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Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers/From the Field, March 29, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers/From the Field, March 29, 2022

From the Field: Grades K–12

Discoveries in Geoscience Field School 

The Discoveries in Geoscience (DIG) Field School, taking place July 18–22, offers K–12 teachers the opportunity to do real geological and paleontological research in Hell Creek, Montana. Every summer, 30–35 teachers go to an active field research site and experience the rigors and joys of field work while learning new techniques and strategies to bring back to their classrooms. Those classrooms then become part of the DIG community, where they have access to DIG’s educational resources.

Accepted applicants will pay a $100 course fee. Continuing education credits are available for an additional fee. (Deadline April 6)

Online Educator Professional Development: Deep-Sea Corals

NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Education Team and NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) will present a live online professional development workshop and follow-up event about deep-sea corals and the deep-sea ecosystems they support. This three-part event for teachers of grades 6–12 will consist of the following:

  1. A viewing of a short video with experts in deep-sea coral research; 
  2. A 90-minute online event hosted by NOAA Ocean Exploration featuring a live, interactive question-and-answer session with a deep-sea coral expert and an introduction and demonstration of relevant educational activities and resources. This event will take place on April 5 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time (PT); and
  3. A 90-minute follow-up event hosted by NOAA Olympic Coast NMS that will give participants an opportunity to cooperatively discuss content shared during the April 5 event and explore additional resources. This event will happen on April 19 at 4:30 p.m. PT.

Advance registration is required. Educators who participate in all three parts will receive a NOAA Ocean Exploration Certificate of Participation and a $75 stipend. 

From the Field: High School

BRAIN Initiative Challenge: Ethical Considerations of Brain Technologies

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative is funding breakthrough research projects that are helping scientists learn more about how our brains work than ever before. New technologies allow us to watch living brains in action, record brain signals, and stimulate brain regions for treatment purposes. However, these projects raise important ethical questions about our ability to watch, record, and change brain activity. 

Currently enrolled U.S. high school students are invited to create essays or videos that present their perspectives on the ethical implications of these types of research projects and technologies. Students, parents, and teachers can learn more about the ethical issues and implications of cutting-edge neuroscience research, including additional specific questions facing researchers today, on the Challenge website. This is also where students can learn about the judging process and the prizes (up to $1,500!), and where they will submit their essay or video. (Deadline April 14)

AVS Science Educators Workshop
The American Vacuum Society (AVS) is offering this workshop on November 6–8 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. High school science teachers can apply for sponsorship to attend this all-expenses-paid workshop on scientific methods and modeling using vacuum equipment and get a free vacuum system for your school. AVS has conducted an inservice workshop on low-pressure experiments and modeling for high school science teachers from the United States and Canada since 1990. Attendees are sponsored by regional AVS chapters, with all expenses paid by the sponsoring chapter. The workshop is accredited for Continuing Education Units and is aligned with national science and mathematics standards.

The workshop is divided into two parts: (1) lectures on the underlying science and the mathematical calculations and (2) hands-on experience in which a group of teachers perform experiments and develop models under the guidance of an instructor team. (Deadline August 8)

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades K–12


The Urban Institute’s Data4Kids is a series of “data stories” that can help teachers of grades 3–12 explore data science concepts in their classrooms. Each data story toolkit comes with an instructor’s guide, data, and slide deck. The toolkit features activities for various grade levels (3–5, 6–8, and 9–12) and addresses themes such as health equity, food insecurity, and national parks. The activities are designed to help students connect with data science in ways that feel familiar to them, so many activities include experiences such as drawing and coloring data visualizations by hand or gathering data like height and weight. 

Using the Crosscutting Concepts to Prompt Student Responses

Looking for ways to encourage meaningful discourse in your K–12 science classroom? One strategy to model is to ask questions highlighting crosscutting concepts to prompt discussions and debriefs during the investigation processes. The strategy is described in a publication from the Council of Chief State School Officers, Using the Crosscutting Concepts to Prompt Student Responses. The 68-page document explains the rationale for the strategy and includes several examples of prompts and or questions based on crosscutting concepts, such as “The cause of _____________ was _____________”; “The changes in the system were caused by increasing the flow of energy into the system from _____________ ”; and “How can you use a model to show how energy is moving into or out of a system?” 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary

Build a Bot With Curious George
Spark K–5 students’ mechanical thinking and creativity with Build a Bot with Curious George, an engineering-themed game from PBS Kids. Students click and drag robot parts to make robots that can complete certain tasks, like catching a ball, sticking to metal, and riding a skateboard. As the game progresses, students are challenged to design their own robots that can do multiple tasks. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

Deep Space Network Game 
Teach students in grades 3–6 how NASA communicates with distant spacecraft with this game from NASA’s Space Place. Available in both Spanish and English versions, the game challenges students to send information to (uplink) and receive information from (downlink) NASA’s robotic explorers in our solar system and beyond. In addition, an accompanying hands-on activity teaches students how cones work as a funnel for waves. (A link in the upper-right corner allows users to toggle between Spanish and English versions.)

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

Kids Making Sense Air Quality Resources

Kids Making Sense is an air quality education curriculum for students in grades 6–12. Through this curriculum, students use air sensors and design experiments to test air quality in their community. Free lesson modules for teachers include

  • Inversion Layer Investigation, three fun class demonstrations teachers can use to explain how inversion layers and weather events affect air pollution;
  • Earth Day Haze, a lesson to teach students about wildfire smoke and how particulate matter pollution affects visibility;
  • The Hunt for Dust, an activity in which students investigate air pollution by hunting for particles in their own homes;
  • Quest for Pollen, an air-quality lesson to get students outside to learn more about particles that come from plants;
  • Science Poster, a template and detailed instructions to help students turn their experiment into a science poster;
  • Indoor v. Outdoor, an activity to help students to design a simple experiment to compare the indoor and outdoor air quality;
  • Fireworks and Air Quality, an activity that lets students use science over the holidays to measure particulate pollution from fireworks; and
  • Drive Up a Hill, a guide for students to design a simple experiment to study air quality at different altitudes.

Some resources require an air quality sensor, while others allow students to investigate their environment using materials and supplies that can easily be found at home or in a classroom. Kids Making Sense plans to add more resources and upcoming webinars to the page.

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Middle Level Through College

National Marine Ecosystem Status Website
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Ecosystem website shows at-a-glance the status of seven major U.S. marine ecosystems as well as a national synthesis. Most appropriate for use with students from middle to college levels, the site provides a starting point to access and explore a multitude of NOAA websites with information and data that NOAA collects on specific themes and regions. The website benefits everyone with an interest in the health of U.S. marine ecosystems and presents essential ocean data that has been distilled into consistent easy-to-view presentations. A How to Use the Website section offers useful tips for navigating the site and provides relevant explanations of various graphic elements used throughout the site.

Into the Depths

Into the Depths, a six-part podcast series produced by National Geographic, investigates the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Most appropriate for middle level to adult audiences, and hosted by journalist and National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts, the series highlights Roberts’ personal journey as she follows a group of Black divers as they search for and help document slave trade shipwrecks around the world. The podcast features more than 40 voices, including underwater divers and archaeologists—descendants of those brought over on the ships, historians, and various experts with whom Roberts works to uncover these stories. 

The podcast can shed light on STEM careers that will interest students. Each episode runs for approximately 30 minutes and includes a transcript. 

Careers Crosscutting Concepts Curriculum Earth & Space Science Engineering English Language Learners General Science Inclusion Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Mathematics Multilingual Learners News Physical Science Professional Learning STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary

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