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Freebies for Science Teachers, February 15, 2022

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, February 15, 2022

Grades K–12

Science Snacks to Celebrate Black History

A special collection from San Francisco's Exploratorium, Science Snacks are hands-on, teacher-tested activities that bring explorations of natural phenomena into the classroom and home. These Science Snacks showcase Black artists, scientists, inventors, and thinkers whose work aids or expands our understanding of the phenomena explored in each Snack.

Nautilus Live STEAM Education Resources

Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus Exploration Program has a collection of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education resources to engage K–12 learners of all levels in the excitement of deep-sea exploration and ocean studies. The resources are designed for use in either in-person or remote learning settings and include a mix of standards-supported STEM learning modules, engineering design challenges, creative projects, teaching animations, data-driven activities, videos, and more. Resource highlights include

  • Any Fin Is Possible, a STEM learning module (for grades K–2, 3–4, and 6–8) that teaches students about fish adaptations for marine and freshwater environments, then challenges students to apply what they’ve learned to design a custom fish with adaptations that enable survival in various environments.
  • In Unique Creatures Classroom Warm Up (grades K–2, 3–4, 6–8, and 9–12), a brief observation-building activity, students compare images of three unique sea creatures and reflect on the organisms’ habitats and adaptations. 

The site also has career resources for middle and high school levels. For example, students can learn about dynamic careers in science research by watching the STEM Careers video playlist or by researching the various jobs on a scientific research vessel and collaborating as a class to create a STEM Careers poster.   

Climate Change Resources for K–12

Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s STEM Volunteer Program compiled this collection of resources to support climate change instruction. Of particular interest is Climate Change—An Introduction, a PowerPoint presentation that answers key questions for teachers: What is causing climate change? What are the impacts of those changes, and what can we do to reduce those impacts on the Earth and society?

In addition, the group has created a list of climate change links and activities for K–12 classrooms culled from leading science and educational organizations, including NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),, and Stanford EARTH.

Lab Safety Resources

The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI) has a new resource for K–12 science teachers, Lab Safety Rules in a convenient PDF format. The downloadable document—Laboratory Safety Guidelines: 40 Suggestions for a Safer Lab—presents many ideas for improving laboratory safety, from common sense measures (e.g., no eating or drinking in the lab) to more complex endeavors, such as developing a system for the legal, safe, and ecologically acceptable disposal of chemical wastes. In addition, teachers can access short (about one-minute-long) whiteboard animation videos of each safety guideline

Synchronizing Art and Science Website

The website Synchronizing Art and Science is dedicated to blending science and art activities in a meaningful way. Created by science educator, author, and kinetics sculptor Bernie Zubrowski, the site presents a summary of the approach, an extended rationale featuring research related to the approach, and a selection of projects illustrating the approach. Projects are available for students of all ages and feature descriptions of relevant art and science connections within each activity. Project titles include Food Color, Inks, and Paper; Mobiles and Balancing Toys; Mirrors and Reflections; Shadows and Projected Images; Air and Water Movement; Wave Movement; Pond Organisms; Trees and Other Plants; Windmills and Wind Sculpture; Flying Toys; and Structures.

Ocean Plastic Pollution Online Course 

Looking to initiate a plastic pollution reduction project with students in grades 3–12? This self-guided online course for educators from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in San Francisco is a place to start. Through seven chapters—Welcome; The Project Process; Identify and Refine; Plan and Carry Out Investigations; Analyze, Interpret, and Make Meaning; Document and Communicate; and Reflect on Learning and Take Action—participants learn about the science behind plastic pollution and experience the project process from start to finish. (To access the course materials, free e-mail registration is required.)

Classroom Combo: Spacesuit Science (Pressure)

Get students in grades 5–12 excited to learn about air pressure by exploring air pressure from a new perspective: how mobility is affected in pressurized NASA spacesuits. With the NASA-developed learning module Classroom Combo: Spacesuit Science, students can explore demonstrations, videos, and other resources to learn about the spacesuit’s features and their functions, as well as how mobility is affected in pressurized NASA spacesuits.

Early Childhood

Guide to Addressing STEM Myths

The U.S. Department of Education–funded STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) team has produced a Guide to Addressing STEM Myths. Most appropriate for early childhood educators and administrators, the 24-page PDF document lists 19 common myths affecting STEM learning experiences and opportunities for young children, including children with disabilities. Myths include these: STEM is science only; technology just means computer skills; and STEM learning is expensive. Following the list of myths, the guide presents facts and accompanying resources educators can use to dispel each myth. 


Inspiring Engineering Through Empathy Activities

Inspiring Engineering Through Empathy, a collaborative project of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Smithsonian Science Education Center, presents theme-based activities to help students in grades K–2 develop an engineering mindset that guides STEM learning in many states, as well as in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and develop the socioemotional skills inherent in these standards. The activities include play-based activities to help students learn about and develop connections to and empathy for a sea lion (e.g., Be a Sea Lion!), as well as activities to help students identify and define a relevant problem and solution (e.g., What’s Bothering Calli?; How Can You Block the Sun?; and Model a Solution), which in this case is solving an engineering challenge of designing a shade structure for sea lions. 

