By Debra Shapiro
Created in partnership with Imperial College London, this weekly science news service for K–6 classrooms connects science lessons with real-world science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) news and events through high-quality video and other learning resources to pique student interest. Its stories highlight scientific concepts focused on everything from local phenomena to global issues. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)–aligned science resources teachers can expect from Twig Science Reporter include
● News updates with the latest developments in science and engineering, including weekly films focusing on STEM news and significant world events;
● Features with in-depth looks at topical science stories using films, images, activity suggestions, and investigations;
● Engaging, thought-provoking videos to help students discover the answers to curious questions and meet the craziest creatures; and
● Fact packs to help students explore science-related facts with text-based resources.
Making historical connections to current events through a scientific lens both adds historical significance and connects the real world to scientific phenomena. A recent activity published in the Teaching With the Library of Congress blog helps students reflect on primary sources written during the 1918 influenza pandemic and compare them with their current experiences in the coronavirus pandemic. The activity includes links to relevant primary sources from 1918 and questions teachers can ask to guide students through the reflection process: What are some similarities and differences between masks from 1918 and today? What motivated people in 1918 to wear a mask? What motivates people today? What does this mask tell you about how some diseases are spread? Questions like these will help students reach their own conclusions about the science behind wearing a mask and discover how science is relevant to many aspects of their lives.
Citizen Science and Camouflage Games
Students can be citizen scientists—and contribute to science research exploring camouflage and vision and how organisms evolve—with online games developed by scientists at the Sensory Ecology and Evolution Group of Cornwall, England. The simple games—Evolve-a-Bug, Spot the Hares, Frog Finder, Spot the Plant, Catch the Crab, Evolve the Egg, and others—challenge players to find animals hidden in various photographic images as quickly as possible within a set amount of time (e.g., 10 or 20 seconds). While playing, students are providing researchers with valuable data about animals’ uses of camouflage to avoid detection in both simple and complex habitats.
Modeling SARS-CoV-2 to Communicate Information
Appropriate for distance-learning settings, this activity from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s The Learning Company teaches students about using models to communicate new understandings: in this case, a model of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In the activity, students conduct online research to study the structure of SARS-CoV-2, and based on what they discover, create illustrations of the virus (exterior and cross-section views) and build a three-dimensional model of a virus particle. The activity includes questions to deepen students’ thinking about how illustrations and models can be used to further understanding of the virus, and challenges students to decide, using examples (evidence) from their experience of creating and working with their own virus models, whether models are an effective way to communicate information about how SARS-CoV-2 spreads.
Created by John Cook, cognitive scientist and climate communication researcher at Virginia’s George Mason University, in collaboration with the creative agency Autonomy Co-op, the Cranky Uncle app helps combat climate misinformation by teaching players some of the techniques used by science deniers to dismiss climate science, such as the use of fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, and cherry-picking of data. The app uses narrative, character, humor, and interactive gameplay to engage students in the content and consequently develop critical-thinking skills to deconstruct climate misinformation. The app is available for both iOS and Android platforms.
Grades K–10 educators can use this collection of garden-themed lesson bundles in distance or at-home learning settings. The lessons address themes like Food Origins and Miles; Farms and Farmers; Soils; Plants; Pollinators; Garden Activism; and Seeds and Germination and include embedded links and videos necessary to complete the learning tasks. Lesson highlights include these.
Tackling equity challenges in your school, district, or community? Join the American Consortium for Equity in Education (AC&E) at no charge to access resources and connect with likeminded educators, associations, education media professionals, and industry leaders committed to creating meaningful change in preK–12 schools, colleges, and universities nationwide. In addition to receiving the consortium’s online journal, Equity and Access, members can visit the website to read articles and research about education equity and access, listen to podcasts on key issues in education equity, and more. Of particular interest is the site’s Special Sections tab, which features a collection of notable free or inexpensive resources to support teachers, students, and parents during COVID-19 school closures, culled from various education associations and industries (Crayola Education, Discovery Education, iReady, Flinn Scientific, STEM Careers Coalition, Vernier Software and Technology, and others).
NASA Quick_Bits are video-based distance-learning activities and STEM teaching tips developed by the NASA STEM Engagement Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC) at Texas State University. Targeted for K–12 teachers, parents, and caregivers, each video quickly explains a big idea in STEM; introduces a NASA example showing how the featured idea is applied in the real world; and provides guidance (including links to printable Teachers Guides and other supporting resources) to lead students through a related activity on the topic at home or in the classroom. The videos are available in English and Spanish versions. Titles include Exploring Questions and Solving Problems With Sound (grades K–2), Exploring Force and Energy With Amusement Park Physics (grades 5–9), Exploring Sound Effects (grades 6–8), and Planning an Investigation to Solve an Engineering Problem (grades 5–8, 9–12).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Education Program helps advance public climate literacy through three main channels: by helping formal and informal educators of all levels incorporate the use of climate data, tools, and information products into classrooms; by providing educators access to well-vetted, standards-based climate and energy lessons, multimedia resources, and visualizations and professional development opportunities; and by establishing climate literacy benchmarks of excellence to guide educators. At the website, teachers can access climate resources supporting each of these channels in a central location. Download the guide Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences (available in English and Spanish versions), or browse ready-to-use curriculum and climate learning activities produced jointly by Climate.gov and the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN). The Toolbox for Teaching Climate and Literacy presents a specific path for teachers to follow to educate students about climate and energy science, develop the skills to take action, and then reevaluate teaching methods.
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