• 05 Sep
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    All writers need a creative jump start every once in awhile.

    Writer’s block can be as prevalent in the classroom as it is in front of an author’s typewriter.

    Sometimes you need to shake things up and encourage students to write something out of their usual comfort zone.

    With that in mind we’ve made some handy and fun writing prompts called Story Cubes to help out. Getting creative with story cubes is easy but first of all you need to make them.

    How to make Story Cubes:

    BrainPOP Story Cubes

    Click the image to start download.

    • Use scissors to cut them out (watch those fingers!)
    • Fold along all the edges and flaps
    • Stick them together using tape or glue on the tabs until you make a cube shape.

    How to use Story Cubes:

    Now you get to roll your new cubes!

    Roll all three (or just one if you like) and use whatever three three images that land face up to build your story. If you don’t like the images you get you can always re-roll!

    All the images are from BrainPOP movies, but you can interpret them how you like.

    Once you’ve made your cubes you can keep them for whenever you want to help creativity strike – they make a pretty nice decoration too!

    The Legacy by Sophie Millward-Sadler is a fantastic example of a student’s story that used BrainPOP’s story cubes for inspiration.

    And finally, don’t forget to use BrainPOP’s Creative Writing Spotlight to help students write their inspired story the best they can.

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  • 26 Aug
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    The summer holidays are drawing to a close and it’s time for a new school year.

    The end of August is always a bit bittersweet.

    The idea of being back at school after a long break, especially for children who’ve just finished primary school and are making the transition to secondary school, can feel intimidating.

    NoteTakingSkillsFYIImage2

    Adjusting back into a learning routine can be difficult, so with that in mind we’ve updated and improved our Back to School movie to help.

    Being nervous is normal

    Being nervous is completely normal and children aren’t alone in feeling that way, especially when moving to a new school.

    For those that are anxious Tim and Moby show a range of appropriate strategies to feel more confident, like asking questions on things you don’t understand and packing your school bag the night before.

    They also discuss techniques to get the most out of school, which can help students focus on what they can do be proactive and make going back to school something to look forward to.

    Set good habits early on

    The movie covers ways to get the most out of the school year like staying on top of your homework, clearing up your desk, and making sure you get the right amount of sleep.

    The importance of friendship

    There are also some ideas to help students make new friends and exploring their interests or discovering new ones, like joining a school club.

    Back to school clubs

    Healthy body, healthy mind

    The Back to School FYI covers often overlooked but key information like preventing back injuries while still carrying around everything you need and interesting facts like Jamie Oliver’s school dinners campaign.

    back to school activity

    Stay positive!

    Finally, the Activities helps students focus on the positives of going back to school and organise their thoughts on how they should properly prepare for going back to school.

    Don’t let back-to-school blues get you down and have a great new school year!

    PS: Don’t forget to be nice to your teachers! They might have back to school blues too! 😉

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  • 16 Aug
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    Reading for pleasure is not just fun it’s also fantastic for literacy and has a plethora of benefits, but it can be difficult to cultivate in some children.

    LiteraryGenresScreenshot3

    An emphasis on reading for pleasure is something the 2014 curriculum for England and Wales and the Curriculum for Excellence Studies both focus on and for good reason. After all, studies have suggested that reading for pleasure has a greater impact on children’s educational achievement than their social class or their family’s wealth and literacy skills in general have a huge impact on social mobility and quality of life.

    It can be difficult to get kids reading beyond what they have to. There’s a few things that can help:

    • Access to libraries
    • Supporting parents and carers to help with their children’s reading
    • Encouraging all kinds of reading (including non-fiction)
    • Children’s book clubs
    • Shared reading initiatives

    LiteraryGenresScreenshot1

    One of the top obstacles to getting kids reading is helping them find things they’ll like – no one likes to read books they’re not enjoying but when you read something you liked but are having difficulty finding other books like it or just you’re not sure what to look for at all it can get really frustrating.

    With the Literary Genres BrainPOP topic students can learn the different kinds of genres and what defines them, why genres are helpful ,and different conventions they’ll find in different genres as well as different techniques writers use to appeal to their target audiences.

