Manatee Club would be the charity we'd most like to support," said Elaine. "From our point of view, since our Interstellar Sea Cow character was inspired by manatees and sea cows, it's only right that the song should help support these amazing, gentle creatures."
Matthew and Elaine have added Save the Manatee Club's web address to their Rockford web site and Facebook pages, so their visitors can learn more about manatees and what they can do to help protect them. The Rockford's Rock Opera web site also contains information about the threats currently faced by plants and animals around the world, along with lesson plans for educators and other resources.
"In creating Rockford's Rock Opera, we've been amazed how the true stories of extinct creatures, mixed with a little imagination, truly inspire children, prompting them to ask questions and to learn more about the natural world," said Matthew. "It also, we're glad to say, inspires them to make a difference and to realise the importance of every life and every species, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant."
"So now, if a catchy, Interstellar Sea Cow dance anthem inspires more people to support the Stellar sea cow's modern day relatives and Save the Manatee Club," said Elaine, "that's a brilliant result!"
Check out the Interstellar Sea Cow Song
and Rockford's Rock Opera
- Listen to the Interstellar Sea Cow Song on Facebook.
- Download the Interstellar Sea Cow song on iTunes or at Amazon and help support manatee conservation efforts. (Note: UK residents can download the song by clicking on this link for Amazon UK ).
- Discover Rockford's Rock Opera! Part One is available free to download or stream from the Rockford web site. It is also available as a podcast or free App on iPhone. Parts 2, 3 and 4 are available as a downloads, Apps or on CD.
We're glad to report that a bathtub-sized marine sponge rediscovered after a century of extinction.
Not found alive for over a century the evocatively named Neptune's cup sponge (Cliona patera) has been rediscovered off the shores of Singapore. Researchers with the environmental consulting DHI Group found the species during a routine dive. Although the specimen they found was small, the goblet-shaped sponge can reach nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and the same in diameter.
"When we came across the sponge, we knew immediately that this was something very different," marine biologist Karenne Tun from DHI said in a press release.
First described in 1822, full-grown Neptune cups were used as bathtubs for children. Overharvesting for the magnificent organism, however, led to its near extinction. The sponge was last sighted in 1908 in Indonesian waters and believed to be extinct since then. However, dead Neptune's cups were found in dredge samples from northern Australia in the 1990s, providing hope that the species was still around.
"Basically, little is known about the Neptune's Cup, as it was never found alive," adds Tun. "Now we have the opportunity to study the biology and ecology of this impressive sponge and learn about its life cycle. [...] We've already had the first surprise: The Neptune's cup was thought to be a very slow growing species. However, between our last visits in April and August, respectively, it had grown several centimeters."
Evolving over 150 million years ago, sponges anchor themselves to the marine floor, feeding on plankton and other small marine animals as water passes through their filtering bodies.
This story originally appeared in mongabay.com