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Freebies for Science Teachers, February 1, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, February 1, 2022

Grades PreK–12

Creative Cloud Express for Education

Creative Cloud Express for Education offers K–12 educators a free Google Workspace for Education account with free access to many Adobe applications. Use the applications to help students develop content-based creative projects and presentations in science and other subjects. For example, students can create science fair posters, science and social studies infographics, visual reports, and more; transform field-trip journals, lab reports, and more into dynamic web stories; or create videos or web pages to explain a topic. Many applications provide templates to use, as well as tutorials to learn how to navigate the application. To learn more and enroll, read an article on the Creative Cloud Express for Education program that appeared in THE Journal, an online publication that highlights educational technology opportunities and resources for K–12 audiences. 

DiscoverE STEM Activities

Check out this collection of engaging science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities from Discovery Engineering, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving K–12 students’ understanding of engineering through access to high-quality STEM resources, programs, and connections. At the DiscoverE website, teachers can access hands-on activities, lesson plans, projects, and websites for inspiring engineering-based thinking. Try activities such as Harmless Holder (grades 6–12), in which students design an environmentally safe beverage holder that won’t impact wildlife, or Make a Mechanical Hand (grades 6–8), in which students use inexpensive materials to create a mechanical hand that mimics the bending and straightening of their own fingers and thumb. The site also features several Challenge Videos that present challenges (with instructions) for students to do at home, such as Keep a Cube (i.e., build a container to keep an ice cube from melting) and Make Your Own Glue (both for grades 3–8). Students of all ages can expand their engineering knowledge through online games such as Engineer Girl (grades 6–12) and CyberChase (grades 3–8).

Educators searching for resources can apply parameters (e.g., grade level, activity type, time require, topic) to meet specific learning needs. (Note: Teachers must create a free account to gain full access to the materials.)   

STEM Teaching Tools Climate Change Portal 

Educators teaching about climate change now have a new website portal to support them. The new STEM Teaching Tools portal contains STEM Teaching Tools on climate, examples of three-dimensional assessments for use across grades preK–12, and a Climate and Environmental Justice in Education graduate-level course taught by Philip Bell and Nancy Price at the University of Washington. New resources will be added to this portal over time. 

STEM Teaching Tools is part of the new Climate Teacher Education Project, which helps future science teachers learn how to teach about community-centered climate justice. The project hosts network events, develops case studies of climate responses, and engages small teams to imagine, develop, and use open education resources (OER). 

Preschool and Elementary Levels

I Am STEM–STEM I Am Lesson Library

Use the resources from the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council’s I am STEM–STEM I am Lesson Library to help learners in grades preK–5 become problem solvers. Through the library’s lesson plans, students learn about the engineering design process as they develop engineering-based solutions for problems presented in popular children’s storybooks, such as Harry the Dirty Dog by Gus Zion (preschool and kindergarten), The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (first grade), Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch (second grade), Those Darn Squirrels Fly South by Adam Rubin (third grade), The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer (fourth grade), and Brave Irene by William Steig (fifth grade). Each digital lesson plan presents the STEM challenge, a link to the storybook read-aloud, relevant standards, key vocabulary, and lesson timeline.   


Arctic and Antarctic Animal Trading Cards
The National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs has released a set of 12 Arctic animal trading cards for grades K–5. The Arctic animal trading cards feature illustrations and facts (including fun facts) about well-known and more obscure Arctic creatures, including narwhal, Atlantic puffin, polar bear, bearded seal, snowy owl, and Icelandic horse. The two-sided cards—designed to be easily printed and assembled—complement an earlier series of trading cards released by the Office of Polar Programs last year. The Antarctic trading card set features animals such as the Adelie penguin, giant sea spider, Antarctic krill, and Weddell seal.

Elementary and Middle Level

Hazards to Deep Space Astronauts Educator Guide

When astronauts embark on missions to deep space, they’ll encounter hazards such as radiation, isolation, and long-term exposure to microgravity. Use these extreme conditions to spark problem solving with a new educator guide from NASA’s Next Gen STEM team. Targeted for grades 5–8, Hazards to Deep Space Astronauts features five standards-supported activities to help students learn about the challenges and dangers astronauts face during spaceflight. The guide includes Educator Notes and Student Handouts for each activity, as well as rubrics for the Engineering Design Process and Problem-Based Learning Process. 

Middle Level

How Does a Bulb Light?

In this curriculum unit, middle level students investigate an everyday phenomenon: electric lights turning on. Students observe two strings of LED lights turning on; one is battery powered and one is powered by plugging into the wall outlet. Students record their observations and “wonderings.” The class develops a Driving Question Board, which helps generate ideas for investigations and drive the flow of the unit. To answer these questions, students plan and carry out their own investigations, including investigating electricity production and delivery, considering when and how to conserve, and recent and future changes in the energy system, such as changes in transportation energy demands. 

The unit culminates in a family action plan that the students develop and a plan for a clean energy community information event. The unit—developed collaboratively by the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Energy, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program—supports the Next Generation Science Standards and integrates environmental education into the science curriculum. On the website, you’ll find a Pathway Overview, Teacher Guide, Material and Supply List, Students Activity Sheets, and more. 

