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Freebies for Science Teachers, January 5, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, January 5, 2021

Elementary and Middle Level

Research-Based Resources for Supporting Children’s Questions Around COVID-19

Researchers from the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) have completed the first phase of a National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded Rapid Response Research project studying how informal learning podcasts provide families with science-based information in an engaging format that supports COVID-19-related conversations and eases children’s worries. The study, Children’s Questions, Worries, and Information Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic, offers insight into the kinds of questions children are asking about the pandemic, their worries, and the types of support caregivers are seeking for engaging in discussions with children about the pandemic, as well as the science behind viruses and preventative health measures. (Access the study’s full report or read an executive summary.)

Education resources have also been produced as part of the study. Teachers can access the Resource Guide for Talking to Children About COVID-19—a compilation of articles and web pages from leading science and media organizations (Harvard Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, PBS, Child Mind Institute) focused on how to talk to children about pandemic-related topics—as well as a series of pandemic-related informal learning podcasts produced collaboratively by SMM and Brains On!, American Public Media’s science podcast series “for kids and curious adults.” The podcasts cover key topics of interest for children, including understanding coronavirus and how germs spread; how social distancing helps fight coronavirus; how scientists are working to stop the coronavirus; masks and mouth mist; what we know about coronavirus now; and using time to assess this pandemic. View the podcasts and access the resource guide.

ODI Climate Change Learning Modules

The Education Development Center’s Oceans of Data Institute (ODI) has developed learning modules to study the effects of the Earth’s changing climate on the animals and plants of Maine’s diverse habitats. Targeted for grades five and six, the modules use authentic data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore climate topics such as global and local temperature (The Shape of Change); marine ecosystems (Lobsters and Black Sea Bass); forest ecosystems (Ticks and Lyme Disease); and freshwater ecosystems (Ice-out). Each learning module has an overview of module content; a glossary; a series of data-based lessons and accompanying materials (Teacher Guide, Online Student Lesson, Student Sheet); and a summary of student learning outcomes. In addition, a set of Teaching Tips provides more information about the components of the learning modules and guidance on facilitating the modules’ use in the classroom.

Middle Level and High School

Switch On: The Series

This web-based video series for grades 7–12 focuses on global energy issues. Produced by Switch Energy Alliance (SEA), an energy education nonprofit, each approximately 30-minute video focuses on a different energy-related topic occurring in the developing world, such as Modern Cooking Fuels, Urban Grid Expansion, Developing on Coal, Off-Grid Energy Solutions, Hydropower in Africa, and Building Solar Microgrids (Parts One and Two). The series can be viewed on YouTube or the Switch Energy Alliance website, and a transcript for each episode is available. Accompanying Student Watch Guides, with viewing and synthesis questions, will be available in early 2021.

Everyday Mysteries

Why is the ocean blue? How do fireworks work? Is a coconut a fruit, nut, or seed? Why do human joints make popping sounds? Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? Can you really tell the temperature by listening to the chirp of a cricket? Everyday Mysteries—a column from the Library of Congress’s Science Reference Services—answers these and other science-related questions about phenomena seen in daily life. 

Each column features explanatory text about a topic alongside relevant images and resources from the library’s science and technology collections. Browse available columns by category (agriculture, botany, chemistry, food and nutrition, geography, meteorology, physics, technology, zoology, and others) or submit a science question for the reference librarians to answer.

Middle Level Through College

How Vaccines Work

An educational animation from ABC Medical and ABC Digital shows how vaccines trigger the immune system into action. Video games and comic books have been combined to explain B cells and T cells, making this animation accessible and fun for a range of audiences. The video is accompanied by the article “How Vaccines Work to Trigger Your Immune System Army.” Go directly to the video.

Grades PreK–12

Spotlight on Modeling in Science and Math 

Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) is a network for preK–12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals interested in meaningfully impacting policy, research, and education. This CADRE report contains resources developed through NSF–funded projects for teaching and learning modeling in mathematics and science classrooms; a short video about the use of scientific modeling; and a blog highlighting the importance and challenges of scientific modeling, especially during a pandemic. The report also includes descriptions of more than a dozen recent, ongoing, and newly funded Discovery Research projects for K–12 environments, centered on innovations in scientific and mathematical modeling education.

