By Debra Shapiro
Sky Day Project
Nonprofit Only One Sky’s Sky Day Project is a citizen art/science initiative and educational platform focused on fostering a better relationship with climate and the environment among K–12 students and others. Begun in 2014 as a citizen art/science project to help individuals connect to one another and the environment by creating an online mosaic made from citizen-contributed photographs, drawings, and paintings of the sky, the project has grown to include the citizen art project (for all ages); curricular materials to explore climate and environmental science topics in middle and high school classrooms; and Sky Day climate celebration events (for all ages).
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)–supported curriculum guides students in using science and engineering practices to make sense of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee’s ecosystem. Students explore changing patterns in our climate and apply their learning to predict the effects of climate change on the ecosystem and the species that rely on it. The unit content extends learning beyond the classroom: Students create blog posts, engage in intergenerational conversations, and design actionable solutions to address the decline of this keystone species. Visit the website to access the curriculum and find guidelines for uploading sky photos or participating in other Sky Day activities.
EarthX, a global nonprofit dedicated to inspiring people and organizations to take action toward a more sustainable future worldwide, has produced environmentally themed virtual field trips for grades K–12. The virtual field trips, produced as extensions to EarthX’s no-cost K–12 Environmental STEAM Curriculum, support the NGSS and can also be used as stand-alone resources. Topics cover environmental themes and issues, including recycling (e.g., How to Recycle, grades K–4), plastics pollution (e.g., Plastic Seas, Plastic Solutions, grade 5), waste management (e.g., Waste to Energy Facility Tour, grade 6), aquaponics (e.g., Water by Design—Aquaponics, grade 7), renewable energy (Sustainable Off-Grid Energy From Free-Flowing Rivers, grade 8), and natural aquifers (Clear Water, Clean Water, Exploring Florida’s Aquifer, grades 9–12). A downloadable learning guide—featuring lesson goal, overview, guiding questions, vocabulary, and standards information—accompanies each field trip.
Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) 2021
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has K–12 educational resources to support Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW), taking place April 19–24. This year’s theme is “Reducing Our Footprint With Chemistry,” and the materials include lesson plans, outreach activities, toolkits, and career resources produced by ACS and other chemistry associations and groups, such as the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, Chem Matters magazine, and the Earth Day Network.
Elementary learners can explore the topic through activities such as Find the Footprint of Your Favorite Snack, or Be Cool With Insulation!, while middle level students can investigate how Carbon Dioxide Can Make a Solution Acidic, then apply their observations to develop understandings about the problem of ocean acidification. In the Greenhouse Gas Simulation lab, middle and high school students explore the effects of carbon dioxide in the air on temperature by analyzing two simulations of the Earth’s atmosphere, a control model and a model with an increased presence of carbon dioxide gas. The Meg A. Mole Career Profiles, of interest to all ages, introduce students to chemists working in various positions and fields of study from university research and business corporations to federal agencies and more.
Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) Spotlight: Connecting Informal and Formal STEM Learning
In this video discussion, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education experts Rabiah Mayas, vice president of guest experience, Museum of Science Institute, and NSTA Retiring President Dennis Schatz explore the critical elements necessary for programs connecting formal STEM education to the teaching and learning occurring in homes, communities, and informal institutions. The 35-minute discussion highlights opportunities in the field arising in response to social justice movements and the COVID-19 pandemic and presents examples of successful projects bridging formal and informal settings within the STEM teaching and learning ecosystem. The projects address various topics and grade levels, from the benefits of integrating storybooks into classroom investigations of natural phenomena to aid students’ development of science practices (An Integrated Approach to Early Elementary Earth and Space Science) to the long-term effects of a statewide, hands-on ecology field trip initiative (LabVenture—Revealing Systemic Impacts of a 12-Year Statewide Science Field Trip Program).
Other projects combine science content for students with pedagogical professional development for teachers and families (e.g., Networking Urban Resources With Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science; Moving Next Generation Science Standards Into Practice: A Middle School Ecology Unit and Teacher Professional Development Model; and Schoolyard Science Investigations by Teachers, Extension Volunteers, and Students). After viewing the video discussion, educators can access project summaries and links for each of the featured programs on the website.
NASA’s SCaN Program has developed downloadable K–8 choice boards exploring space communications and navigation technology topics from engineering to satellites and beyond. Versioned for grades K–2, 3–5, and 6–8, the SCaN boards offer nine different activities centered on math, science, reading, and drawing at each grade level. K–2 activities include tasks such as writing a letter to an astronaut to share three things about living in space; making a poster to teach classmates or family members fun facts about space; or recording a video with an Artemis astronaut asking what they’ll do on their mission to the Moon. Students in grades 3–5 can choose from experiences such as using old magazine pages to create a collage of items an astronaut brings on a mission; working with a partner to write space-themed riddles; or watching a video to compare making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space with making a sandwich on Earth. Choices for grades 6–8 include researching Tracking and Data Relay Satellites online, then designing your own satellite using materials found around home; writing and editing a television commercial featuring facts about how NASA communicates with satellites; or creating a comic strip to explain aspects of space communication.
