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Freebies and Opportunities From the Field for Science and STEM Teachers, July 5, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies and Opportunities From the Field for Science and STEM Teachers, July 5, 2022

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades K–College

Interactive Water Cycle Diagrams

Students of all ages can learn more about the water cycle and how it works with interactive diagrams from the U.S. Geological Survey. Available in more than 35 languages, and versioned for beginner (grades K–5), intermediate (grades 5–9), and advanced (grades 9–adult) learners, the diagrams allow students to “mouse around” the parts of the water cycle to view explanations, pictures, and more. The beginner level describes the water cycle in simplest form, highlighting key processes and terms such as Sun, precipitation, evaporation, condensation, and runoff. The intermediate diagram addresses the water cycle more deeply, introducing terms such as snowmelt, transpiration, groundwater, plant uptake, and seepage. The advanced diagram explains the water cycle in even greater depth, introducing additional factors influencing the water cycle (e.g., streamflow, ocean vents, volcanic steam, animals, groundwater storage) and explaining how these factors affect it. 

Incredible Invertebrates! 

Teach students about invertebrates and why they are important with this collection of identification guides (soil, foliage, and flower), videos, and curriculum developed by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation of Portland, Oregon. The identification guides, activity guides, and field journal can be tailored to any age group. 

X Kids and the Incredible Invertebrates, an activity book for grades 4–5, presents nine challenges for students, exploring topics such as invertebrate identification, pollination, predation, water filtration, butterfly life cycle, bioluminescence, insect communication habits, and native habitats. Students who complete all the activities in the book and submit a signed pledge to protect invertebrates can receive an X-Kid Invertebrate Protector badge. 

A Monarch Toolkit, most appropriate for grades 3–5, has lessons, posters, printables, and videos for students and teachers to learn more about this indicator species of a healthy environment. (Note: Free registration is required to access the complete Monarch Toolkit.)

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Preschool and Elementary

Fizzy Foam Fun

4-H and HughesNet invite students in grades preK–2 to explore how chemical reactions work by adding yeast to hydrogen peroxide to create an exothermic reaction: a foaming fountain of bubbles. Fizzy Foam Fun requires about 20 minutes and involves mainly common household items. (Goggles, gloves, and clothing coverings are recommended for safety.) The web page provides step-by-step instructions and explains the exothermic reaction; reflection questions are also included.

Developing Fine Motor Skills in the Garden 

Gardening activities are a great way for students in grades preK–5 to develop and strengthen their fine motor skills. With learning suggestions and tips for planting seeds, transplanting plants, and watering grounds, this article from educators at KidsGardening has the information teachers need to make the most of school garden sites and this undeniably “hands-on” activity for children. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary

Try This! Video Series

Keep K–5 students engaged in learning this summer with National Geographic Kids Try This! video series. The series features short (approximately two minutes), attention-grabbing video experiments to generate excitement about science. Students can amaze friends with a zero-gravity water trick in Upside Down Water; create an art masterpiece while being a Human Spirograph; model ocean waves with their very own Ocean in a Bottle; explore the behavior of liquids with a hand-crafted lava lamp, and more. Each video shows students safely completing the experiment themselves, along with cutaways with step-by-step visuals, difficulty level, materials list, and required time estimate so viewers can also complete each activity in their homes or neighborhoods, too.

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

Consequences and Conservation

Students in grades 6–12 in life science, biology, and environmental science classes will explore the consequences of climate change on animal populations and more in this Yellowstone-inspired lesson developed by Ecology Project International. Students should have some basic background knowledge of biodiversity concepts and the interdependence of organisms within an ecosystem. The lesson features many Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) connections and includes a teacher guide, student guide, and additional resources needed. One highlight is an outdoor role-play activity in which students demonstrate how changes in climate can impact dynamics in an ecosystem. 

