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From the Field: Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, August 16, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

From the Field: Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, August 16, 2022

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades K–College

Nature Lab

Featuring virtual field trips (VFT), curriculum, school garden resources, home enrichment activities, and more, the Nature Conservancy’s Nature Lab learning platform provides a wealth of resources for K–12 teachers, students, and families to explore how nature works and what to do to maintain and protect it. Check out the VFTs (grades 3–8)—each with an accompanying Teacher Guide—on topics such as Citizen Science, Frogs, and Cicadas; Changing Climate, Changing Cities; The Secret Life of Corals; China’s Great Forests; Wild Biomes: America’s Rainforests and Deserts; and Powering the Planet: Renewable Energy. Each approximately 30-minute VFT showcases working scientists and their research. 

Similarly, the classroom curriculum section (organized by grade bands) offers video-based lessons featuring scientists and exploring the role of soil and water in the garden and how food is produced and transported (grades K–5); sustainable forestry and wildfire science (grades 6–8); and water security issues, climate science, STEM careers, and resource management (grades 9–12). The home enrichment activities (grades 3–8) are designed to immerse families in hands-on science projects for a week at a time. Themes explored include “Provide Food and Water Sustainably,” “Tackle Climate Change, Build Healthy Cities,” and “Protect Land and Water.”

Science Education in an Age of Misinformation

This Stanford University–led report explores questions of information literacy for science educators, including these: Why do students need to develop the ability to evaluate scientific expertise and information? Why is it an urgent priority for scientists and science educators to develop students’ competency to evaluate information? Targeted for high school to college educators as well as K–college administrators and education researchers, this 51-page report presents information on topics like misrepresenting data, what to consider when interpreting the sampling methods of a study, and how to deal with scientific uncertainty. In addition, the report features sample exercises for teachers to test students’ data literacy skills and discusses implications for education policy and potential recommendations for improvement. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Preschool and Kindergarten

Discovery Play Activity: Ice Cream!
Making ice cream can engage young learners (ages 3–5) in STEM explorations. The simple activity provides opportunities for students and teachers to explore computational thinking concepts, like following a sequence of steps in a particular order; chemistry and mathematical concepts, like measuring and mixing ingredients; and physical science concepts, like changing from a solid to a liquid when melted. Developed at the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center, the activity features adaptations to enable teachers to conduct the activity with students of varying developmental levels. It also includes questions to prompt students thinking, as well as simple, visual cues to help young learners identify each step of the ice cream–making process. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

NASA eClips @Home: Simple Machines

Join NASA interns Jacob, Sarah, and Lenore as they explore force, motion, energy, and simple and compound machines. Targeted for students in grades 4–7, the approximately 30-minute video shows viewers how NASA uses simple and compound machines and how to find (or create!) examples in your own home. Featuring cardboard lunar rover models, toy cars explorations, spinning chairs, and more, the video helps students understand concepts such as force, motion, energy, potential energy, and kinetic energy, as well as how various simple and compound machines work.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Middle Level and High School

Materials Identification Lesson

Need a lesson to excite middle and high school students about materials science and STEM careers? Check out this introductory materials identification activity from the ASM Materials Education Foundation. In the activity, students work in teams to sort and classify provided objects by material type (e.g., metals, ceramics, polymers, ceramics), reporting on their reasonings for each classification to classmates. 

Once students have discussed the sorting activity and generated a list of properties for each materials category, give each student team another, more challenging, object to classify (e.g., lightbulb, silicone lump, foamed glass, fiberglass mat, and so on). Typically, students’ discussion regarding the more difficult objects to classify is more extensive than their first classification discussion. As students become more nuanced in classifying and justifying their thinking (critical thinking), they will come to realize that science and classification are not always perfect. The lesson plan includes Instructor’s Notes to facilitate implementation.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School

Who Claims the Arctic?

Try this activity from the Teaching With the Library of Congress (LOC) blog to engage learners in grades 9–12 in primary source analysis and an investigation of maritime boundaries in polar regions and their impact. The movement and breakup of sea ice in the Arctic concentrates shipping routes in certain areas. These can directly affect wildlife in regions that may remain unprotected. Using a map from the LOC’s General Maps collection—The Arctic Region, Central Intelligence Agency, 2008—along with the activity’s guided questions and their own observations, students work through the process of analyzing a primary source document and consider the complexity of the shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean. Students’ map explorations will likely yield questions and observations requiring additional research, thus extending their learning and deepening their appreciation for using primary source documents as a tool to develop science understandings.