Engage elementary and middle level students, classrooms, and schools in actions to care for the planet with curriculum resources from Canada’s Earth Rangers School Clubs. School Club missions address environmental issues such as collecting and recycling used batteries (Battery Buzz), reducing single-use plastics (Water Taste Challenge), lessening food waste (Zero Food Waste Challenge), cleaning up local habitats (Shoreline and Schoolyard Saver), and appreciating the outdoors (Nature Scavenger Hunt). Many mission activities were adapted as distance-learning “eco-activities” for students to complete at home with family or locally while social distancing during the pandemic. (Note: While teachers can immediately access the collection of eco-activities for distance learning, free registration is required to access the materials to conduct School Club activities.)
Inspire future space explorers with classroom activities from NASA’s Artemis Program’s Moon to Mars initiative. A series of Educator Guides—targeted for grades 5–8 and supporting the NGSS—present engineering design challenges exploring the NASA spacecraft and transportation systems that enable humans to travel to the Moon and eventually to Mars. One guide, Crew Transportation With Orion, introduces the Orion spacecraft through challenges such as designing and building a crew module model; constructing and testing a model of a target docking system and crew module; and designing a heat shield to protect the contents of a crew module during a simulated atmospheric reentry. Another guide, Propulsion With the Space Launch System, focuses on rocketry and features challenges such as designing fins for a foam rocket to increase its stability and building an air-powered water rocket to find the optimal amount of water volume to air pressure for producing maximum thrust. The Habitation With Gateway guide presents engineering design activities to introduce NASA’s future lunar habitat.
COVID-19 and Health Equity: How Can People Help End Pandemics?
Teach students about the COVID-19 pandemic, transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and the impacts of the pandemic on communities with this unit, which uses an inquiry-based approach and is designed for 15 class periods of instruction, with optional extensions. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, teachers can use it in science, social studies, and health classes. (Note: This is a field-test version of the unit; this version will be revised after the end of the field test in late summer 2021. Teachers who want to participate in the field test should visit this website.)
iPlan: Local Environmental Modeling Game
Using iPlan, an online environmental modeling simulation, players construct, investigate, and solve simulated urban and regional planning problems. Developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, the interdisciplinary simulation/game challenges students to create a climate adaptation plan for a chosen region of the United States that pleases as many stakeholders as possible (in this case, a local business consortium, an environmental justice center, and a community coalition) while meeting the community’s overall goals. The game is based on real maps and data and engages players in NGSS science and engineering practices such as asking questions (for science); defining problems (for engineering); developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; constructing explanations (for science); designing solutions (for engineering); engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. The game works on laptops, smartphones, and tablets and has applications in environmental studies, biology, chemistry, geography, civics, and language arts.
Inside the Breakthrough—How Science Comes to Life
A new podcast series for grades 7–10 celebrates the intersection of science history and modern medical research. Produced by SciMar, a medical research company, and hosted by scientist Dan Riskin (formerly of the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet), the 10-episode series presents funny/mysterious stories from scientists in history and shows how the lessons from the past connect to modern research topics. For example, the first episode, “Eureka! Before and After!,” uses tales from Archimedes (volume displacement method), Alexander Fleming (penicillin), and Wayne Lautt (Type 2 diabetes research) to help listeners understand how science is as much about its methods and thinking like a scientist as it is about a singular moment or any particular discovery. Each episode runs about 30 minutes and can be viewed on any device; new episodes will be released every other Monday for the next five months.
The birth, life, and death of every star creates and disseminates the elements of the Periodic Table throughout the universe, a cycle that began nearly 14 billion years ago and repeats continuously today. Without it, the Earth and everything on it—air, water, soil, plants, wildlife, and human life—would not exist. Learn more about this key process and the fundamental role of stars in our lives with this video produced by the National Science Foundation to help celebrate Periodic Table Day 2021. Suited for grades 7–10 and physics/astronomy enthusiasts of all ages, the four-minute video describes how the cycle works and helps students understand how iron, carbon, hydrogen—the elements that construct skyscrapers and cell phones—are the same building blocks of people and puppies.
Astronomy Biology Careers Chemistry Climate Change Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Labs Lesson Plans Life Science Literacy Mathematics News NGSS Physics Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Early Childhood Elementary High School Informal Education Preschool