By Debra Shapiro
In-Home STEM Experiments
Abbott, a health care technology manufacturing company, offers K–12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources—including hands-on experiments to try at home or school—to spark curiosity and unleash students’ inner scientist. The kid-friendly experiments include engineering pursuits such as building lava lamps, mechanical grabbers, and steam-powered boats, as well as explorations of science concepts such as DNA and luminescence. Downloadable lesson plans and accompanying student data sheets are provided for each activity. The website also includes short videos to introduce students to STEM careers such as engineers and neuroscientists.
Webinar Series: Zero Barriers in STEM Education
Developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) as part of their Zero Barriers in STEM Education initiative, this webinar series explores why conversations about accessibility and inclusivity are important to STEM learning and provides practical and effective classroom strategies for STEM educators to teach students with disabilities. Each recorded webinar focuses on a single topic and is between 40 and 60 minutes long. Titles include Implicit Bias: How It Impacts Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Efforts in K–12 STEM Education; Developing Users’ Confidence and Engagement With New Technologies; DCPS Resources and Strategic Plan to Address More Accessible and Inclusive Learning; IDEAs in STEM: Building Positive STEM Identities in Students With Disabilities; and IDEAs in STEM: Building Relationships.
Teaching Inquiry-Based STEM Education in a Post-Pandemic World
This video from the SSEC discusses teaching inquiry-based STEM education in complex times and presents examples of how Smithsonian-developed curriculum integrates topics from the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for helping students maintain interest in STEM as a path to social good. The 24-minute video, first presented at the 2021 STEM MENA Virtual Conference: Delivering Effective STEM Education in a Changing World, features example lessons from two Smithsonian-developed curriculum programs (Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, grades 1–5, and Smithsonian Science for Global Goals, grades 3–12) and provides practical tips and effective instructional strategies for teaching complex global topics in K–12 classrooms and promoting student action.
Sustainable Globe Resources
From citizenship and justice to climate change and the environment, the globally minded education resources from World’s Largest Lesson will inspire K–12 students to make a difference for the planet. The resources—lesson plans, animations, projects, and more—are suitable for educators of all levels and settings, whether in schools, clubs, camps, or at home. The resources support the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015 and are designed to promote environmental awareness among students and effect action.
For example, Climate Changemakers (for all ages) asks students to reflect on why learning about climate change is important and write a handwritten message to a chosen decision-maker explaining their beliefs. Afterward, students can upload photos of their handwritten messages to the Climate Changemakers website. In Earth: It’s Everybody’s Home (for elementary and middle levels), another technology-based activity, students use Google Earth tools to explore our natural world and learn about the work of youth activists for climate change around the world. The Journey of a Vaccine (for middle and high school levels), a short animation produced by the World Health Organization, teaches students about the path to a vaccine from clinical trials to administration by local healthcare workers.
STEM Experiences for PreK–2
Looking for research-based ideas to engage young learners in STEM experiences? Check out this collection of downloadable documents produced by the University of Northern Iowa’s Iowa Regents Center for Early Developmental Education. Organized by age level (e.g., infant and toddler), discipline (e.g., Early Chemistry and Engineering, Early Physics and Engineering, Early Mathematics), and environment (e.g., Classroom Community), each document presents research, suggested hands-on activities to explore the featured topic in the classroom, and information about the developmental standards students are meeting while completing each activity. Document topics include Content and Containers: Exploring Space With Infants and Toddlers; Infants and Toddlers: STEM in the Block Center; Exploring Force and Motion Through Ramps and Pathways; Investigating Bubbles; Let It Flow: Exploring Water Movement; Tinkering With Tops: Exploring Physics of Rotational Motion; Developing Mathematical Reasoning Through Playing Games; Observational Drawing; and Rulemaking With Young Learners.
Build Your Own Mars Helicopter Model
Students can learn about the Mars helicopter Ingenuity while building a model of it using marshmallows and toothpicks. Suitable for students in grades 3–8, and Mars fans of all ages, the model-building experience introduces students to the various parts of the helicopter and their functions while also providing a deeper understanding of the benefits of and limits to scientific models. After completing the model, students can print an image of a Mars background scene from the website and display their model on it. Lesson materials include a step-by-step lesson plan (with photographs), a link to Mars background images, and a template of Mars Helicopter Parts (to print on cardstock).
