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Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, February 28, 2023

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, February 28, 2023

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades K–12

Science Snacks to Celebrate Black History Month

Developed by educators at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, Science Snacks are hands-on, teacher-tested activities for K–12 audiences that bring explorations of natural phenomena into the classroom and home. This collection of Science Snacks showcases Black scientists and thinkers whose work expands the understanding of the phenomena explored in each Snack. For example, in See Inside of a Seed, elementary learners examine the plants inside the seeds we eat. The lesson connects to the work of agricultural scientist George Washington Carver (1864–1943), who applied his knowledge of soil chemistry to help save cotton farms. 

Vortex, an activity for middle and high school levels, explores the forces of vortices in fluids as students create a tornado in a bottle. The lesson connects to the work of John Dabiri (1980–present), a science researcher and theoretical engineer whose study of the propulsion of jellyfish and the forces of vortices in fluids has, among other things, led to new models of energy production at wind farms and new understandings of blood flow in human hearts. Another activity, Circuit Workbench (middle and high school levels), teaches students about the characteristics of series and parallel circuits. The activity connects to the work of Lewis Latimer (1848–1928), a skilled inventor with a gift for illustrating devices that didn’t exist. He was hired to illustrate at least two notable inventions, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Thomas Edison’s light bulb.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary

Computational Thinking Modules 

Smithsonian Science for Computational Thinking is a set of two elementary learning modules developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC). The modules—available in both English and Spanish—integrate science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and computational thinking (CT) through a phenomenon- and problem-driven pedagogy. Modules include a downloadable Teacher Guide with supplementary materials such as Series Pedagogy, Unit Overview (including standards information), and Student Sheets.

In Protecting Whales (third grade), students investigate the real-world problem of humpback whales getting hit by ships. The module contains 11 tasks for students to learn about whales, investigate whale migration patterns, consider how heavy ship traffic might affect whale migration, research solutions to help ships avoid whale strikes, and propose a possible solution based on collected data. 

A Weighty Problem (fifth grade) helps students explore the law of conservation of mass, a fundamental law of science, as they investigate what happens to the weight of two materials when they combine a powdered drink mix with water. Throughout the 10-task module, students learn about cause-and-effect relationships as they design, write, and conduct investigations to gather evidence they can use to develop a and support a claim about the drink mix weight. 

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

Climate Change Solutions Jigsaw Activity

In this lesson from the New York Times’ Learning Network, students in grades 6–12 participate in a jigsaw activity to explore strategies and technologies to help mitigate the effects of global warming, including renewable energy, nature conservation, and carbon capture. Student groups delve into seven main climate change solutions, then reflect on how action can be taken. The lesson plan features an overview and instructions, along with links with more information about each potential climate change solution and graphic organizers to support students in their learning.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School

Design an Accessible Garden

In this lesson from KidsGardening, students in grades 9–12 design an accessible garden space to better understand the garden features that help meet the needs of all students. The multi-day project involves students in online and in-person research to learn about what is needed to address the needs of all students in a neurodiverse classroom. The lesson plan provides background information and links to more information about the elements and materials to design garden spaces for students with physical limitations and students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other diagnoses. 

After conducting research, students complete a garden design digitally or on paper, taking care to incorporate accessibility features relevant to structure, measurements, and materials for garden beds, styles of garden beds (i.e., sensory garden, vertical garden, etc.), signs, pathways, types of plants, types of user-friendly garden tools, water supply/hand washing areas, shade areas, learning spaces, and safety equipment. When the garden designs are complete, have classmates present their designs and give feedback to one another.

Opportunity for Grades 3–12

CIA Mission Possible Makerspace Nation Competition
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsors this competition to promote learning in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) manages the program. The competition will award one STEAM educator each in Chicago, Illinois; Omaha, Nebraska; and Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas with a makerspace containing materials worth $30,000. To be eligible, educators must

  • Educate third- through 12th-grade students in a STEAM subject.
  • Work for a public school in the locations specified.
  • Submit a three- to four-minute video creatively illustrating the need for and possible uses of a makerspace in their classroom.

Apply by March 10.

Opportunity for Elementary and Middle Level

CIA Mission Possible Operation Advance Technology Competition
The competition will place $60,000 computer and coding laboratories in five schools across the country. Winning educators will be able to select from among several suites of coding or design equipment based on their needs and wishes for their classrooms. The CIA sponsors the competition to promote learning in STEAM fields; ORISE administers the program. To be eligible, educators must

  • Educate K–8 students in a STEAM subject.
  • Work for a public school in any of the 50 United States.
  • Submit a three- to four-minute video creatively illustrating the need for and possible uses of a computer and coding lab.

Apply by March 24.

Opportunity for Middle Level and High School

Summer Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium
Secondary science teachers seeking ways to introduce more inquiry into their classrooms can spend three weeks (July 17–August 3) immersed in hands-on, inquiry-based science activities and discussions at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. There is no fee to attend the Summer Institute; teachers must only pay for their travel, food, and lodging. Each participant will be awarded a $2,500 stipend after completing the institute. 

Applicants must be current in-classroom science teachers for grades 6–12 and should have at least three years of experience teaching science in a classroom. Educators of color and educators working in public schools, especially Title I schools, are encouraged to apply. Apply by March 12.

Opportunity for College Level

Institute of Food Technologists Undergraduate Scholarships
The Feeding Tomorrow Fund of Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) offers more than 40 undergraduate scholarships. IFT’s Feeding Tomorrow Fund encourages, promotes, and rewards the excellence of students pursuing careers in the science of food through various efforts, including a variety of academic tuition scholarships. New this year, the Feeding Tomorrow Fund will offer scholarship awards for students with specific criteria such as greatest financial need, those transferring from a community college, and first-generational college enrollment. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to the science of food profession. 

The application deadline for both undergraduate and graduate scholarships is April 14. The first-year student application will close on June 15.

Careers Climate Change Computer Science Crosscutting Concepts Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Equity General Science Inclusion Inquiry Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science News Phenomena Physical Science Professional Learning STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary

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