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Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, June 11, 2024

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies and Opportunities for Science and STEM Teachers, June 11, 2024

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

Sensory Gardening With Kids

With their wide diversity of shapes, sizes, colors, scents, and textures, plants offer limitless options for designing garden spaces to engage the senses. Sensory Gardening With Kids, an eight-page guide to “sense-sational” garden spaces developed jointly by KidsGardening and Little Seeds, provides tips and resources for K–8 teachers and others interested in creating sense-forward gardens on schoolgrounds and in the community. The guide provides design tips and plant suggestions for creating a garden to enhance the senses and includes several sense-themed activities to try with students. Highlight the sense of sight with a Color Scavenger Hunt in the garden, or feature the sense of taste with an Herbal Tea Party comparing the flavors of teas made from various garden herbs. A Touch-Me Mystery Box provides opportunities for students to feel the textures of different leaves and other natural items found in the garden, while keeping a Garden Journal encourages students to listen to the sounds of nature in the garden and to record what they hear. Finally, Smell-me Scent Jars—in which students try to guess an aroma in jar--are a fun way for students to learn about scents and discuss connections between aromas and mood.

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

Space Rocks Game Design Tutorial

Space Rocks is a comprehensive game design tutorial and lesson program for educators from GameMaker, a cross-platform game development engine. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the program was developed in line with Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) standards and can be used to introduce computational thinking concepts and game design principles. The tutorial presents text and videos to guide students in creating their own arcade-style asteroid shooter games.  As students work through the tutorial’s three lessons, they learn the fundamentals of coding and how to use the GameMaker platform. Teachers will need to download GameMaker for Educators and create a free account to access the Space Rocks tutorial.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School

Using Primary Sources as Launching Phenomena

Have you considered using primary sources as launching phenomena in high school science classrooms? Primary sources often present a puzzle to be solved; discipline-related content helps students put the pieces together. An activity posted in the Library of Congress blog Teaching With the Library—Launching Units With Primary Source Phenomena: Bacteria-Coated Popcorn—describes what this approach looks like when applied to the study of the nitrogen cycle in a high school biology classroom. In the activity, data tables from a 1916 experiment investigating the effects of various nitrogen sources on popcorn are the starting point for an exploration of the nitrogen cycle. The activity challenges students to recreate the procedural steps of the experiment that likely resulted in the data shown in the tables, then to further “think backwards” to surmise the driving question that initially inspired the experiment. The question that students devise can serve as the driving question for further classroom explorations of the topic. The blog post offers additional ideas for using primary sources as launching phenomena in the science classroom. 

Opportunity for Grades K–12

PhET for Schools Access Program

The PhET Interactive Simulations project designs interactive simulations (sims) for teaching and learning math and science. The project has created more than 100 interactive sims with translations into 120 languages. The PhET for Schools Access Program provides eligible Title 1 and Community Eligibility Provision public school districts and schools access to the PhET iOS and Android/Chromebook apps at no cost for the 2024–2025 school year, enabling districts and schools to install the apps on school-issued compatible iPad, Chromebook, and Android devices. Teachers will have access to various no-cost professional development opportunities for relevant district or school staff (e.g., teachers, edtech specialists, media specialists, curriculum developers, and others). These professional development opportunities will be open to individuals at organizations participating in the PhET for Schools Access Program, and may be personalized for school districts upon request. Applications are open all summer.

Opportunities for Middle Level Through College

Recruiting Educators for Polar STEAM 
Polar STEAM is a National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded project that integrates and enhances two long-standing NSF programs: the Polar Educators program and the Antarctic Artists and Writers program and facilitates virtual and deployment collaborations with scientists conducting research in the polar regions. Polar STEAM is recruiting educators across all subject areas for 2025–2026 collaborations with polar researchers in creating educational resources about polar regions and science. Participants will receive the designation of Polar STEAM Fellow and become part of the Polar STEAM community. The program will pay for most expenses involved, such as travel, room and board, and substitute teacher costs (if applicable). Upon successful completion of the program, virtual educators will receive a $500 stipend, and field-based educators will receive a $1,000 stipend.

Applications are open for Arctic (May– Sept 2025) and Antarctic (Oct 2025–Feb 2026) deployments, as well as virtual collaborations in both regions. This opportunity is open to middle and high school educators, community college and minority serving institution faculty, and informal educators. Apply by August 4 on If you have any questions, contact  

ASM Materials Camps 

This week-long, hands-on lab experience shows educators how to use applied engineering techniques in their classroom. Educators work hands-on with metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, and develop a greater appreciation for the importance of these materials in modern life. Eligible participants are high school teachers of science (especially chemistry and physical science), engineering, and industrial/career and technical education; middle school teachers of physical science; preservice science teachers; and community college, math, and art teachers as space allows.

The camp is free for attendees, and participants are eligible to receive four Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and can opt for two graduate-level credits. Camps are offered across the United States, in Canada, and virtually.  

Biology Chemistry Computer Science Distance Learning Engineering General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Mathematics News Phenomena Physical Science Professional Learning Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Kindergarten Technical and Vocational Education Elementary Middle School High School Postsecondary Pre-service Teachers Informal Education

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