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Freebies for Science Teachers, August 3, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, August 3, 2021

Grades K–12

33 Element Checklist for a Good Lab Safety Program
Prepare safely for the next academic year! A good lab safety program has 33 important elements. Teachers can use this checklist to review their current lab safety program and see what its current strengths and weaknesses are. The checklist also can help teachers develop new ways of improvement. To request a copy, e-mail by October 1. 


Access more than 20 inexpensive, do-it-yourself (DIY) toy-themed science projects for classroom or home learning. From handmade Walkalong Gliders and Dragonfly Helicopters to DIY vortexes, Cartesian divers, and more, these projects for grades K–12 can spark creativity and science investigation and require no special skills, tools, materials, or facilities to complete. The projects address various science disciplines and are organized by category: Popular Projects, Quick and Easy Projects, Intermediate Projects, and Projects A to Z. Step-by-step video directions or text instructions with photographs are provided for each project. After completing a project of interest, students and teachers are encouraged to share their experiences online and offer feedback about the other projects posted on the site.

The STEM School Study (S3)

This keystone study released by the University of Chicago STEM Education’s Outlier Research and Evaluation group seeks to understand the landscape of inclusive STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) high schools nationwide. Of interest to K–college education stakeholders, the study examines how STEM schools define themselves, the strategies they use, and the student experience, while also addressing key topics such as technology in STEM schools and the differences in STEM-related attitudes across races/ethnicities and gender. Teachers can browse a data-rich breakdown of the study findings on the S3 website, complete with relevant infographics and key takeaways for each topic area. Of particular interest is the interactive infographic What Do STEM Schools Do?, which identifies common components of inclusive STEM schools and provides opportunities for teachers to review the data from various perspectives. 

EPA’s Endangered Species Resources 

To engage K–12 students in learning about endangered species, check out the “For Kids” section on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Endangered Species website. Select “Endangered species information” for illustrated fact sheets describing plant and animal species currently under EPA protection. These fact sheets include the Black Lace cactus, West Indian/Florida manatee, Shortnose sturgeon, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Bald eagle, Mission Blue butterfly, and Small World pogonia. Choose “Endangered species coloring book” to download Save Our Species, a 28-page publication featuring quick facts, maps, and black-line illustrations of threatened or endangered plant and animal species currently under EPA protection. Some of the species highlighted include the red-cockaded woodpecker, Nashville crayfish, green pitcher plant, Eastern indigo snake, Ozark big-eared bat, and desert tortoise.

Educators seeking classroom resources on environmental topics other than endangered species may find materials of interest in “Environmental information for students and teachers.” Here students and teachers can access games and lesson plans to explore environmental topics including energy conservation, air quality, water quality, food waste, and ideas for environmentally-related community service projects.

Free STEM Posters

Spruce up classroom bulletin boards or science lab decorations with these simple posters—suitable for all ages—from the Free Resource Library at One set of posters features simple icons representing each word in the acronym STEAM: Science (magnifying glass), Technology (computer/cell phone), Engineering (light bulb), Art (palette), and Math (ruler). A second set of similarly illustrated posters highlights the steps of the engineering design process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve, and Reflect. To access the posters—and the other contents in the Free Resource Library—register via e-mail for the TeachOutsidetheBox e-newsletter. After confirming your e-mail address, you’ll receive a password to access the resource library in your inbox.

Open Ed Science Resources: Grades 4–12

PBS North Carolina has a robust collection of open educational resources for science instruction in many disciplines. The resources support North Carolina’s essential state learning standards and feature curriculum units, interactive lessons, animations, and more. Science in Sixty Seconds presents one-minute animations explaining various and sometime complex science concepts (e.g., visible light, atoms and elements, electromagnetic spectrum, phases of matter, water cycle and watersheds, photosynthesis, DNA, and other topics) in an entertaining manner. The interactive lessons have video components and support materials for teachers, such as teaching tips and vocabulary lists. Selected lessons from the interactive collection include Newton’s Triple Play: Baseball Science; Meaning of Matter; Ways of Watershed; Heat Transfer; and Effects of Light. 