Ocean Connections Climate Curriculum
Ocean Connections is a five-day, virtual climate curriculum for students in grades 6–8. Developed by the Conservationist Collective, with funding from National Geographic Society, the curriculum builds ocean literacy and inspires ocean stewardship through a series of video lessons and accompanying hands-on activities and discussions. The videos—e.g., Climate Changers, Saving Our Wildlife, The Plastic Planet, A Sustainable Future, and Your Role—describe what climate change really is, present stories about endangered marine animals, demonstrate how plastics are harming our oceans, and reveal potential solutions to solve these issues. After viewing the videos, students participate in online discussions and activities to synthesize learning and facilitate action.
For example, in one activity, students create a social media post to inspire viewers about ocean conservation. In another activity, students learn how to write a letter to a company or a representative to demand changes on an important community or other issue. Such activities develop skills students can use continuously throughout their lives as scientifically literate citizens. (Note: E-mail registration is required to receive the materials.)
Summer beach trip planned? Refresh your understanding of tides and learn fun facts about them in this short article from SciJinks.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather education website for the middle level. Featuring informational animations and brief explanatory text, the article presents a quick review of the science of tides, beginning with a definition of tidal force and the causes of high and low tides and ending with a discussion of additional factors that can affect tides, such as the Sun and varying wind and weather patterns.
Scientific graphs are important tools for highlighting the relationships among data variables. Illustrated graphs, however, take scientific graphs a step further, enlivening data through artwork that adds context and tells a visual story connected to the data. With this activity for grades 6–8, published as part of the public radio program Science Friday’s educational online materials, students create an illustrated graph about a real-world climate issue and craft an artist’s statement that connects the two. The article presents the steps of the activity from start to finish and provides examples of illustrated graphs completed by students. In addition, you’ll find links to a curated selection of Climate Change Graphs and planning worksheets, which can be used as a starting point for students’ illustrated graph projects.
Tips for Using the Library of Congress Online
Are your students involved in authentic science research projects? Help them find research tips and more in the publication Using the Library of Congress (LOC) Online: A Guide for Middle and High School Students. Developed by library educators and librarians from the LOC, the online guide is discussed in detail in a post for the Teaching With the LOC blog, written by Aaron Zhang, a high school student who was a reviewer for the guide’s draft version. The post presents teen-tested tips, highlighting various sections of the guide and describing why each section is noteworthy.
For example, Search Strategies helps users begin a research project and provides tips for locating/evaluating the most appropriate sources to support their ideas. The Sources section offers useful definitions of primary and secondary sources (with detailed examples for each) and describes the various informational materials found in LOC collections: government documents, journals, manuscripts, maps, moving images, newspapers, oral histories, photographs and prints, sound recordings, and more. The Citation and Formatting section brings together vetted resources for citing and formatting materials in a central location. The post provides links to articles with more information about the new online resource, as well as a link to access the guide itself.
A Real-World Data Story: COVID-19 and the Earth System
Data tells a story: a scientifically interesting story. Help middle and high school students discover connections—a.k.a., the story—between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Earth system using materials from My NASA Data. Part of the My NASA Data’s “Scientifically Interesting Story” resource collection, these COVID 19–related resources include a digital presentation for teachers highlighting connections between COVID-19 and the Earth System, as well as two interactive models (Exploring Patterns of Human Geography and COVID-19 and Stability and Change of COVID-19 and Nitrogen Dioxide) that provide opportunities for students to practice data analysis and interpretation using authentic data. Information about the relevant Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Performance Expectations, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Science and Engineering Practices supported by the materials is also provided.
Food and Agriculture Is STEM
Targeted for middle and high school levels, this 15-page e-book highlights STEM connections to the food and agriculture industries and the education pathways to rewarding careers in these fields. The e-book describes numerous STEM technologies used in solving challenges in food and agriculture (e.g., food waste, food equity, sustainability issues) and offers tangible guidance for students interested in pursuing careers in the fields. Of particular interest are the sections STEM-Fueled Companies and Careers and Education Pathways. In STEM-Fueled Companies and Careers, students can read real-world advice from STEM professionals, including a data scientist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a vice president of global sustainability and responsible sourcing at Pepsi-Co. The Education Pathways section showcases college programs with majors and concentrations in agriculture and food science. The publication concludes with an extensive collection of links to additional resources about food and agriculture–related careers.
Aerospace Resources @ One-Stop Science
Looking for standards-based (NGSS) resources to support aerospace science instruction in your high school classroom? Check out the materials at One-Stop Science, an aerospace science–focused website dedicated to helping high school educators enhance instruction in their biology, chemistry and physical sciences, physics, Earth/space science, and engineering courses. For each course/topic area, the site presents relevant science safety guidelines, standards, phenomena with explanatory text and videos, labs, activities, and more. In addition, an Aerospace Connections section highlights related real-world applications and examples culled from federal agencies and other groups, such as NASA and the Smithsonian Institution.
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