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Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers/From the Field, May 24, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers/From the Field, May 24, 2022

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Grades K–College

Pat Brown Resources:

Looking for ways to reinvigorate your curriculum design process for next school year? Check out the resources at for information and support in making essential change at the instructional level. Pat Brown—Missouri-based author, education researcher, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) educator—has developed a website for K–12 educators highlighting his knowledge in the fields of education and education research. The website features a blog, publications, classroom teaching videos, research, and more, all focused on the importance of instructional sequence and helping students navigate their path to scientific discovery. Of particular interest is the white paper Making Science Come Alive: Teaching for Engagement and Deep Learning, which showcases how an educator can use the educational planning approaches Understanding by Design (UbD) and explore-before-explain teaching through a chemistry lesson. 

Environmental Education Resources for Citizen Science

Opportunities abound for students of any age and grade level (K–college) to participate in authentic science research as citizen scientists. The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) offers a web page dedicated to connecting teachers and students to environmentally related citizen science opportunities. The projects address a wide range of topics from collecting weather observations and data to biodiversity-focused investigations observing plants and animals in a targeted area. Many of the projects focus on tracking trends associated with a changing climate, such as earlier bloom times for plants in the spring, altered arrival times and locations of migratory birds, and shifting habitats of frogs, pollinators, and other U.S. wildlife. The site also features two colorful infographics—Citizen Science Is Blooming and Surrounded by Science—which help students understand the value of citizen science and the importance of learning about our planet and its systems.  

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary

The Love Bugs

Looking for ways to help elementary students (grades 3–5) better understand the nature of science? Teach young learners the importance of science research with a screening of The Love Bugs, a 30-minute documentary highlighting the work and passions of Charles and Lois O’Brien, entomologists and octogenarians who have studied insects around the globe for more than 60 years. The documentary provides a real-world glimpse of entomology and science research, and the film’s accompanying lesson plans—which support the Next Generation Science Standards—guide students through learning experiences such as modeling the actions of scientists (What Do Entomologists Do?); seeing real scientists in action (Meet Real Entomologists in the Film, The Love Bugs); learning an animal classification system (How Do Scientists Classify Animals?); and exploring invertebrates in the schoolyard (Discovering Animals in the Schoolyard). Each lesson plan includes an overview, procedure, reflection, and ideas to extend learning. (Free registration is required to download the film.) 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: Elementary and Middle Level

Girls and Women in STEM Web Page

Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Science Education Center and Johnson and Johnson, this web page has a collection of STEM resources for K–8 students. The resources include lesson plans (many of which are available in English, Spanish, and other languages), short activities to engage students in authentic science discussion, curriculum modules, and other materials to enhance instruction, such as e-books, posters, videos, and infographics. Of particular interest is the collection of Smithsonian Science for Makerspaces lessons, a series of engineering design challenges that engage students in exploring emerging technologies, including 3D printing (Channel Challenge), magnetic trains (Magnet Motion), and coding (Food Chain Fix). 

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

Transportation Through U.S. History: A Primary Source Set

The Library of Congress has assembled a collection of primary source documents exploring various modes of transportation and how they have changed over time and impacted American life. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the set includes photographs, prints, manuscripts, maps, videos, and newspapers, as well as a Teacher’s Guide and graphic organizers to help students analyze the unique materials. Highlights include images of various transportation forms that go over land, in water, or through air: an early electric car that competed with gasoline cars in the early 20th century, a penny-farthing bicycle known for accidents, maps of railroad and trolley routes that illustrate the country’s growth, steamboats propelled by giant paddle wheels, and a balloon that provided reconnaissance for the North in the U.S. Civil War. Each item in the set includes historical background information and teaching ideas to support students in its analysis. For example, the Transportation Through U.S. History Teacher’s Guide has activities and guiding questions for students to compare and discuss two or more items from the set, consider the ways different transportation methods improved people’s lives, and reflect on some of the societal changes that may have occurred because of the development of the different methods of transportation. 

Freebies for Science and STEM Teachers: High School

Type 2 Diabetes: Game and Curriculum

University of Washington’s Genome Sciences Education Outreach has developed a comprehensive curriculum exploring Type 2 Diabetes and Genetics. Targeted for grades 9–12 and designed for use in either in-person or remote settings, the curriculum includes two sets of lessons relating to Type 2 Diabetes. One set of lessons focuses on topics relating to Health, Nutrition, and Type 2 Diabetes, while the other set focuses on topics relating to Biology, Homeostasis, and Type 2 Diabetes. Each lesson set features a video overview of the unit and supporting teacher materials, such as slide presentations and student sheets. (Educators can preview the curriculum and watch the overview videos for the units and lessons immediately; however, free e-mail registration is required for full access to the unit materials.)

In addition, the site features an online glucose metabolism modeling game, Blood Sugar Balance, which can help students develop understandings about Type 2 Diabetes as they try to keep their blood sugar within a healthy range throughout the day by balancing food choices, activities, insulin, and glucagon levels. 

From the Field: PreK–College

NOAA Ocean Guardian Schools

An Ocean Guardian School makes a commitment to protecting and conserving its local watersheds, the world’s ocean, and special ocean areas, like national marine sanctuaries. Your school accomplishes this by proposing, then implementing, a school- or community-based conservation project. At the end of a funded project period, if program requirements have been met, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will recognize your school as an Ocean Guardian School, and your school will receive an official Ocean Guardian School banner. Any school (preK–12) in the United States may apply to participate in the Ocean Guardian School program without funding. Apply by June 1.