Canadian Geographic Education 

Canadian Geographic Education has a collection of more than 150 geography-related classroom resources for K–12 teachers. The materials are available in English and French and include lesson plans, interactives, and activities to increase map skills and explore topics such as climate change, sustainability, energy, nature and wildlife, and citizen science opportunities.

For example, Spending More Time Outdoors (grades K–5) teaches students about the benefits of using and maintaining a field notebook and suggests several activities (e.g., sketching, creating lists, making maps) to do using the notebooks. Backyard Biodiversity (grades 3–9) provides opportunities for learners to improve observation skills, deepen connections with nature, and use Augmented Reality technology to investigate plants and animals in their own neighborhood. Similarly, with A Scavenger Hunt for Citizen Scientists! (grades 7–12), students use the Merlin Bird ID and iNaturalist’s Seek apps to contribute to authentic scientific data about local bird populations. By contributing their data, students are providing conservation scientists with important information about which species are surviving in the face of changing conditions due to climate change and habitat loss and which species need further protection. 


Pollinator Pals Fact Sheets

Pollinators are animals that help many flowering plants produce their seeds, thus ensuring the continued existence of millions of plant species, as well as most animal species, including humans. Help elementary learners (grades K–4) understand the ecological importance of pollinators with the fact sheets and accompanying coloring pages from Little Seeds and KidsGardening. Each pollinator fact sheet highlights a single pollinator, providing scientific name, description, and fun facts about the animal as well as information about its habitat, preferred plants, and colors The sheets also include gardening suggestions to help the pollinator thrive. Currently, teachers can download fact sheets and coloring pages for the Monarch butterfly and the Hoverfly; additional pollinator fact sheets and coloring pages for bees, hummingbirds, moths, bats, and beetles will be posted online each month. 

Elementary and Middle Level

Camp Goldieblox

Camp GoldieBlox: Adventures at Eureka Point is a virtual STEM camp for students ages 6–12. Developed by IF/THEN, a STEM-focused initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies dedicated to advancing women in STEM fields, and produced by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, the online series features narrative “campisodes” highlighting various STEM challenges to solve each week. The challenges address topics such as bridge engineering, plastics, space junk, climate change, and sharks. 

In each episode, the cast of curious campers calls on real-life STEM professionals to help them figure out how to solve the problem. The STEM professionals share their expertise along with relevant examples from their own experience in the field. In addition, the episodes include hands-on activities to do at home based on the program content. 

Middle Level

Ignite My Future in School

Introduce computational thinking and develop students’ problem-solving skills with three activities from Discovery Education’s Ignite My Future in School initiative. Designed for grades 6–8, the collaborative activities—Hydro-Garden, Score!, and Secret Code for Mazes—can be done at school or at home and emphasize a different aspect of computational thinking in each one.

For example, Hydro-Garden focuses on the benefits of using computer-aided design to build and modify models as students plan, design, and build their own hydroponic gardens. Score! provides hands-on practice in data collection and analysis as students collect data on a favorite sports team, visually represent the data with tokens, and examine patterns and relationships. In Secret Code for Mazes, students discover the meaning of a binary code system by creating a solution to a provided maze using only 0s or 1s (to represent one of two possible options: up or down or right and left). Each activity also includes additional experiences to extend learning for more advanced understanding.

High School

Follow That Nutrient

Find out exactly how nutrients move through a watershed in this animated video produced by KQED Quest and Stroud Water Research Center. Most appropriate for high school learners, the approximately five-minute program uses thoughtful narration and delicate watercolor illustrations to introduce the underwater characters that play a role in cycling nutrients through a watershed. The video describes how the physical, chemical, and biological systems within watersheds work together to create a continuum of interconnected ecosystems. Students observe an ecological journey from a raccoon’s sip of stream water to a darner dragonfly’s laying of eggs to understand the vast web of interactions involved in successfully moving nutrients along a river basin food chain.

An accompanying worksheet includes discussion questions, an extension activity, links for additional learning, and relevant Next Generation Science Standards. The website also has a written transcript of the program.

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