By Debra Shapiro
K–college educators, do you need resources to help you respectfully respond to students who say evolution is against their religion? Are there approaches to use, whether for geologic or biologic evolution, that show respect for students’ faiths, yet allow teachers to present the science? Check out Voices for Evolution, the National Center for Science Education’s project dedicated to supporting the teaching of evolution in schools. The project website presents statements from many scientific and scholarly organizations, educational organizations, civil liberties groups, and religious organizations that can address this issue. Of particular interest are the statements from various religious organizations, many of which are brief (one page) and easy-to-read.
In addition, the site’s section on Science and Religion contains several short articles on high-interest topics such as God and Evolution, Reading the Bible, and Denominational Views. With these documents, teachers will be able to tactfully address any evolution issues arising in the science classroom.
Germ Science Investigation
Germ Science Investigation (GSI), a germ awareness training game, was developed by LOCI, a safety-focused technology network and software provider. Appropriate for all ages from elementary to high school and available in more than 20 languages, the game is designed to help students understand how to stop the transmission of COVID-19. GSI can be played on any web-enabled device (desktop, phone, tablet) and completed in less than 15 minutes.
To play, students work through four missions, answering a series of scenario-based questions to learn to identify germ hotspots and best practices for stopping the spread of germs. Students receive instant feedback after answering each question. If they answer a question incorrectly, the correct answer and a fact about COVID-19 is displayed.
Aviation Animations and Activities
Airbus, a leading aerospace manufacturing company, has developed a collection of outreach materials suitable for K–12 audiences. The animated videos address three themes in space and aviation: The Science of Flight, Mission to the Moon (space exploration), and the Future of the Skies (how aerospace will shape the future). In the Science of Flight, students watch short (less than two minutes) animations explaining the principles of aviation and the history of flying. In Mission to the Moon, students watch brief animations about traveling to and living on the Moon, then use the animations’ information to design their own Moon camp, rocket, or Moon ranger. The animations in the Future of the Skies section include challenges for students to design their own cities and factories of the future.
Hour of Code: TIMECRAFT
Have students travel back in time to save the future in TIMECRAFT, a coding and computer science lesson series developed as part of the Hour of Code MINECRAFT: Education Edition resource collection from Microsoft Education. Targeted for grades 3–12, TIMECRAFT teaches basic coding concepts and introduces students to great innovators and inventions in science, architecture, music, and engineering in history. In the game, students use code to correct mysterious mishaps throughout history. As students work through the various lessons (missions), they discover the importance of computer science in many aspects of life; solve problems using algorithmic thinking and problem decomposition; practice computer science concepts such as sequences, events, loops, and debugging; create coding solutions to complete a task or solve a problem; and discover potential career opportunities in computer science. A digital educator’s guide provides content such as lesson goals and objectives, tips for teacher facilitation, a PDF of the coding solutions for each lesson, extension activities, and standards information.
Addressing Systemic and Institutional Racism in Science
A recent report published by the Institute for Science and Math Education at the University of Washington College of Education helps teachers address systemic and institutional racism in science learning. The brief (one page) report points out the important role of teachers in changing "racist legacies of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and schooling" and offers guidance to educators for “examining [their] own prejudices” and embedding racial justice into their instructional practices. In addition to providing numerous talking points for meaningful discussion, the report offers recommended actions for educators and includes links to supplemental resources for further reading.
Living Schoolyard Activity Guide
Take a break from the whiteboard, get some fresh air, and engage students in hands-on science and math learning with Green Schoolyards America’s Living Schoolyard Activity Guide. Downloadable as a PDF, the publication features more than 200 pages of rationale and research-based activities to engage K–12 students of all ages and levels in meaningful outdoor learning. The activities are organized in theme-based chapters (such as wildlife and habitat, watershed stewardship, energy and climate, art, play, health, thoughtful use of materials, schoolyard agriculture and food) and include learning experiences developed by more than 120 contributing organizations. From engaging students in Painting the Seasons (all ages) and Creating a Schoolyard Site Survey (ages 5–18) to participating in Garden Scavenger Hunt Relays (ages 8–15), Photosynthesis Tag (ages 9–13), and Planting a Native Hedgerow (ages 8–18), the activities in this guide aptly illustrate the many ways school grounds can be used to create memorable learning experiences for students before, during, and after school hours.