Opportunities From the Field: Grades K–College

Community Chat: Fundraising for Youth Gardening 
Formal and informal educators, whether you’re new to gardening or experienced, join this Community Chat to ask questions and share ideas about fundraising for your gardening program, including finding and applying for grants, fundraiser ideas, crowdfunding, and local donations of supplies. Topic specialists will be available to answer questions, but all attendees are encouraged to share their ideas. The chat will take place on August 24 at 3–4 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Educators who are unable to attend can register to receive a recording of the chat.

I Love My Librarian Award

Has a librarian at your school or college/university—or at your public library—supported you and/or your students in teaching and learning STEM? Have they devoted time to helping your community? Nominate them for the I Love My Librarian Award. Up to 10 exceptional librarians will be selected to receive $5,000 in recognition of their service. They'll be honored during a virtual award ceremony at the American Library Association's LibLearnX meeting in January 2023. (Deadline September 30)  

Association of American Educators Foundation Classroom Grant

Looking for funding for projects and/or materials? Full-time educators can apply for a grant of up to $500 from the Association of American Educators Foundation. Funds can be used for lab materials, software, calculators, books, math manipulatives, art supplies, audio-visual equipment, and other expenses. (Deadline October 8)

Opportunities From the Field: Elementary and Middle Level

National Geographic Explorer Classroom Events

These free, live interactive sessions for grades K–2 and 3–8 bring National Geographic Explorers—scientists and researchers from around the world—to your classroom. Students will hear behind-the-scenes stories and interact with experts. September sessions will feature the theme “Conserving Ecosystems.” In October, sessions will address the theme “Water Conservation.” Events for grades K–2 happen on Mondays at 11 a.m. ET; events for grades 3–8 take place on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET.

Classes can be featured on screen in Zoom or watch the session live on YouTube. Educators will receive an instructional guide to accompany the session.

Opportunities From the Field: Middle Level and High School

NASA TechRise Student Challenge

In the second NASA TechRise Student Challenge, middle level and high school student teams will develop, build, and launch science and technology experiments on high-altitude balloons. Students in grades 6–12 attending U.S. public, private, or charter schools—including those in U.S. territories—will form teams to design an experiment under an educator's guidance. Administered by Future Engineers, the competition offers hands-on insight into the design and test process used by NASA-supported researchers. It aims to inspire a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, surface features, and climate, as well as space exploration, coding, electronics, and the value of test data. Teams should submit their experiment ideas by October 24.  

Sixty winning teams will each receive $1,500 to build their experiment and an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flight operated by one of two commercial providers. Both high-altitude balloons provide exposure to the stratosphere at altitudes of approximately 9–19 miles (15–30 kilometers) and variable duration of flight time of hours to days. Winning teams will also receive technical support and mentorship from Future Engineers, including the opportunity to learn or improve technology skills such as soldering, coding, and 3D design. NASA encourages students and their instructors to submit experiment ideas even if they have no prior experience with these activities.

Educators interested in TechRise can join the virtual educator workshop on August 27 to learn more about the challenge, high-altitude balloons, and how to develop a NASA TechRise proposal. Attendees will also be able to ask questions of educators who recently participated in TechRise. And your class can drop in for the NASA TechRise Virtual Field Trip on September 22. Students will hear from NASA speakers, learn about sending a science or technology project to the stratosphere, and can pose questions to NASA experts on the main stage or in the virtual expo hall. 

Opportunities From the Field: High School

Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Grant

Eight grants of up to $7,500 each are available for the 2022–2023 school year through the InvenTeams grant program. The grant is available for educators to apply with a small group of high school students to integrate from STEM lessons to develop invention prototypes. (Deadline September 6)

2023 Knowles Teaching Fellowship Webinars

Are you a first-year, second-year, or preservice high school chemistry, physics, biology, or math teacher looking for support? The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program is a five-year program that can help you become the great teacher you want to be. Knowles Teaching Fellows receive mentoring and coaching from experienced educators, join a national community of science and math teachers seeking to support all students, and receive more than $50,000 in financial support, including grants and stipends for professional development and classroom materials. To learn more, register to attend one of two upcoming webinars:

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