By Debra Shapiro
Endurance22 Virtual Exchange Expedition
Reach the World, in partnership with the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, invites teachers and K–12 students to participate in the Endurance22 Expedition to Antarctica, a virtual exchange expedition. The expedition will search for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s sunken ship, Endurance, the world’s most famous undiscovered shipwreck. Classrooms will board (virtually) the South African icebreaker Agulhas II and travel across the remote Weddell Sea to learn about polar navigation, weather and climate, ocean dynamics, Antarctic geography, and ice in its many forms. Students will observe the biodiversity of Antarctica and the Weddell Sea, both above and below the ice, and meet the whales, seals, penguins, birds, and mysterious deep-sea organisms that thrive in this harsh environment. Students also will learn about the state-of-the-art robotics and technology the sub-sea team is using.
As part of the virtual exchange, students will design their own solutions to the many challenges of Antarctic exploration. Registration is required.
Alexa for Astronauts Virtual Public Tours
In the Alexa for Astronauts program, students become virtual crew members as Alexa heads to the Moon on NASA's Artemis I. Teachers and students of grades four and higher can join a free, interactive virtual tour, live from Johnson Space Center this spring, as Artemis I takes flight to the Moon. Students will learn how to program their own Alexa skills that could help astronauts solve problems in space and communities at home.
Amazon will offer two virtual public tours each week in spring 2022. The company will also provide an On-Demand option for teachers whose schedules don’t align with the tour dates. Both options will feature a standards-supported Teacher Toolkit.
In addition, high school teachers can register to receive NSTA’s Alexa for Astronauts: Using AI to Monitor Health lesson set, a five-day, life science instructional sequence. The curriculum is designed to expose high school students to ideas about artificial intelligence and computer programming using Amazon Alexa and MIT App Inventor, while applying previously-built life science ideas to begin to address the problem of monitoring astronauts’ physical health during deep-space exploration. Curriculum for Advanced Placement computer science students will also be available. Registration is required for the tour and the accompanying materials.
STEM Resources From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
In 2021, the education team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California added nearly 80 new space-related science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources to their online catalog of lessons, activities, articles, and videos for K–12 educators, students, and families. The resources introduce learners to NASA’s latest missions exploring Earth, the Moon, Mars, asteroids, the solar system, and the universe beyond and generate interest in space exploration. For example, Make a Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator (grades K–12) teaches students about the Moon as they complete an interactive calendar that doubles as art and shows when and where to see Moon phases throughout the year, and lists moon events such as supermoons and lunar eclipses.
Code a Mars Sample Collection (grades 3–8), another notable resource, introduces coding skills and the considerations scientists and engineers make when collecting samples on Mars as students create their own video game that simulates the way NASA collects samples on Mars. And in the downloadable card game NASA Space Voyagers: The Game (grades 6–12), students work individually or cooperatively to build a spacecraft capable of exploring the solar system.
NASA JPL Teach Resource Database
NASA’s JPL has a large database of high-quality K–12 space education resources: classroom activities, demonstrations, videos, and more. Many lessons feature video tutorials. Teachers can search for materials by lesson type, content area, grade level, and topic. For example, a quick search of Classroom Activity, Technology, All Grades, All Topics turned up lessons for all ages from the Robotic Arm Challenge (grades K–8), in which students use the engineering design process to design, build, and operate a model robotic arm that can move items from one location to another, to Build a Light Detector Inspired by Space Communications (grades 9–12), an advanced programming activity in which students construct a light-wavelength detector to model future technology for communicating with spacecraft.
You Are Going Book and Website
Engage learners of all ages in NASA’s Artemis missions through You Are Going, a storybook and accompanying website. The story introduces readers to the various elements that will help make Artemis possible, such as the Space Launch Rocket and the Orion Spacecraft, and can spark students’ interest in space exploration. The website features a downloadable copy of the book, a read-aloud video with NASA astronauts, a coloring book, and a comprehension guide. The comprehension guide includes questions to discuss before and after reading, as well as writing and art prompts to extend thinking.
A Guide to Adaptations
STEMIE—STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) Center—aims to ensure young children with disabilities (ages 0–5) can fully participate and engage in STEM learning opportunities and experiences. To support early childhood educators in establishing an inclusive STEM learning environment for all students, STEMIE has produced A Guide to Adaptations. This 10-page online document defines and describes an evidence-based inclusion framework. The guide addresses three key areas for adaptation—environment, materials, and instruction—and provides photographs and specific examples of adaptations to use in each category to ensure young children with disabilities can fully participate in STEM learning experiences.