Educating Students on Sustainable Development Goals
Carol O’Donnell, director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, will present at Economist Impact’s second annual Sustainability Week, taking place June 6–9. Her in-person presentation, Partnering With Industry to Educate the Next Generation Workforce on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), will explore how educators can prepare a new generation of students about SDGs so that they may pave the way to a sustainable future. This year’s Sustainability Week will happen both virtually and in Washington, D.C.  

Smithsonian K–12 Science Education Action Planning Institute
The Smithsonian K–12 Science Education Action Planning Institute will be held virtually during July 25–27. This institute will bring together formal and informal educators, school administrators, and educational researchers to explore three important topics in STEM education:

  • What does innovation look like in K–12 STEM education in 2022?
  • How do we meet the needs of our students and educators by elevating diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) in STEM education?
  • How can STEM Education for Sustainable Development (STEM4SD) prepare our students for a changing planet?

The Smithsonian Science Education Center will convene experts in each of these areas to explore actionable approaches, backed by research and best practices in STEM education. Participants will engage with the Smithsonian’s action planning process, and develop a plan to take action in their own context on one or all of these topics. This institute is designed for educators, parents, community members, and industry stakeholders. Participants can attend as individuals or teams with members of their school, district, or organization.    

KidWind Project’s REcharge Academy

The KidWind Project, a nonprofit clean energy education organization, has opened registration for its 2022 REcharge Academy. This educator professional development program on renewable energy will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 18–21. This year’s program will focus on helping educators better understand the power grid and the importance of educating students about how renewable energy intersects with the world’s largest machine. 

REcharge Academy combines lectures from experts and tours of energy facilities with hands-on K–12 lessons to give educators content, as well as context. Educators will learn about the politics, technologies, and economics of renewable energy, along with a range of activities to use with students around energy concepts. Once educators complete the courses, they are considered REcharge Instructors. Instructors may incorporate lessons and curriculum into their own classrooms, or they can work with local schools and districts to share resources and train other teachers in wind and solar energy education. Each year, the network of instructors trains at least 1,000 educators and impacts 30,000+ students through workshops and outreach events.

More than 20 scholarships are available for New Mexico educators, as well as scholarships for educators in 11 additional states and one Canadian province. Scholarships offer partial or full tuition and cover lodging, food, and more than $200 in classroom gear. 

Summer Professional Development Workshops With the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

  • OpenSciEd and Storyline Training for Middle School Science Educators, August 8–11. During this Storyline and OpenSciEd (OSE) training for middle school educators and coaches, discover the Storyline model, a student-led process for teaching and learning science, and the shift it brings to student engagement and motivation. Educators also will explore OSE, a high-quality and open resource curriculum, through WPI’s interactive PD experience, and connect with colleagues to practice techniques and prepare for implementation that can transform your science classroom. 
  • Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism for High Quality STEM Learning, July 19 and 21. Examine the systemic barriers to STEM inclusion that have led to inequities in education and underrepresentation in STEM engagement, majors, and careers. Understand what it means to be anti-racist, and learn with others how to reframe the issues and implement strategies such as culturally responsive teaching (CRT) to work toward equity in STEM. 
  • Online STEM Educator Certificate Course, July 25–29; two half-day follow-up sessions on October 8 and November 12. The course engages participants in unpacking the knowledge and skills required of STEM educators, while adapting the content to their subject area, students, and community. Topics covered include the framework for high-quality STEM, standards alignment, the engineering design process, diversity and equity in STEM, real-world connection, and STEM pedagogy. The final project is an integrated STEM Challenge, aligned with all the components of high-quality STEM. Graduate credit is available. 
  • Seeds of STEM, Problem-Based STEM Curriculum for PreK–K Classrooms, July 12 and 14; two follow-up sessions on October 21 and January 13. Seeds of STEM, a research-based, science and engineering curriculum, guides children in solving problems. This virtual, interactive program will provide a real experience with the curriculum.

From the Field: Elementary and Middle Level

Prehistoric Planet TV Series and Lesson Materials

This week, Apple TV+ is taking viewers back in time 66 million years to the Cretaceous period, bringing our Prehistoric Planet to life with scientifically sound graphics, new knowledge, and music using fossils as instruments. Engage your students and support learning skills with this free educational program from Apple TV+ in partnership with the curriculum specialists at Young Minds Inspired. The program’s easy-to-implement, standards-based lesson materials support national STEM and English Language Arts standards and have one version for grades 1–2 and one for grades 3–6. A digital quiz for students in grades 3–6 is also available. Students will use critical-thinking skills including inferring, synthesizing, and questioning as they work in teams to test their knowledge about dinosaurs, conduct research, and collaborate to create class displays. 

From the Field: Middle Level

Stories of Women of Color in STEM Webinar

Are your middle school students curious about pursuing a career in STEM? Join the Smithsonian Science Education Center, with support with Johnson & Johnson, for its second Stories of Women of Color in STEM webinar on May 26 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. In this panel-style webinar, students will learn how exploring their interests can lead to diverse career opportunities in STEM. They’ll hear inspiring personal histories from three trailblazing women from Johnson & Johnson who turned their passions into a profession. The session will be a moderated Q&A, and audience members will also have the opportunity to ask questions directly.

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