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Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers From the Field, June 21, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers From the Field, June 21, 2022

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary

Pollinator Learning Modules: Grades 3–5

Kids Gardening has a series of no-cost curriculum modules to teach students in grades 3–5 about pollinators and their role in the environment. The modules, available in both English and Spanish, address key topics in pollination, such at what it is, who does it, why we need it, and how can we protect pollinators. In each module, students conduct hands-on activities to delve deeper into the subject.

For example, the first module (What Is Pollination?) provides opportunities for students to learn about the parts of a flower, make a model of a flower with soft modeling clay and other materials, and dissect a real flower. The second module (Who Are the Pollinators?) features a matching game with printable pollinator/flower profile cards, while the third module (Why Do We Need Pollinators?) contains activities for students to examine and plant seeds of various kinds, as well as go on a “plant product hunt” in their classroom and home to identify products derived from plants. The final module (How Can We Protect Pollinators?) presents activities such as designing a pollinator garden or creating a poster or brochure about pollinators to help students spread the word about their importance. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

NASA BEST Activities Guides

These guides introduce the Engineering Design Process and can help students become better problem solvers. Available for grades K–2, 3–5, and 6–8, each guide contains a set of open-ended design activities that teach students about NASA’s endeavor to return to the Moon, how scientists can investigate the Moon remotely, and the various modes of transportation to and on the Moon. The guides are unique because they don’t contain specific instructions or drawings for building project items: The project models are student created!

The projects—which include activities and experiences such as Build a Satellite to Orbit the Moon, Design a Lunar Buggy, Design a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), Launch Your CEV, Build a Solar Oven, and other activities—are designed to help students understand that engineers must “imagine and plan” before they begin to build and experiment. With these emphases in mind, to successfully complete any activity in the guides, students must draw their ideas first before constructing items. Although the projects are open-ended, the guide activities include objectives, materials lists, educator information, procedures, and necessary student worksheets to facilitate implementation. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Middle Level

Operation Build It Virtual Field Trip and Educator Guide

Looking to foster engineering design skills and excite students about building projects of their own? Share this virtual field trip produced by Home Depot and Discovery Education and uncover the many learning possibilities of Do It Yourself (DIY) projects. Most appropriate for the middle level, the approximately 20-minute video provides an inside glimpse of how the project kits for Home Depot’s Kids Workshops are made and includes tips and suggestions for students to set up a safe DIY workspace at home.  

In addition, an accompanying educators guide presents classroom activities to complete before, during, and after the viewing. For example, before viewing the video, students complete web quests to learn about some of creative ways animals use tools in nature. During the video, students record their observations on a provided graphic organizer, and afterward, students brainstorm a DIY project of their own and create a plan for building it.

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

Teaching Tomorrow’s Disease Detectives 
Teaching Tomorrow’s Disease Detectives: Science Skills for the Problem-Based World is a collection of educational activities for middle and high school levels, developed collaboratively by K–12 STEM teachers and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) subject-matter experts through the CDC’s Science Ambassador Fellowship program. The activities address five overarching themes in public health, including epidemiology, public health surveillance, investigating an outbreak, preparedness and response, and careers and roles in public health. The activities also focus on developing key science skill sets, including scientific design, identifying trends, decision-making, implementing action plans, and collaborative performance. 

For example, the lesson Drink Up explores the limitations and biases of different public health surveillance methods as students model real-life public health surveillance techniques, develop surveys, collect and compare data, and draw evidence-based conclusions about soda and sports drink consumption among teens and teen health. Lung Cancer at Peachstate Community Center, one of several case-based lessons, introduces using epidemiology to investigate a potential lung cancer cluster. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School

Exploring the Color of Coral Using a Primary Source

Try this activity from the Teaching With the Library of Congress (LOC) blog to engage high school students in examining the status of coral reefs today. Coral Divers With their Wealth, on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, a black-and-white photograph published by the Keystone View Company in 1921—and a primary source document from the LOC’s stereograph card collection—is the anchoring phenomenon of the activity. Students observe the photograph, reflect on what they think is happening in it, and record questions about it. Students may wonder why the coral looks as if it has no color in the image, or why the divers collected the corals for display in this manner. 