Project Playbook: Educator Edition
Looking for projects to encourage STEM exploration among K–5 students? Annenberg Learner’s Project Playbook: Educator Edition offers lesson plans to facilitate nearly 40 student inquiry projects, and provides teachers with everything they need to support students in conducting science explorations to make sense of the world. In addition to a complete lesson plan formatted using the 5E model, the lesson plans include related “fun facts” to share with students to motivate them. Project titles include Engineering Design Process, Gelatin Refraction, Mud Bricks, Balloon Race, Density Pillar, Paper Circuits, and Baking Soda Bottle Rockets.
What’s So Amazing About Birds? Bird Superpowers
This digital educator guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology contains activities for grades K–2, 3–5, and 6–8 students on the theme of bird superpowers. Through a slideshow and accompanying activities, students explore bird traits such as their abilities to fly or swim, see ultraviolet light, and blend into their background (e.g., camouflage). The activities provide opportunities for students to safely explore the outdoors, applying what they learned about birds in the slideshow. For each grade level, the guide offers ideas for further exploration and a Wrap Up and Share section, which includes age-appropriate questions to help students synthesize their learning.
Frostbite Theater is a collection of science-themed video experiments produced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Jefferson Lab Science Education group. Geared for middle level students, each experiment presents a short (three minutes or less), focused look at a single topic. Videos show how to draw an atom; how electricity affects electromagnets; the science of optical illusions; and how to measure the speed of light—using chocolate; and cover numerous other topics. Many videos feature experiments that students can try at home using simple household materials, while other videos feature demonstrations conducted by Jefferson Lab scientists using equipment from the Lab. All the videos include an accompanying transcript.
Targeted for grades 6–12, these lesson sets from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are designed to help students overcome misconceptions and misinformation about climate change and the nature of science. Covering topics in the Climate Change set such as Scientific Consensus: A Tsunami of Evidence; Climate Models; Past vs. Present Climate Change; Local Climate Impacts; and Climate Solutions, and topics in the Nature of Science set like Science Is a Way of Knowing; Science Is a Never-Ending Process; Science Is an Inquiry-Based Process; Science Is About the Evidence; and Science Can Make You Strong, the lessons include relevant webinars with additional background information for teachers, along with supplemental materials to help teachers adapt the lessons for various learning settings and/or student abilities or grade levels.
In this activity from the Teaching with the Library of Congress (LOC) blog, students analyze documents (e.g., a map and a photograph) from the LOC’s collection to investigate how maps can be used to demonstrate the impact of an oil spill. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the lesson includes questions to spark meaningful discussion, close observation, and critical thinking. The lesson begins as learners observe and reflect on a map of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Next, students examine a photograph of the site and compare the two documents. After the comparison, students may want to investigate other natural disasters triggered by human error. The activity works well in both remote and in-person learning settings and can easily be incorporated into lessons exploring biology, climate change, or environmental science topics.
Feeling the Heat
What can NASA data teach your students about climate change? Targeted for grades 6–12, this data skills activity from My NASA Data and DataClassroom introduces students to the ice-albedo effect and how it relates to climate change. Areas covered in snow and ice (high albedo) reflect much of the solar radiation back into space and therefore do not warm as quickly. When that snow and ice cover begins to melt, the albedo decreases, more solar radiation is absorbed by the earth, and the Earth’s surface at that location warms faster than before.
In the activity, as students compare and analyze NASA temperature data from nine locations worldwide dating back to the year 1880, they will recognize this effect themselves. The activity provides opportunities to create various graphs (scatter plots, line graph) and includes reflection questions. On the website, teachers can preview the lesson plan and access additional activity materials. (Note: E-mail registration is required to access the student pages and answer keys.)
Ecology Project International Curriculum
Ecology Project International (EPI), an environmental advocacy group, has online curriculum that can be adapted to various teaching and learning formats, including remote or in-person settings. Targeted for the high school level, EPI Costa Rica: Exploring Human Impact in the Rainforest is the group’s first lesson series. The series contains seven lessons: Environmental Literacy Overview; Investigating the Biome and Species of the Pacuare Reserve; From Phenomena to Inquiry; Food Webs and Chains in Costa Rica; Counting Species in the Rainforest; Deforestation in Costa Rica Analysis; and Students Creating Change.
The lessons give students opportunities to experience the scientific process and develop environmental literacy as they analyze footage of active wildlife cameras, contribute to conservation research, and explore the biodiversity of this tropical ecosystem. Each lesson includes a teacher’s guide, student materials, standards information, and associated handouts.
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