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Freebies for Science Teachers, August 31, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, August 31, 2021

Grades PreK–College


Public health brings together science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and other disciplines to create a healthier world. A new online portal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) connects K–college students and teachers to resources to inspire the next generation of STEM learners to pursue careers in public health. For example, students in grades 4–8 can read the Ask a Scientist comic series (available in both English and Spanish) to learn more about how the body fights disease, how people become infected with germs, and how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. K–12 teachers can access curriculum to explore public health issues in the classroom, such as How Loud Is Too Loud? (grades 3–6), a series of lessons addressing the science of sound and protecting your hearing; Body and Mind (BAM) learning modules (grades 4–8), which teach students about healthy lifestyle choices; and The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak, a graphic novel and accompanying activities (grades 6–12) that help students understand what a disease variant is and what public and animal health experts do when outbreaks of infectious diseases occur. 

The portal also has training resources for college students, such as the Environmental Health Traineeship Program, which features opportunities to participate in hands-on laboratory experiences focusing on technologies and practices that benefit environmental public health.

Nature’s Notebook Education Program

Learners of all ages from elementary to adult can build understandings about phenology and climate change with the curriculum, activities, and other resources from the USA National Phenology Network. The Nature’s Notebook Education Program—the network’s signature curriculum—provides opportunities for students to learn about environmental issues by looking at recurring, seasonal rhythms in nature. Elementary learners can build background knowledge and hone observation skills through introductory activities such as Habitat Scavenger Hunt or Phenology Bingo, while activities for the middle and high school levels engage students in ecology-based citizen science and science practices: asking questions and defining problems, planning and carrying out investigations, and communicating findings. 

The website also includes materials to assist educators in developing and planning phenology-focused programs at schools and other community locations. The website’s planning and other materials can be downloaded and edited to suit any school or program’s specific needs. 

Digital Science Learning Resources

Educators at Towson University Center for STEM Excellence have developed a collection of K–12 digital science learning resources to incorporate into existing curricula. The resources include lessons, videos, and virtual science investigations on science topics. The lessons are designed as Google Slide presentations and can be used for in-person learning, hybrid classrooms, and distance learning. For example, you’ll find lessons to explore plate tectonics with elementary learners (Amazing Appalachians, grades 3–6); develop observation and questioning skills among middle level students (How Do Scientists Know Things? grades 4–9); and investigate how a pharmaceutical can be used to treat lactose intolerance in humans (Looking Into Lactase, grades 9–12).

The video science investigations, targeted for middle and high school levels, provide students an up-close look at the chemistry of Making Salt, the fermentation process (Observing Fermentation), the relationship between surface area and diffusion rate (Demystifying Diffusion), and other topics. Finally, Instructions for Teachers, a downloadable PDF, gives educators helpful information and tips for accessing and assigning the lessons. 

Composting Guide for Educators

Composting can help students learn more about environmental concerns related to food and waste management systems and what can be done about them. Composting Guide for Educators, a 66-page electronic publication produced by collaboratively by and Subpod Composting Systems, presents information and lessons for setting up and managing a successful worm-bin composting system in K–12 formal and informal education settings. The lessons are categorized in three topic areas—divert waste, rebuild soil, or grow food—each of which emphasize a different environmental benefit of composting. Through activities including conducting a food-waste audit, observing the decomposition of food waste, investigating soil samples, and planting an edible container garden, students develop understandings about the importance of composting. 

Each activity includes student data sheets as well as ideas to adapt the lesson experiences for younger (preschool and preK) and older (high school) audiences. Register to receive a downloadable copy of the publication via e-mail. 


Where Is Gina the Geographer?

Developed as part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program, Where Is Gina the Geographer? is a virtual scavenger hunt for students in grades four and five. The activity enables students to learn state facts while practicing science skills such as collecting data, drawing conclusions, gathering information from an interactive data source, and making inferences. In the approximately hour-long virtual activity, students follow a series of clues like landmarks, weather, and population to eliminate potential hideouts—and use the Bureau’s State Facts for Students website to answer questions to help find where Gina is located. The site has teacher and student versions of the activity, as well as additional Teacher Notes.