    LiteraryGenresScreenshot2

    But it doesn’t just help students talk about literature in their writing and analysis of what they’ve been reading in class it can also help students identify different kinds of genre so they can more easily identify types of books they might want to give a try. Or maybe help them work out that the book they read recently that they really loved was actually science fiction or a thriller – so they know where to look for the next one.

    Students can explore different genres and various well known examples that help define that genre in this topic’s FYI section(and even check out a few in more detail that have their own topics like J.R.R. Tolkien.)

    literarygenres_activity

    And the activities encourage students to think about what they like and why as well as breaking down story conventions from particular conventions into categories – which can help them analyse different books or even to more easily write in that genre themselves!

    I hope you’re ready for the beginning of a literary adventure of epic proportions!

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  • 21 Jul
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    We love the BrainPOP UK app and we’re humbled that other people do too.

    But did you know that it’s fantastic for app smashing as well?

    App smashing with BrainPOP

    PS: For general tips on using our app check out ICT subject leader (and seasoned BrainPOP educator) Dawn Hallybone’s guest post Why you need to go mobile with BrainPOP and take a look at our ‘Get Mobile’ page to learn about the app and how to get it.

    Anyway, shall we get smashing?

    apps-image

    What is app smashing?

    App smashing is imaginatively combining multiple apps in a creative way – or “smashing” apps together.

    Instead of using one app to deliver a learning experience, app smashers use the best elements of multiple apps and combine them.

    A good example of app smashing would be combining a camera app, a collage making app, and an interactive image sharing app like thinglink (that lets you add things notes and music to photos) to create a presentation on a topic.

    A key to app smashing is the camera roll – taking photos and screenshots from other apps and then using those images to create something new is often the basis for successful app smashing combinations.

    Using the BrainPOP UK app in class

    What kind of apps can I smash with BrainPOP?

    One of the favourite ways I’ve seen the BrainPOP app smashed with another app is with an ebook creator app.

    Step 1: Students use the BrainPOP app to research a topic and take notes in a notepad app, like Evernote

    Step 2: Then combine their research notes and screenshots to make an ebook on the topic.

    Step 3: Publish the ebook and share it with classmates and parents.

    Not only have they made an ebook that can be used for summative assessment, the act of creating the book helps with information retention, and has the added bonus of being a great revision tool as well!

    Check out this guest post by John Quinn from Hilton Primary Academy for details on how he used BrainPOP and Book Creator app together in his class.

    moby_mobile

    Here are some other great ideas we’ve come across:

    • Creating your own RSA animate type video using this tutorial and research students have done on BrainPOP (including screenshots!) Don’t forget to check out our concept mapping and digital animation topics to help you get started.
    • Creating concept maps with apps like MindMeister using BrainPOP for research and screenshots.
    • Using enhanced note taking apps like Evernote and Notability are great for recording students’ thoughts while using BrainPOP (and for practising their note-taking skills).
    • Students making their own Tim and Moby style videos using Explain Everything. They can even use this Tim and Moby letter graphic organiser to get started.
    • File sharing apps like Dropbox are essential for collaborative projects so students can share notes, images and screenshots to use in their projects.

    For more great examples of different ways you can app smash take a look at Why app smash? by Richard Wells.

    Lastly, don’t forget to experiment and to think about apps that you and people you know use frequently – there’s usually a good reason for their popularity which could be incredibly useful in class once you start to explore ideas.

    Have a smashing time, everyone!

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  • 02 Jun
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    This June, can you do something wild every day for a month?

    The Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to feel more connected to nature by doing something wild every day in June.

    ElephantsScreenshot3

    What do you mean do something wild?

    It’s actually easier than it sounds – nature is all around us even in the city and if you take a moment to look for it you can find it in your morning commute, walking the dog, or while hanging out the washing.

    For ideas on what to do sign up to take the challenge here and get a cool promo pack with Random Acts of Wildness cards, a wallchart and some fun stickers to help inspire you to be wild. Check out the 30 Days Wild Twitter for more inspiration.

    Don’t forget to check out what your local branch of the Wildlife Trust has in store for this month.