Middle Level and High School

Discovering Gravity–An Apple or an Airplane?

A historical cartoon from the Library of Congress offers an engaging way to introduce middle and high school students to Newton’s Law of Gravitation from a historical perspective. An activity described in the blog Teaching with the Library of Congress walks educators through the process. In the activity, students examine the image and text on the historical cartoon from 1910, The Discovery of the Law of Gravitation by L.M. Glackens, which features an “airship” instead of an apple that gives “Sir Isaac Newton his clue.” Upon closer inspection, students discover the airship is a Wright Brothers’ airplane, and they start making connections between science and historical events, specifically between Newton’s Law of Gravitation and aerodynamics, via the Wright Brothers. 

Is Climate Change Just a Lot of Hot Air?

Show students in grades 6–12 how warming ocean temperature is a major factor in climate change with an animated video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s collection of CLEAN Climate and Energy Education Resources. The short (less than two minutes) video quickly touches on concepts such the ocean’s heat capacity, the atmosphere’s capacity to absorb water vapor as temperature increases, and NASA visualizations of changes in ocean surface temperatures over time. The video gives a very clear and concise explanation of how just a few degrees’ rise in ocean temperature can lead to increased moisture in the atmosphere and heightened severity of extreme weather events.

High School

Genetic Rescue Lesson

Explore the idea of Genetic Rescue, an approach for helping endangered populations recover by introducing closely related individuals from a different population, in this interdisciplinary science and math activity for grades 9–12 developed by researchers at Michigan State University’s W. K. Kellogg Biological Station and the National Science Foundation. In five 45-minute periods, students work through various lesson parts to study a successful example of the genetic rescue approach in action, the story of the Florida Panther. In part one, students learn about the plight of the Florida panther. In part two, students review relevant topics in genetics, such as dominant/recessive alleles and genotype vs. phenotype. Part three delves into what can be done to help save the Florida panther, while part four provides an overview of genetic rescue concepts and how they relate to the Florida panther situation. In part five, students analyze real data from a model species to determine whether genetic rescue is a viable solution for the Florida panthers. 

The multi-component lesson plan features a short teaching guide for each lesson part, complete with necessary digital and printed teaching materials, lesson timeline, background information, and relevant learning standards. 

Real Food Lab and Design Challenge 

Nonprofit Big Green, which supports organizations working in food, gardening, and agriculture, has created a Real Food Lab curriculum and Design Challenge project that teaches learners in grades 9–12 to approach food from a systems mindset. Through 15 guided lessons, students learn how to create a real food business using inspiration from the curriculum’s case studies. Students’ food business concept should be based on being socially responsible, encouraging healthy behaviors, promoting a public service, or building community awareness of real food. The lesson sequence ends with a final presentation and classroom expo, in which students showcase their business ideas to an audience of interested parties, including families, educators, community members, and representatives from the local food scene and relevant government agencies. Curriculum resources include a downloadable teacher guide, student workbook, case studies, and lesson slide deck. 

Ingenious Chemistry!

Targeted for grades 9–12, this video series developed by the American Association of Chemistry Teachers shows viewers how leading-edge chemistry—a.k.a. ingenious chemistry—is addressing issues to advance everyone’s quality of life and secure our shared future. The first four videos in the series (available for free) explore issues such as catalysts and molecular structure (The Strange Chemistry Behind Why Get Sick on Planes); chemical bonds, electromagnetic spectrum, and molecular structure (What Birds Know About Color That You Don’t); chemical properties, heat, lab safety, molecular structure, physical properties, polymers, and temperature (This Sandwich Will Save Your Life in an Arc Flash); and molecular structure, polymers, and solubility (How Science Is Fixing Recycling’s Grossest Problem). Each video is accompanied by questions for students to consider as they watch it. 

High School and College Levels

Women in Astronomy: An Introductory Resource Guide 

Find resources for teaching about the challenges women face in astronomy, and learn about notable achievements women have made in the field in this 28-page document compiled by Andrew Fraknoi, Emeritus Chair of Astronomy at Foothill College and former executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Targeted for introductory astronomy students at the high school and college levels, the guide contains lists of resources describing the history of women in astronomy, as well as a list of resources on issues related to women’s roles in astronomy. In addition, the guide mentions books articles, videos, and web pages highlighting 19 women astronomers in history (e.g., Claudia Alexander, Margaret Burbridge, Caroline Herschel, Maria Mitchell), as well as 21 notable astronomers in the field today (e.g., Heidi Hammel, Rosaly Lopes, Claire Max, Aomawa Shields, and Ellen Sofran). The document concludes with a sampling of materials describing 27 additional women whose work in astronomy may be of interest. 

Assessment Astronomy Biology Chemistry Climate Change Curriculum Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Mathematics News Phenomena Physical Science Physics Professional Learning Science and Engineering Practices Social Justice STEM Teaching Strategies Technology Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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