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Freebies for Science Teachers, June 8, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, June 8, 2021

Grades K–12

Trust Science 

Trust Science—a website developed by the International Day of Light Steering Committee and partners to help increase science literacy in K–12 schools and the public—has resources to help do just that. In addition to promoting a global pledge to support “the scientific process and to acknowledge the many benefits of science for society,” the site offers activity videos, downloadable posters, and links to online resources and the Laser Classroom to help teachers explore light and optics and other topics with students. The lessons bring abstract concepts into focus and address science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) basics of reflection, refraction, and diffraction, as well as advanced applications like spectroscopy, invisibility, and energy.

CoderZ Virtual Robotics Modules

The Amazon Cyber Robotics Challenge is a three-hour virtual learning experience about computer science and how goods are delivered at Amazon. Developed by Amazon Future Engineer as part of CoderZ, a coding curriculum for students in grades 4–12, the introductory challenge teaches students how to code an Amazon Hercules robot to deliver a friend’s birthday present on time. To extend the challenge, Amazon Future Engineer is offering free access to CoderZ curriculum modules to 1,000 Title 1 teachers this school year. After completing the introductory challenge, students can move on to more advanced learning modules such as CoderZ Adventure (novice), Cyber Robotics 101 (beginners), Cyber Robotics 102 (intermediate), and Python Gem (advanced). The virtual modules provide everything needed to complete each course, including course outline and learning objectives, online teachers guide, and supporting materials. Participating teachers receive access to the course(s) of their choice for six months for up to 150 students. 

Algodoo Physics Simulation Program

Algodoo is a 2D-simulation program allowing users of all ages to play with physics, build inventions, and design games or experiments from home. Combining art making, animation, and computer modeling, the program engages users—including K–12 students and teachers—in creating their own simulation scenes with simple drawing tools like boxes, circles, polygons, gears, brushes, planes, ropes, and chains. Most appropriate for upper-elementary to high school levels, the entry-level modeling tool can be used in the classroom to explore the role of computer modeling in physics. 

Students can interact with scenes by clicking and dragging, tilting, and shaking the objects, or they can make changes to objects by rotating, scaling, moving, cutting, or cloning them. Students can also add physical elements to scenes, such as fluids, springs, and motors, or play around with parameters such as gravity, friction, attraction, and refraction. Tutorials can help users learn to navigate the program. Crash Course explores the basic features of the program as students create a scene step-by-step, while Tools provides guidance on program-specific settings as well as program tips and tricks. In addition, educators can join an online forum to discuss how to use the program effectively in the classroom.

The Kids Garden Community

Connect with fellow gardeners for resources and conversation at’s online community for K–12 educators and others who garden with children. Whether you are a classroom teacher with a garden at school, a parent growing herbs on a windowsill at home, or a Master Gardener sharing expertise at local gardening outreach events, this community has something for you. Teachers can access a searchable resource library of lesson plans, videos, teachers guides, and funding information to help make the most of their gardening experiences. Educators can also learn about garden-focused events and participate in interest-based discussion forums on topics such as Early Childhood Gardening, Gardening With Kids at Home, Growing Together (i.e., general gardening), and Job Posting and Internship opportunities. 

Resource highlights include Growing Minds Farm to Preschool Toolkit (preK), featuring weekly garden activity guides and tips for cooking and gardening with young children, and The Pollinator Patch Program (grades K–5), a series of lessons exploring the importance of pollinators and practical ways to help protect them. Understanding Food and Climate Change: An Interactive Guide combines video, photography, text, and interactive experiences to help students in grades 6–12 explore how food and climate systems interact and how personal choices can make a difference.

National Weather Service (NWS) Education Website

Check out National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) Education website for weather-related resources for K–12 educators, adults, and children of all ages. Organized by topic, visitors can explore weather-related science, safety, citizen science programs, careers, and more. Of particular interest is the Data Resources for the Classroom section, which offers access to sources of real-time weather data from NOAA that teachers can use to engage students in working with authentic data. Topics addressed are tides and currents, air quality, storms, and other weather variables. Another notable resource is the simulation activity HotSeat: You Be the Forecaster. This activity is suitable for all ages and teaches students about the meteorology relating to severe weather events, as well as the decision-making process behind the NWS warning system (select Outreach Activities and Materials to access the simulation). 

Drones for Education

If you want to bring drones into your curriculum, this website from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is must-see resource before beginning your project. The site highlights relevant rules regarding drone use in educational and recreational settings and provides information and resources to help educators in any location find FAA-trained volunteers to help facilitate a DronePro program at your school.


Small Steps, Giant Leap: STEM Adventures for Little Space Explorers

Small Steps, Giant Leap is a monthly virtual program from the Space Foundation's Center for Innovation and Education. The series engages preK and kindergarten learners—and their teachers, parents, and caregivers—in STEM education through interactive storytelling and hands-on activities. In the series, an education specialist from the Space Foundation reads a space- or science-themed book aloud and models an accompanying hands-on activity. The lessons support Colorado state learning standards and include worksheets needed to complete the activities.