    MetamorphosisScreenshot3

    How can I use BrainPOP for 30 Days Wild?

    30 Days Wild is great to do at school.

    Nature walks aren’t new to schools and the playground can be a veritable treasure trove and June is a great time of year to stop to appreciate all the nature around us.

    Exploring nature is a great way to trigger kids’ inquisitive sides and sometimes they have more questions than you can answer.

    Thankfully, there’s masses of nature topics on BrainPOP that can answer these questions and, even better, you can take them with you on your expeditions with the BrainPOP UK app.

    Here’s just a small selection of topics you might find useful while you’re going wild this month. Teachers can also request a free trial to unlock all the movies below.

    Don’t worry if the topic you need isn’t in this list, use our search or check our animals, plants and behaviour or geography: features and processes sections to help find what you need.

    Have fun taking a walk on the wild side!

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  • 10 May
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    Theme is an important writing device that can infuse a story with depth and meaning.

    But it can be tricky at first to spot and understand themes let alone learn how to include them within your own creative writing.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 09.46.27

    In our topic Theme, Tim and Moby explore the…well…theme…of themes within the context of their favourite film: Star Wars.

    The themes of Star Wars are easy to understand and identify once you know what you’re looking for, and has the added bonus of being familiar to kids everywhere.

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

    As we all know, it’s much easier to learn if it’s enjoyable – especially when it involves an X-Wing constructed out of cardboard!

    ThemeScreenshot1

    Our Theme movie depicts Yoda and Jar Jar reenacting the fable of the tortoise and the hare while “Moby-Wan” teaches Tim/Luke about the mysterious ways of the Force.

    • By exploring the rich world of Star Wars, students will discover what motifs are and how symbols are used to reinforce the message an author is trying to deliver!
    • After watching this movie students will learn to pick up details on the importance of plot, setting, dialogue, and characterisation, and how to understand the world of a story.
    • Ultimately it will add another dimension to their film-watching and book-reading experiences.

    ThemeScreenshot2

    In the activities section, you’ll find a handy graphic organiser that students can use focus on what to look for when they’re looking for themes in a film or book.

    Plus, the activities include a useful exercise to practice their new found theme hunting skills on well known fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.

    Finally, use the Lord of the Flies game to examine the themes, motifs, and symbolism in the Lord of the Flies to reinforce how to apply the concepts covered in the topic to more than just Star Wars.

    troopers

    May the force be with you!

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  • 20 Apr
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    Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest serving monarch and celebrates her 90th birthday on 21st April!

    Queen Elizabeth II Topic Screenshot

    Not only is Queen Elizabeth II Britain’s longest serving monarch she’s actually the longest lived as well after passing Queen Victoria’s 81 years. She’ll even get to celebrate her 90th birthday all over again on her official birthday on Saturday 11th June!

    The Royal Life

    Over her lifetime the Queen has seen many changes and important events in the United Kingdom. So, in honour of her 90 years, let’s take a look at some of them.

    Women's Suffrage Topic Screenshot

    Elizabeth was only 2 years old when women finally received the right to vote in the Representation of the People Act in 1928.

    Since then Elizabeth has seen important laws like the equal pay act and the sexual discrimination act that ensure fair and equal treatment for female workers. And the first female British Prime Minister was elected in 1979 when Elizabeth was 53.

    Elizabeth was a young woman during World War II  and stayed in Britain throughout the war despite suggestions from politicians that the princesses should be evacuated to Canada. Not only did the war have an enormous social and economic impact on Britain, its end also marked the beginning of the decline of the British Empire.

    Queen Elizabeth II Topic Screenshot

    By the time Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1953 the British Empire had already begun its transformation into the Commonwealth of Nations and her role as the head of multiple independent states such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand was already established.

    Throughout her reign more and more of the territories and colonies of the British Empire declared their independence finally culminating in Hong Kong’s (Britain’s last major overseas territory) return to China in 1997.