Elementary and Middle Level

Ecosystem Services Mini-Lessons

Introduce students in grades 4–6 to the concept of ecosystem services with a collection of mini-lessons developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lessons can be used to supplement an environmental studies curriculum and can encourage students to get outside, as well as participate in hands-on activities in the classroom. For example, students play ecosystem services Bingo in the classroom, keep a nature journal for their outdoor observations, or go on a webquest to learn how to use EPA’s EnviroAtlas interactive online data tool. After learning how to use the tool, students can conduct an ecosystem services assessment of their school grounds. The lessons include teacher instructions as well as printable student handouts. 

Space Exploration Activity Quests

Celebrate National Engineers Week (February 20–26) with STEM activities for grades 3–8. Youth development organization 4-H and satellite internet company HughesNet have created interactive Space Exploration Activity Quests that invite kids to join lead astronaut Commander Isabella Hernandez aboard a virtual spaceship bound for Mars. During these two quests, students can see how engineering is at work in space today. They will learn how to grow food in space, observe how HughesNet satellites keep people on Earth connected with the internet, assemble a rover, and collect samples from the Martian surface.

Each quest features Career Connections and Reflection Questions. These virtual space trips are also ones the entire family can take together. 

Middle Level

Stories of Women of Color in STEM

This electronic publication targeted for grades 7–8 is the second installment in the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Stories of Women in STEM e-Book series, which highlights the largely untold stories of women's contributions to science and innovation. Available as a downloadable PDF, Stories of Women of Color in STEM features biographies of women whose ingenuity has transformed STEM in America and beyond, from pharmacologist Tu Youyou and mathematician Gladys West to microbiologist Robin Kumoluyi and National Zoo animal keeper Carly Hornberger. Students will learn about scientists’ contributions that have shattered gender stereotypes, advanced STEM fields, and created a more inclusive future for underrepresented groups in STEM. 

Green Careers for a Changing Climate 

Targeted for grades 6–8, Climate Generation’s Green Careers for a Changing Climate video and accompanying curriculum guide provide an inside look at green career pathways and their connection to climate solutions. The 20-minute video features interviews with eight STEM professionals working in green careers that positively impact climate solutions. The careers featured in the video include renewable energy CEO, chemist, electric vehicle consultant, policy associate, solar panel installer, university extension professor, renewable energy specialist, and campus kitchen coordinator. The downloadable curriculum guide includes printables and worksheets to guide students during the viewing, as well as discussion questions to ask afterward.

In addition, the guide includes classroom activities to help students learn more about green careers and the skills needed for success in the fields. (Free e-mail registration is required to access the video and curriculum guide.)

Middle Level and High School

NGSS Printable Posters 

New York educator Todd Shuskey created these NGSS–themed posters to remind students—and himself!—of the Science and Engineering Practices used in investigations and the important Crosscutting Concepts addressed in the NGSS. The colorful, bold designs are easy to read and can be printed for use in middle and high school classrooms. 

High School

Evolution and Fossil Records

Understanding evolution is often challenging for high school biology students. An activity described in the blog Teaching With the Library of Congress (LOC) offers a unique way for teachers to address the topic and help students understand how scientists can “read” fossil records. In the activity, students use their observation skills to put together deconstructed versions of two whimsical baseball cartoon images from the LOC collection—Evolution of a Cat-cher (H.S. Crocker and Co., circa 1889 Dec. 19) and Evolution of a Pitcher (H.S. Crocker and Co., 1889)—in the correct sequence. Students must make a claim based on evidence for the order in which they believe the pictures should be arranged. The reasoning processes students use to order their pictures is like the reasoning process scientists use to analyze fossil records and look for patterns. The article includes links to the primary source documents and reflection questions for students to consider as they work through the activity. 

How Do Guitar Strings Make Different Sounds?

Master teacher and science education researcher Lori Andersen has developed How Do Guitar Strings Make Different Sounds?, a series of physics activities for high school students. The lesson series begins with a video of oscillating guitar strings as the anchoring phenomenon for the set. After observing the strings in the video closely, students look for patterns between what they hear and what they see, then create a model to explain their current level of understanding. Next, students conduct two guided online investigations—What happens when you pluck a guitar string? and Why are the shapes of waves on guitar strings different?—to learn more about the patterns they observed in the anchoring phenomenon video. The investigations include questions to guide students through the online experience and provide opportunities for them to make claims about their observations and support them with evidence.

The lesson series ends with an opportunity for students to revise their initial model of understanding with a new model of understanding using the information they have learned in the two investigations. 

High School and College

The Habitable Zone

Developed as part of NASA’s collection of resources for STEM engagement, The Habitable Zone video series engages high school and college learners in exploring the science behind exoplanets. An accompanying video series, The Habitable Zone Unplugged, delves deeper into some of the astronomy and astrobiology concepts addressed in the episodes. 

Administration Astronomy Biology Careers Chemistry Climate Change Crosscutting Concepts Curriculum Disabilities Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science Equity Evolution General Science Inclusion Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science News NGSS Phenomena Physical Science Physics Professional Learning Safety Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Early Childhood Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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