Recommended Teacher and Student Resources to Support Remote Learning

Looking for high-quality online learning resources to support remote student learning and teacher professional development during the pandemic? This CADRE website presents an alphabetical listing (with annotations and links) highlighting more than a dozen high-quality resources and programs supporting remote STEM instruction. You’ll find science and math apps for preschool students (Early Math With Gracie and Friends, Early Science With Nico and Noir), as well as learning modules and simulations to deepen middle and high school students’ understanding of important issues such as the spread of infectious diseases (Exploring Infectious Diseases, Understanding Ebola), climate change (High Adventure Science), and the use of authentic scientific data and scientific modeling (Plate Tectonics, Sage Modeler). The list also includes links to tools to help teachers increase student engagement in distance-learning settings (Flipgrid, Padlet, VoiceThread, and Thinglink, for example).

K–12 Energy Games and Icebreakers

Check the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project’s e-publication, Energy Games and Icebreakers, featuring activities to excite students about exploring energy conservation and related topics. The 68-page resource can be used to introduce students to various energy sources and reinforce previously learned content. Of particular interest are Energy Round Up Posters, a collection of fun fact cards about energy sources including coal, natural gas, petroleum, propane, solar, and wind, and the Energy Bumper Stumper Slides, a series of energy-related terms presented as license-plate riddles (for example, the license plate letters “SLRNRG” translate to the term solar energy).

Transportation-Related STEM Activities 

The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has a collection of transportation-related STEM resources for educators, including activities, presentations, career information, and links. Lesson highlights include Traffic Waves With Marbles (preK–2), in which students explore traffic behaviors using plastic straws, toy cars, and marbles; Ramps and Friction (grades 3–5), in which students experiment with angles and ramp coverings to determine which combination of ramp placement and material moves a toy car the fastest; and Hallway Congestion (grades 5–8), in which students observe and record traffic patterns in the school hallway, learning about the interaction between pedestrian density and travel speed along the way.

At the high school level, lessons such as Considering the Safety of Autonomous Vehicles and Transportation Trends and Tech Research provide opportunities for student teams to collaborate to complete an online research project and present a report based on their findings. In addition, the website features links to information about careers in transportation, as well as links to engineering-related organizations and opportunities for students.

High School

OSHA Training Courses for High School

Get high school students ready for future career success in the manufacturing, service, agriculture, and construction industries with these no-cost educational courses about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Available from the OSHA Training Services website, the self-paced online courses feature built-in quizzes/exams and can be used in both in-person and distance-learning settings. After successfully completing a course, students can print a personalized training certificate that can be added to their resumes. Teachers can register as a course administrator, if desired, and track their students’ progress. Course titles include Online Introduction to OSHA-Basic Level; Hazard Communication Training for General Industry or Construction; Fire Protection and Fire Prevention; and Training for Voluntary Users of Dust Masks. 

STEP UP to College Physics

Supporting Teachers to Encourage the Pursuit of Undergraduate Physics (STEP UP) is a national community of physics teachers, researchers, and professional societies focused on encouraging young women and other underrepresented student groups to pursue physics programs in college. The organization has produced a series of standards-supported (Next Generation Learning Standards) lessons to help high school teachers and learners see themselves as “physics people” and foster a physics-forward atmosphere in the classroom. Everyday Actions features an online reflection to help teachers gauge how well their current teaching practices support an inclusive physics community in the classroom. The lesson includes an accompanying Teacher Guide and Instructional Video, which provide guidance to maximize the inclusive nature of the classroom environment. A second lesson—Women in Physics—includes a PowerPoint presentation, Teacher Guide, and Video Summary to engage students in exploring and discussing implicit biases and core equity issues regarding women in science, particularly physics. The final lesson, Careers in Physics, presents a survey and matrix to match students with a relevant physicist profile based on their selected interests.

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