Opportunities From the Field: Grades K–College

Confidence and Curiosity: Engaging Girls in Informal Science 

Informal educators can spend three weeks (July 25–August 12) exploring public engagement techniques and strategies they can use at their next science event to make it more welcoming to girls (and to all who have been traditionally excluded from science). The online course includes weekly interactive live sessions (60–90 minutes), personally reflective assignments (approximately 2 asynchronous hours per week) and opportunities to share ideas with a likeminded community dedicated to inclusive outreach. Among the attendees will be science museum docents and staff, nature center guides, informal STEM educators and youth leaders, amateur astronomers, and anyone else who engages the public in the joy of science. 

Earth Science Week 2022 Contests 

The American Geosciences Institute's (AGI) Earth Science Week 2022 contests are open for entries until October 14. Four contests are being held.

  • Striving for Sustainability Globally Video Contest (all ages). AGI invites individuals and teams to submit a brief, original video exploring the many ways people are using the Earth sciences to make decisions that maintain and strengthen the planet’s ability to support thriving life.
  • Sustainability in Action Photography Contest (all ages). How does geoscience knowledge help support sustainability? With your camera, capture an image of the ways geoscience informs efforts to build a sustainable world where you live.
  • Our Sustainable World Visual Arts Contest (grades K–5). Create an original work of art that shows how land, water, air, and living things interact in a sustainable world.  
  • Geoscience for Sustainable Development Goals Essay Contest (grades 6–9). Write an essay about how the Earth sciences can help achieve Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as poverty, nutrition, education, equality, ecosystems, climate change, and/or industrial innovation.  

Opportunities From the Field: Middle Level and High School

Innovate to Mitigate National Competition

In this competition, students in grades 8–12 will share ideas for mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. Student teams will submit a brief abstract describing their idea(s) for an innovation. After a crowdsourced discussion, they use feedback from peers to revise their idea, then develop and test a mitigation prototype. Finally, they submit a video and paper that explains how and why their innovation will reduce greenhouse gases. The first-prize team will receive $3,000; second-prize team, $1,500; and third-prize team, $500.

Teachers can use Innovate to Mitigate as a free-choice option in school or in a science club after school; as a part or whole of a course elective; as a required, graded project within a course; or as a final graduation project or independent study project. Teachers can receive support by participating in community webinars, mentored online discussions with other teachers, and weekly virtual “office hours” with scientists. The competition will run from mid-November through the end of April. For more information, preregister on the website.

Teacher Workshop: The Future of Forests

Taking place on July 13–14, this free virtual workshop led by University of Colorado Boulder curriculum developers will help you bring the NASA-supported Future of Forests curriculum into your classroom to explore patterns of landscape change following wildfires. The Future of Forests supports NGSS life science standards and focuses on this driving question: How do landscapes recover after a wildfire? A certificate for 10 hours of professional development is available at no charge; participants may purchase 1 graduate credit from the University of Colorado Boulder ($80).

MOSAIC Expedition Teacher Workshop: A Changing Arctic Ecosystem

This free virtual workshop will take place on July 27–28. MOSAiC scientists and the curriculum developers will lead teachers through A Changing Arctic Ecosystem, a middle level/high school curriculum that supports NGSS Life Science standards. In it, students trace the flow of carbon through the Arctic food web to predict how declining sea ice might impact the Arctic food web. Teachers will engage with 360° virtual expeditions, authentic Arctic datasets, ArcGIS Storymaps, and more. A certificate for 10 hours of professional development is available at no charge; participants may purchase 1 graduate credit from the University of Colorado Boulder ($80).

Opportunities From the Field: High School

Knowles Academy Courses

The Knowles Teacher Initiative offers online and in-person summer courses for high school teachers through its Knowles Academy. As an added incentive, teachers who successfully complete a Knowles Academy summer course are eligible to earn three graduate course credits through Southern New Hampshire University for an additional fee. Choose from these courses:

  • Designing Instructional Tasks to Increase Student Engagement and Learning in Science, July 13–15, via Zoom
  • Implementing Teacher Coaching to Improve Classroom Practice and Student Learning, July 18–21, via Zoom
  • Physics for the Next Generation: The Patterns Approach, July 25–28, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Engaging Math and Science Students in Engineering Design, August 22–26, in Moorestown, New Jersey
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