    HistoryoftheUKFYIImage4

    And it’s not just overseas territories that have changed. Northern Ireland was self-governing had its own parliament and prime minister until 1972 after the escalating violence of The Troubles convinced the British government suspend the Northern Irish government. It wasn’t until 1998 that the Northern Irish National assembly was established.

    Actually, 1998 was also a big year for Scotland and Wales as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were established!

    Money Topic Screenshot

    In 1971 The UK switched to a decimal based currency, forever making our money make much more sense (and be easier to count).

    olympics

    In 2012 London hosted the Olympics for the second time in Elizabeth’s lifetime (1908 and 1948). The opening ceremony celebrated British history and culture covered topics from the Industrial Revolution, World War II, celebrated British children’s literature, popular British music, and even included a short film with a cameo by the Queen and James Bond!

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    Moby claims that this is the email the Queen sent but we have it on good authority that it was Tim.

    The Queen hasn’t just seen societal change during her lifetime but a huge technological change as well. She’s considered the the first head of state to have used email after she sent her first message over ARPANET – the forerunner to today’s Internet in 1976 at a technology demonstration.

    The very first British television broadcast was in 1929, when the queen was only 3 years old, but it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that televisions began to be common. The BBC even stopped broadcasting during WWII and people relied on the radio instead.

    Hybrid Cars Topic Screenshot

    Although cars and phones existed before the Queen was born they were radically different to the smart phones, which are basically tiny computers in your pocket, and environmentally conscious hybrid cars you find today.

    For example, according to futurist Michio Kaku a modern smartphone has more computing power than all of NASA in 1969 – when NASA was sending missions to the Moon!

    Medicine has taken leaps and bounds in the last 90 years. For example penicillin was discovered in 1928 and the first vaccine for measles was created in 1963. MRIs, CAT scans and other medical technologies and advancements now help people live long and healthy lives.

    ComputersScreenshot2

    Computers and the Internet are probably the most drastic change in the Queen’s lifetime. Especially in such a small amount of time. Personal computers (the kind you’d have in your home) only really started to become available in the late 1970s and now they’re a part of everyday life in the Western world.

    Computers Topic Screenshot

    Similarly, the Internet has connected the people from all across the world and given people access to huge swathes of information. It’s been a huge cultural and technological phenomenon.

    And without it you wouldn’t have BrainPOP!

    Wow! It’s been a busy 90 years! Happy birthday Elizabeth – after all that we hope you get to put your feet up and have a cup of tea!


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  • 09 Jul
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    Nikola Tesla’s birthday is coming up on 10th July. Read on to find out why you should care about this extraordinary inventor’s achievements and join in the celebration.

    Nikola Tesla

    Many great artists, innovators, and thinkers weren’t appreciated in their time and only found fame after their death, to name but a few:

    Gregor Johann Mendel, an Augustinian priest who today is known as the “father of modern genetics” and his work on inheritance was not really recognised or praised until the 20th Century

    Gregor Mendel

    While Edgar Allen Poe was a published author, he never made much money and never received much renown in his lifetime. Today however, his work is known around the world and celebrated for its contribution to the literary world.Edgar Allen Poe

    And then there’s the most famous example of all, though having been a painter for decades, Vincent van Gogh didn’t become successful until the end of his life and he didn’t live to see the super-stardom he and his work achieved.A Starry Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

    Perhaps, most tragic of all is Nikola Tesla‘s story. He died penniless and alone, remembered for his more eccentric ideas and his accomplishments forgotten.

    Happily, things are changing and Tesla’s work is much more well-known, and thanks to a successful Internet crowd-funding campaign Tesla’s laboratory in Wardenclyffe, New York is being preserved and converted into a museum dedicated to his legacy.

    There’s even a manufacturer of electric cars named after Tesla and his name is also a unit to measure the strength of magnetic fields!

    So, to celebrate the birthday of this inspirational inventor, explore BrainPOP UK’s brand new Tesla topic and learn all about the “Wizard of Wardenclyffe” who developed the system that would provide electricity to every home, invented a type of motor that’s still used in all sorts of electric devices, and came up with most of the components used in radio and television broadcasting just to name a few of his accomplishments.

    Mad scientist Tim

    You just might find yourself getting inspired to go full mad scientist!