The photograph generates discussion about direct and indirect human impacts on coral reef ecosystems and about how actions that may have been acceptable in the past can significantly impact the future. To extend learning, teachers can conduct a hands-on demonstration using colorful candies and warm water to simulate the process of coral bleaching; it can help students better understand how stresses in an ecosystem (e.g., ocean acidification, rising water temperatures) can negatively affect the health of a coral reef. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School and College

Untapped Potential

How are chemical sciences being used to help solve the growing problem of diminishing fresh water sources? Find out in Untapped Potential, the latest production from Chemistry Shorts, a series of short films spotlighting the positive impact of chemistry on modern life, presented by the Dreyfus Foundation. Targeted for high school and adult audiences, the nine-minute film highlights both the critical challenges and chemistry-inspired innovations in water supply, re-use, and purification. Featuring environmental and chemical engineering experts, viewers can see how modern chemistry, desalination, and advanced oxidation processes have led to a way to access sources of water that 50 years ago seemed undrinkable. A lesson plan, including student handouts with activities and questions for pre-, during-, and post-film viewing, accompanies the film. 

Opportunities From the Field: Grades K–12

Teaching Environmental Science: Free Workshops for K–12 Teachers and Environmental Educators
This series of short workshops will present online resources for teaching concepts in the Earth and environmental sciences, portrayed through the lens of the critical zone. (The critical zone is Earth’s outer skin from treetop to bedrock, a constantly changing place where rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms interact.) The workshops will feature free educational materials developed with teaching and learning in mind and supporting national education standards. Completion certificates are available upon request.

Education staff from the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth have developed these teaching materials and will lead the workshops. This series is sponsored by the Critical Zone Collaborative Network, with support from the National Science Foundation.

  • June 30—Big Ideas: Earth’s Spheres Interact in the Critical Zone. Examples of interactions among the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere, with outcomes for humans and nature. Activities focus on integrating expertise in considering climate change. Register at
  • July 14—Carbon in the Critical Zone. Hands-on activities for students to monitor the movement of carbon in the environment and understand the impacts of carbon sequestration. Register at
  • August 4—Water in the Critical Zone. Hands-on activities for students to monitor water movement in the environment and examine the effects of human modifications to watersheds. Register at
  • August 11—Climate Change in the Critical Zone. Hands-on activities for students to measure the impacts of climate change in local communities and emphasize mitigation strategies. Register at

Create a Virtual Field Trip With Tour It Workshops

Learn how to create a virtual field trip (VFT) in Infiniscope’s free summer workshop series, taking place on July 7, 12, 14, and 21. Develop immersive VFTs that provide student agency, increase equity, and make place-based education accessible to all your learners. Up to 14 re-certification hours are available.

Teach Engineering Virtual Engineering Design Workshops

Participants will discover how to integrate engineering design into their STEM curriculum. Graduate Teacher Education Credit is available. Choose from these topics:

  • Integrating Engineering Design Into Your PK–12 STEM Curriculum, August 1–2. Find out how to implement hands-on engineering design challenges for K–12 students while making NGSS connections. Teachers will be introduced to the role of phenomena and sensemaking in science and engineering and will learn how the three-dimensional elements of the NGSS support both phenomena-based learning and engineering design thinking.
  • Engineering Prototyping and Pedagogy Skills and Tools for K–12, June 22–23 or August 3–4. This workshop’s resources can help students understand and integrate engineering prototyping technologies and design thinking into their science and math learning. Collaborate with engineering design, engineering pedagogy, and teacher professional development experts to learn the pedagogical practices that support engineering design. Then enhance your K–12 engineering design skills through hands-on experience with online engineering design tools.

Maker Tools Skills Workshops

Learn how to set up school makerspaces, discover effective ways to use maker technologies, and/or develop technical skills. Teachers of grades 3–12 will spend a day exploring a project technology during one of these workshops: Electronic Components and Circuits (July 11), Hand/Craft Tools (July 12), Vinyl and Laser Cutters (July 13), 3D Modeling and Printers (July 14), and Physical Computing with Arduino (July 15). Educators will leave with starter projects and resources, along with the knowledge of how to carry out projects in their classroom. 

No prior experience is required. All workshops and programs are held simultaneously on site at MIT and online. 

Opportunities From the Field: High School

Knowles Teaching Fellows Program

This five-year program supports early-career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to become great teachers who lead from the classroom. Fellows will

  • Join a national community of math and science teachers who are committed to supporting all students;
  • Receive mentoring and coaching from experienced educators; and
  • Gain access to more than $50,000 in financial support, including stipends and grants for professional development and classroom materials.

Apply by January 8, 2023.

Biology Careers Chemistry Climate Change Computer Science Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering English Language Learners Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Lesson Plans Life Science Mathematics New Science Teachers News NGSS Phenomena Professional Learning Science and Engineering Practices Sensemaking STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary

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