GoNoodle Educator

GoNoodle Educator, a teacher-focused extension of, offers videos, games, and other curricular resources to enhance elementary instruction in classroom, hybrid, or remote-learning settings. Like the learning experiences at, these kinesthetic-based educational activities work on desktop or laptop computers (not on tablets or mobile devices) and engage students in learning science and other core content through movement. For example, Quantum Zapp is a three-minute, movement-based game that introduces students to more than 100 inventions in history. In addition, customizable Question Sets for K–6 audiences address core subjects (e.g., Science, Math, English language arts, Social Studies, and Health) and can be played as is or copied and edited to meet students’ specific learning needs. Science-themed printables and videos support instruction on topics such as the water cycle and science processes (Think Like a Scientist). Teachers can access these and other resources on the GoNoodle Educator Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Elementary and Middle Level

Smithsonian Science Education Center Curriculum and Resources

Visit the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s (SSEC) resource database to browse and access STEM–focused educational materials to support instruction in K–8 classrooms. The resources, including videos, games, apps, e-books, and online learning modules, address topic areas such as engineering design, life science, Earth and space science, chemistry, and physical science. For example, the life science collection contains simulation apps such as Penguin Protection (grade 1), which addresses the life cycle of rockhopper penguins. Videos for grades 3–8 in that collection highlight science practices, processes, and authentic science research (e.g., How Do Scientists Use Electricity to Study Fish Population? How Can We Know About the Reproductive Cycle of an Animal by Its Poop? How Do Scientists Sample Populations of Fish and Invertebrates Along the Shorelines?) And digital games such as Showbiz Safari (grades K–3) and Morphy (grades 3–5) explore different aspects of plant and animal diversity. 

In addition, the site offers professional development resources for teachers to inform instruction of life science and other topics. For example, the life science collection features videos for teachers about common misconceptions about photosynthesis and natural selection. features detailed reports comparing science curricula by grade level (K–5 and 6–8), including specific examples describing how each curriculum meets a series of criteria related to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and three-dimensional learning. The reports, which are compiled and published after an extensive review process conducted and led by educators, address curriculum developed by leading educational publishers and include evaluations of student and teacher resources and investigations for each curriculum. In addition, the website offers resources to assist K–12 teacher leaders and district administrators in selecting high-quality curricular resources in science and other core subjects (e.g., math, English language arts) for their school or district. Register to be notified when reports reviewing new instructional materials are released.

Food Safety Activities 

Reinforce microbiological understandings and help upper-elementary and middle level students learn best practices to prevent foodborne illness with lessons and other resources from the Partnership for Food Safety. For example, Soapy Solutions (for grades 4–8) engages students in investigating the most effective way to remove bacteria from their hands and teaches proper handwashing techniques. The Safe Recipe Activity, an online learning module for grades 6–8, teaches students about safe food handling, preparation, and storage, then challenges them to modify a recipe to reflect safe food practices. The Story of Your Dinner—a set of printable activity sheets for grades 3–8—highlights the “dos” and “don’ts” of food safety and features puzzles, word searches, and other fun exercises. 

Middle Level and High School

Discovery Education’s Virtual Field Trips

These STEMazing virtual field trips take middle and high school students to remarkable places without leaving the classroom. The virtual events address STEM topics and include an online companion guide featuring standards-supported, hands-on activities with each trip. Teachers can register to watch the virtual field trips live or view archived events on-demand when time permits. Notable trips include Know More Do More (grades 6–8, premiering September 23), which excites students about sustainability and conservation by exploring actions they can do to build greater self-reliance and a healthier planet, and Testing the Limits (grades 5–12, premiering September 30), which presents an inside look at what happens behind the scenes in Boeing labs where scientists and engineers test aerospace ideas and materials. In Countdown to Mars: Perseverance, an archived virtual field trip, students meet the members of the Perseverance mission control team, gain insights about the Mars mission, and see live footage of Perseverance landing.

High School

COVID Connects Us

COVID Connects Us is a set of cross-disciplinary lessons examining COVID-19 through a social justice lens. The materials were developed collaboratively by faculty in the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester and local school districts, with National Science Foundation funding. The lessons use COVID-19 as the focal point to explore the basic biology and chemistry of how viruses spread, infect people, and mutate, as well as to examine the interaction of science and society with a critical eye. 

Through eight standards-supported lessons, students investigate questions such as Do masks and social distancing really reduce the spread of COVID-19? How do different physical distances and different mask types compare? How can we respectfully and constructively argue from evidence regarding optimal social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines? How can we inform our communities of the accurate information about the pandemic? How can we show what we have learned about how COVID affects our community? The lessons aim to move students from having a purely mechanical understanding of scientific processes involved in COVID-19 to being critical thinkers who can assess the validity of different data sources and are informed community advocates. 

Administration Aerospace Biology Chemistry Citizen Science Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Literacy Mathematics News Physical Science Physics Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Elementary High School Informal Education Postsecondary Preschool

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