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  • 15 May
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    ICT is now “Computing” in the 2014 curriculum and there’s been a huge shift in focus toward teaching programming, but knowing where to start isn’t that easy.

    In fact, it’s pretty safe to assume that there’s lots of grown ups out there that need introducing to computing. The changes to what is now the computing curriculum can seem a bit daunting, especially if you don’t have any prior experience.

    With how busy teachers are these days it’s hard to find time in the day to find new resources let alone teach yourself a whole new skill-set which you then need to try and teach!

    So are YOU ready to embrace your inner geek? We are! Let’s do this!

    ComputerVirusesScreenshot3

    Thankfully programming isn’t as scary as it looks and, if you’re a native English speaker, the hardest thing you’ll have to do at first is learn to make yourself write in American English (as that’s what most programming languages use). It’s probably best not to have a cup of tea during your first few sessions of programming, so you don’t splutter into it in indignation and cover the keyboard in tea (it takes ages to clean it properly).

    How do I get started?

    It’s best to focus on the basics. Like when you first learned to read or to speak another language getting a solid foundation to build upon will stand you in good stead.

    You didn’t start off in French classes learning how to have a political discourse in classic French, so starting off with the programming equivalent of “Où est la bibliotèque?” while not particularly exciting is definitely wise.

    In terms of programming this means getting an understanding of the basics of:

    • What a programming language is and how it works
    • Programming key terms
    • Basic programming logic

    So what tools can you use to get your head around computer programming?

    First off to get a good idea of what it is and what it’s got to do with the box you mostly watch cat videos on. These 3 BrainPOP videos will give you a grounding in how computers work and the basics of what a programming language is, what it does, and why it’s useful. Just sit back and watch.

    1. Computer Programming

    BrainPOP UK - Computer Programming

    This BrainPOP topic covers what programming languages are, the basics of how they work, and the types of things they can be used for.

    2. Computer

    BrainPOP UK - Computer Topic

    This BrainPOP topic explains all about the hardware in your computer. What the different parts are, as well as the fundamentals of how they work and communicate. Having a basic understanding of the anatomy of your hardware makes it a lot easier to understand programming otherwise it can be a bit like trying to understand how you move your legs without knowing about muscles and bones.

    3. Binary

    BrainPOP UK - Binary Topic

    No, you haven’t fallen into “The Matrix”, this BrainPOP topic introduces you to the “language of computers” and how computers use binary to represent and store data. 

    How can I actually start coding?

    Okay so we have our overview of what a programming language is, the anatomy of a computer, and how a computer communicates, it’s time to actually start programming!

    Probably the easiest way to get started is to solve some puzzles using programming rather than actually try to start writing something from scratch – the equivalent of sounding out phonemes while learning to read rather than trying to write an essay right off the bat.

    There are a few different (free!) programming games on BrainPOP you can get started with for adults the best one to start with is probably Sketch Racer which is very reminiscent of LOGO, but if you’re particularly fond of puppies or sci fi then maybe Tynker: Puppy Adventure or Tynker: Lost in Space might be more your speed.

    Tynker - Lost in Space on BrainPOP

    The fantastic thing about these games is that they’re very beginner-friendly – they start slowly and build on your knowledge incrementally. If you make a mistake you can see almost right away and correct it easily (and, even better, no one will know you made a mistake either.) These games are a really solid way to get an initial grasp on the fundamentals before you get really stuck in.

    Some people just get on better with a more physical approach to learning and adults are no different. This lesson idea to get across how “instructions” work in programming is great in class but also for adults as well, all you need is to grab a friend, spouse, or particularly amenable family dog to get started.

    I’ve done all that so what do I do next?

    There’s a few different resources you can use to deepen your knowledge and really get to grips with programming and what you go for depends on what you want to get out of it. If you’re a Key Stage 1 or 2 teacher wanting to start teaching the basics to their students then resources like Scratch, Tynker, BBC Schools, Code Club, CodeHour of Code, and Raspberry Pi are all great places to explore.