This weekly web series targeted for upper-elementary to high school audiences features Black scientists presenting kid-friendly “bites” about various marine science topics. Available on the Black in Marine Science (BIMS) You Tube channel, each approximately five-minute video addresses a different topic, covering key themes such as climate change, tidal zones, ocean acidification, freshwater ecology, marine debris and alternative reef habitats, and coastal conservation and restoration efforts. Through the videos, students not only learn about current issues in marine science, but are also introduced to potential careers in the field.
Growing Great’s Preschool Science Activities
These simple activities from Growing Great, a California-based school garden program, can inspire young learners’ (ages 2–4) curiosity about the natural world and engage students in hands-on science exploration at home and in the neighborhood. Each one-page activity—e.g., Take It Apart, Windy, Water Wall, Ocean Habitats, Play With Your Food, and Butterflies—encourages learning through play and includes step-by-step instructions, discussion questions, and an accompanying song and literature connection.
Targeted for grades 4–7 and developed collaboratively by the National Institute of Aerospace and NASA, the NASA eClips at Home video series fuels students’ curiosity as they investigate science and the world around them through the lens of NASA. In each episode, students follow along with NASA interns as they explore and demonstrate science concepts such as simple machines, the solar system, and the water cycle. Each approximately 30-minute episode features relevant commentary from NASA scientists and includes a related hands-on activity for students to do at home along with the video.
Winter Salt Watch Monitoring Kit
Road salt helps people travel safely in the winter, but road salt doesn't stay on roads: It washes off into freshwater streams, where it damages the quality of our drinking water and hurts insects and other organisms that aren’t adapted to life in salty environments. With a Winter Salt Watch Monitoring Kit—available from the Izaak Walton League of America environmental group—teachers and students can investigate road salt levels in their community and participate in a nationwide citizen science project. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the kit contains strips to test a local freshwater stream’s salt level at four key points during a winter season: before a winter storm (to find out the “normal” level of salt in the stream), after salt has been applied to roads, after the first warm day or rainstorm following a snow or freeze, and after the next rain event. In addition, the kit includes instructions for conducting the tests, a chart to help students and teachers interpret the test results, and guidance on how to submit the results to the national Winter Salt Watch database.
The Future of Ocean Farming, a five-part video series, was developed through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service Communication and Education Division. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the series explores how sustainable ocean farming—a.k.a. aquaculture—is helping to grow healthy seafood and support a cleaner ocean. The series features videos of marine scientists at work and explores many important aspects of ocean farming, including an overview of the fishing industry (School of Fish); technology use in aquaculture (Remote Control); 3-D Ocean Farming; Innovations in American Aquaculture; and shell recycling programs (No Shell Left Behind). Each video is approximately five minutes long and is accompanied by a written transcript and a code for embedding the video in lesson presentations. In addition, bonus videos highlight unique developments that have arisen from the aquaculture industry, such as an app to assess an ocean location’s suitability for aquaculture and recipes to use kelp in cooking.
Science-Based Creative Activities From Khan Academy and Adobe
Designed for middle and high school levels, these science-based creative activities were developed collaboratively by Khan Academy and Adobe. The biology-, chemistry-, and physics-themed resources combine science content from Khan Academy with the use of creative tools and programs from the Adobe platform. For example, the collection offers lesson plans for students to create a poster representing molecular structure using Adobe Creative Express; annotate articles about women’s roles in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) history using Adobe Acrobat; create a cell diagram that demonstrates understanding cell parts and function using Adobe Illustrator; produce an explainer video about a scientific concept using the Adobe Premier Rush program; or create an infographic about STEM with Photoshop.
The lesson plans are flexible, adaptable, and ready for use in the classroom. Each lesson plan includes the estimated time for completion, a description and learning objectives, standards information, and links to any documents or tutorials needed to successfully complete the activity. While the lessons can be previewed online, educators must register (free) with the Adobe Education Exchange to download their associated materials.
