Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant
Engaging students in active learning is always a challenge. Taking everyday objects apart to understand how they work is an excellent way to capture their attention, especially when you are looking at objects as familiar as clicking pens, bats, and squirt guns.
This volume contains fourteen inquiry activities originally presented in Science Scope, NSTA’s peer–reviewed journal for middle level and junior high school science teachers. Connections between scientific concepts, engineering processes, and technology are seamlessly presented through simple 5E lesson cycle hands–on, student centered activities that immediately engage students. The activities are designed around objects that can be found in the office, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, with electricity, and with objects associated with outdoor recreation. For example, students explore the variables of density by designing a life preserver for an action figure that keeps its head above water no matter how it falls into the water. The authors do an outstanding job of extending the activity by having students modify their designs. This is truly what engineering is all about. It also models good scientific processes.
As an educator, the reader will love several aspects presented in each article for them. There is the initial introduction that connects the activity to national standards for science, engineering, and technology. That is quickly followed by a short, historical information section related to the object. The historical perspective explains how this technology was developed to solve an everyday problem. Each step of the 5E lesson cycle is explained for the educator to make sure students get the most from their hands–on activities.
Each section includes photos to illustrate what students should be seeing. Following each activity there is a conclusion, resources, and references. The index provides a quick way to find an activity that addresses a particular concept to teach. The best of all is a single page student worksheet that not only instantly engages students in their own learning but suggests collaboration between students, just the way real engineers work. It is easy to follow for students and requires little if any teacher intervention. For an educator, one of the daunting aspects of lab is providing enough materials for students to be able to work in groups. In the teacher background information the authors describe how to acquire needed materials in the most economical and reusable fashion so that these activities can be done by multiple groups within a class section and with five sections a day. Safety issues are stated both in teacher background and on student worksheets.
It would not be fair to only point out the positives without mentioning a negative. The lessons usually take longer than stated. Students are so enthusiastic and engaged that they want more time to explore. Activities in this collection can be integrated into any science curriculum. While these activities were recommended for middle school students, they could easily be integrated into a high school physical science or physics class. This is a must–have collection of activities to introduce students to STEM integration, to make science fun, and to prepare students for their future.
Review posted on 5/30/2012