    Key Stage 3 or more precocious students might also enjoy resources like W3 Schools – a platform for coding to build websites, Learn Python – a python programming language learning resource, Khan Academy and Code Academy.

    If you’ve discovered you really like coding and want to get more involved yourself then National Coding Week (coming up in September 2015) is a great place to start. If you can’t wait that long then your local library is a good place to get more intensive programming language books and online resources like Khan Academy and Code Academy have easy to use resources and helpful communities.

    Happy coding!

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  • 02 Apr
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    In a salute to our furry, feathered and…scaly friends, here’s a collection of our “pet” movies so you can learn about your favourite pet in National Pet Month which runs from 7th April – 7th May.

    Want to be the coolest cat in town? You will be after watching this movie, where Tim and Moby introduce you to those finicky felines called cats. Learn about some of the different types of house cat and their common behaviour patterns. Discover when and where cats were first used as pets and how the ancient Egyptians honoured them and even mummified them! Learn how they are able survive a high fall, why they purr and even how long they are likely to live. You’ll also get some tips for keeping your own cat healthy and happy. After watching this movie, you’ll be the cat’s whiskers!

    Here’s a shout out to all the cool Cats.

    cats

    Cats

    In this movie, Tim and Moby tell you everything you need to know about dogs. Learn about some of the dog’s more ferocious relatives, and find out why you can’t just bring a wolf cub home and call it a puppy. Discover when and where dogs were first domesticated, and the help they provided early humans. Find out how breeds developed, how kennel clubs classify dogs into different groups and see some examples of breeds that fall into each category. Plus, discover the traits that all dogs share, and the different jobs they can do – like being a guide dog. Finally, learn what dogs need from humans and how you can make your pet a loyal, gentle companion. The only thing you won’t learn from this movie is how to talk your parents into getting you one!

    Man’s best friend – woman’s too! Dogs

    dogs

    Dogs

    Dogs are great, but it’s time to say hello to man’s other best friend. Let Tim and Moby saddle up to tell you everything you need to know about horses. From the tips of their hooves to the hairs in their manes, you’ll discover precisely why horses have been so important to humans throughout history. You’ll discover how they first evolved, and when scientists believe they were first domesticated. You’ll also find out about the many different breeds that have emerged over time and to which modern animals horses are related. Plus, you’ll see how technology has changed their role in our lives.

    So quit horsing around and come along for the ride – Horses

    horses

    Horses

    Hey, bird-brains! Want to learn more about our feathered friends? Tim and Moby take a break from their bird-watching session to teach you the basics about these winged creatures. Discover just how many species of birds there are, as well as what makes a bird a bird. You’ll learn the basics of bird flight – including how their wings give them lift and how aeroplanes are modeled on these amazing animals. Find out why birds have hollow bones, very different types of feathers and fused vertebrae. Lastly, you’ll discover the key differences between males and females. So if you’re as free as a bird then don’t chicken out, watch this movie.

    Our feathered friends – Birds

    Birds

    Birds

    There’s something fishy going on at BrainPOP. Tim and Moby tell you all about the largest group of vertebrates on earth. You’ll learn about the special features of a fish’s body – from its fins to its gills to other specialized parts like sucker-mouths and swim bladders. Discover what ectothermic means and what it’s got to do with being cold-blooded as well as how these specialised parts help them breathe and move under water. Examine the three main fish types and find out the differences between bony fish, cartilaginous fish, and agnathan or jawless fish. You’ll also find out why fish are such an important part of the human diet.

    But don’t go eating your goldfish! – Fish 

    fish

    Fish

    Ribbit…Ribbit. In this movie, you’ll be introduced to the various types of amphibians – frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts – and see how much they can differ in their body shapes and lifestyles. Find out the difference between anurans, urodeles and caecilians and the metamorphosis of a tadpole to a frog. Discover why amphibians hold a special place in vertebrate history and find out how they manage to spend their lives in two very different types of environments. Of course, you won’t learn how to catch flies like a frog, – you’re on your own with that one!

    Amphibians – croooooak!

    amphibians

    Amphibians

    Now, does anyone own a hamster named Moby? You’d make us very proud!

     

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