Examining the Historical Roots of Aviation
“They Sail the Ocean Blue [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 June, 1909],” a historical newspaper cartoon from the Library of Congress (LOC) Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, serves as the focal point for an engaging exploration of aviation science and history with middle and high school students. The interdisciplinary activity—described in the blog Teaching With the LOC and most appropriate for students in introductory physical science or Earth science classes—engages students in analyzing a primary source document and provides numerous opportunities to reflect on its meaning. The article presents questions to consider when examining the historical cartoon (e.g., What is the “ozone ocean blue”? Why are the Wright Brothers considered “Monarchs of the Air”? Why does the author liken flying to sailing?), as well as other ideas for using the primary source as a learning tool in the classroom.
For example, students could write their own captions for the planets pictured in the cartoon or create a comic of their own based on a historical scientific event. Read the blog post for more ideas on how the cartoon could be incorporated as part of science or history lessons.
Developed at Carnegie Mellon University as outreach activities to complement the book Engineering Bridges Connecting the World by Pendred Noyce (Tumblehome Learning 2019), these bridge-building challenges designed for middle and high school levels can be used as stand-alone lessons or combined for a complete unit about bridges. In the Bridge Building Challenge, student teams design a bridge that meets a specified challenge such as span, load, or visual appeal. Students build the bridges from supplied materials (e.g., toothpicks, mini marshmallows, spaghetti noodles, cardboard, tape, newspaper, and so on) and test them according to the lesson instructions. Afterward, students evaluate the challenge experience by reflecting on questions such as these: Did your team build the bridge that was on the original design sheet? If no, what did you need to change? Which elements of your final design worked well? If you could change anything that your team did when responding to the challenge, what would it be?
Other lessons—e.g., 2-D and 3-D Truss Bridge Building and Bridges: Life Cycle of an Infrastructure Project—focus on teaching students how to juggle the needs of project stakeholders so they can successfully complete the challenge within prescribed constraints. Lesson materials include lesson plans, a bridge vocabulary word search and matching game, and resources for further learning.
The American Chemical Society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks (NHCL) program celebrates how chemists and chemistry are transforming modern life. Targeted for grades 9–12, the program highlights pioneering achievements in the history of the chemical sciences, such as the discovery of penicillin; the first African-American, PhD, in chemistry; the development of cellophane tape; the deciphering of the genetic code; and other chemistry-related feats by designating the achievements as historical chemical landmarks. Inquiry-based science and history lesson plans based on the NHCL program materials are available online. The lessons are ready to use and are designed to be easily implemented by a chemistry teacher or substitute to supplement a unit of study. Lessons cover topics like Radiocarbon Dating and Willard Libby; Steroid Medicines: A Profile of Chemical Innovation; Discovery of Ivermectin: Preventing Blindness and Heartworm; Mars Exploration With Infrared Spectrometers; Discovery of Fullerenes; and Man and Materials Through History.
Featured as part of Gustavus Adolphus College’s annual Nobel Conference, this collection of curricular activities provides opportunities for high school students to develop data literacy skills and explore the myriad ways big data is being used in everyday life. The activities—developed and contributed by leading science and educational organizations like National Geographic, The Concord Consortium, Colorado University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—span disciplines from science to art and highlight important ways big data is helping to address issues in health, climate change, online privacy, governmental agencies, and commerce.
For example, Data Privacy in the Age of Third-Party Cookies, an activity developed by students at Gustavus Adolphus College, features a PowerPoint presentation, student handout, and lesson plan to show students how cookies are prevalent in their lives and how they relate to big data. Drought and Data Projections, an activity from PBS Learning Media, provides data snapshots and reflection questions students can use to analyze seasonal patterns and identify the drought risk for different areas across the country and globe.
Another resource, Real Time Data: National Geographic, shows examples of real-time collection data on air quality, water temperature, water-level data, earthquakes, landslides, populations, volcano alerts, and water. Teachers can incorporate these visualizations into various lessons to give students practice in interpreting and analyzing data.
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