Teachers can register to watch the story program and the do the activity live with students, or they can replay a video recording of the event on the Space Foundation’s website. Five themes have been addressed so far: rockets (On the Launch Pad), space exploration (Let’s Go to Mars!), the nature of science (What Is Science?), Seasons, and space careers (Good Night, Little Astronaut). 

Middle Level

Food! Learning Module

Food! is a seven-part learning module developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center to guide students in investigating food security issues. Most appropriate for the middle level, the interdisciplinary guide combines science and engineering education with social studies, health, and civics to engage students in mapping food access points in their own communities, analyzing nutritional guidelines from around the world, exploring recipes, and more. The module is designed for maximum flexibility: Students work in teams to collaboratively solve the various tasks in each part, and teachers can teach the module in its entirety or incorporate individual sections as needed to supplement their curriculum.

Middle Level and High School

What's Your Proof?

Written by a teacher-participant from a 2019 PolarTrec research expedition to study Antarctic Fish Development Under Future Ocean Conditions, this activity for middle and high school levels challenges students to evaluate the impacts of climate change on Antarctic fish. Students are given real data sets, graphs, videos, and articles to use to develop a claim, support it with evidence, and explain their reasoning regarding the effects of climate change impacts on Antarctic fish. A full lesson plan written in the 5E format (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate), and including student worksheets and rubric, guides teachers in implementing the activity in the classroom.

Making Sense of Data Sets

This lesson for middle and high school levels addresses one of the most difficult aspects of science for students: making sense of data. The activity was created after educator Denise Hardoy spent five weeks studying the effects of climate change on Antarctic fish as part of a PolarTREC research expedition in 2019. In the activity, students construct a scientific explanation based on reliable and valid evidence obtained from sources (including their own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past. A full lesson plan, presented in the 5E format (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate), includes suggested adaptations for using the activity in remote learning settings and provides step-by-step instructions for building a graph to communicate findings.

Middle Level Through College

Shake It Up: The Richter Earthquake Website

American seismologist and physicist Charles Richter was born and raised in Butler County, Ohio. In 1935, Richter created the Richter Magnitude Scale, which quantified the size of earthquakes. Now teachers and students can learn more about history of the Richter scale and its development through a website developed by the Butler County Educational Resource Center. The website celebrates the life and legacy of Charles Richter and his earthquake scale through a collection of historical photographs, articles, videos, digital activities, and more. The site also includes information and activities to learn more about earthquakes and how the scale works. For example, in one activity, students use uncooked spaghetti to Experience and Demonstrate the Measuring Capacity of the Richter Scale. 

Virtual Field Labs From the U.S. Ice Drilling Program

The U.S. Ice Drilling Program and the National Science Foundation are producing a series of Virtual Field Labs (VFLs) for students in middle to college levels. The VFLs take students along with a climate scientist as they collect and analyze data to answer a different climate question. Two VFLs have been produced so far. In Climate Clues from the Past, students follow Earth scientist Meredith Kelly as she examines geologic clues from the end of the last ice age for insight into how our current ice sheets may respond to the rapid warming of our planet. Abrupt Climate Disruptions, another VFL, introduces students to Earth scientist Erich Osterberg, who discusses how climate changes from the past hundreds of years ago can tell us about human-caused climate change today.

High School

High School Chemistry Lessons

Try these hands-on activities from Purdue University’s K–12 Chemistry Outreach program to explore carbon bonding, bonding classification, and chemical reactions with high school students. Bodies as Carbon is a role-play activity in which students assume the role of a carbon atom and work together to “bond” to form simple organic compounds and other bonds. Bond Classification introduces molecular structures in crystalline solids, as well as how to use the physical properties of these solids to determine bond strength. Reaction Task Cards has students record the full reaction from each task card using the correct formulas for both reactants and products; balance the reaction; and classify the reaction by category (e.g., synthesis, decomposition, single displacement, double displacement, combustion, or neutralization). Provided materials include lesson plans and student worksheets.

High School and College

Responding to Claims About Alien UFOs: List of Resources 

Working with the UFO subcommittee of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (and such astronomers as David Morrison and Seth Shostak), award-winning scientist and educator Andrew Fraknoi of University of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning has created a one-page guide to skeptical information and resources about UFOs. These resources can familiarize scientists, educators, students, and journalists with more of the back story behind UFO stories in the news and what proper analysis can show. Resources include

  • Jason Colavito’s May 21 article in The New Republic, “How Washington Got Hooked on Flying Saucers”; 
  • British-American science writer and skeptical investigator Mick West’s explanatory article and videos; and
  • Robert Sheaffer’s The UFO Skeptic’s Page, featuring a collection of investigations and skeptical examinations.

5E Careers Chemistry Citizen Science Climate Change Computer Science Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science News Physical Science Physics STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Early Childhood Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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