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Freebies for Science Teachers, March 2, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, March 2, 2021

Grades PreK–12

STEMAZing Resources

The STEMAZing Project offers high-quality professional development resources—including lesson plans, pedagogical articles, and publications—to support preK–12 STEM teaching and learning. The project was founded to support Arizona-based STEM educators; however, many of its resources are useful for instructors in any location. Visit the website to browse resource collections culled by master teachers and grouped by theme (e.g., “Girls in STEM”; “Sciencing and Engineering Journals”; “Toys, Apps, and Games”; and “Videos”) or grade level. Of particular interest are the collections of resources for Spanish-speaking teachers and students; select “Recursos STEMAZing en español” or “Colección de lecciones para jóvenes estudiantes” to access dozens of Spanish-language STEM lesson plans and other STEM-related teaching materials.

AAAS Digital STEM Education Resources

The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) STEM Education department has a collection of interactive online K–12 educational resources for families and teachers. Perfect for at-home and distance-learning environments, the activities are designed be completed in about 45 minutes or less, and cover a range of STEM topics. You’ll find resources such as STEMTalks videos highlighting dynamic STEM careers like biomedical engineer and zookeeping, and at-home experiments that build engineering skills (Cargo Challenge, Wings of Flight, Hunting Hurricanes, Invertebrate Hotels). Each activity is presented in a simple, three-part format (Materials, Steps, and To Learn and Do More) and includes embedded links for more information. 

STEM Careers Video Profiles

Introduce K–12 students to more than 20 dynamic careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with video profiles produced by the STEM Careers Coalition and Discovery Education. The profiles highlight professional adults working in various STEM industries and roles and can help students see how STEM skills can be used to make a difference in the world. The videos run less than five minutes long and include Career Profile sheets with relevant statistics for the position (job outlook, salary, education, etc.), as well as Student Activation activities to learn more about a particular field and discover personal interests that connect to it. Interviewees include Boeing aircraft maintenance technician Brandon James; engineering project manager Antoine Sande, from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Microsoft program manager Wadood Daoud; Chevron drilling engineer Jesica Holley; and senior policy advisor Uni Blake, from the American Petroleum Institute.

First@Home STEM Curriculum

Looking for digital curriculum and teaching tools to enhance students’ engineering skills and mindset? FIRST@Home on Scoutlier, an innovative lesson design and delivery app, works on any device. The app features ready-to-use lessons and activities for grades 2–12 exploring topics such as the engineering design process, robotics, and coding. The lessons and activities are designed so that teachers can scaffold learning and students can document their understandings in multiple modes (text, video, data, etc.). The activities can be completed individually or in collaboration, used as stand-alone lessons, or bundled together as a series to deepen students’ STEM understandings.

Lessons for grades 2–4 include Over Rover, in which students design a pathway and code a Mars rover to recover misplaced supplies, and Test It! in Maze, in which students use the engineering design process to create a device to retrieve a delivery at their front door. Students in grades 4–8 can create a digital escape room (Code Your Escape) and learn how to take a design from simple sketch to full prototype (Soda Can Design). Algorithms has students in grades 7–12 design a game based on algorithms from their everyday life. Visit the website for video tutorials on using the app and to preview more available lessons. The website has more than a dozen activities for each grade span. (Note: Free registration is required to access the complete lesson content.

Interactive Weather Observations Activity

Engage students in grades 3–12 in investigating local weather conditions over time with this mini lesson from My NASA Data. In the activity, students track and record daily atmospheric conditions and/or temperatures on a downloadable paper chart or an interactive online bar chart. Students then use the tool to further analyze and interpret weather data. The activity includes links to related lessons on Analyzing Surface Temperature Differences and Changing Air Temperatures, as well as an interview with weather forecaster Janel Thomas to introduce students to dynamic careers in STEM, such as meteorology.

Middle Level and High School

Health and Hygiene in History

As students start returning to school buildings in greater numbers, their health and safety is a high priority. But attention to cleanliness is not new, and with this activity published in Teaching With the Library of Congress—A Sponge-Headed Cartoon Character and Staying Healthy—students can explore advertisements and articles from historical newspapers to learn about past practices of sanitation and hygiene and how they compare to current understandings. The documents, drawn from the Library’s Chronicling America collection of historical newspaper pages, include a cartoon discouraging the use of sponges in schools (“The Sponge May Soon Be Barred from City Schools,” Corvallis Gazette, January 10, 1902); two newspaper articles reflecting health and hygiene habits encouraged in the 1900s; and a Works Project Administration poster promoting good health through vaccinations and testing for diseases such as tuberculosis (“Good Grades and Good Health Go Together,” City of Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, 1939). The activity helps students begin to think more deeply about the connections between history and scientific development, as well as reflect on the various ways and effectiveness of communicating scientific knowledge to the public.

Civic Environmentalism Unit Plan

TeachRock, a standards-supported, arts integration curriculum, uses the history of popular music and culture to help teachers engage students in learning about many subjects, including science. A recently released interdisciplinary unit plan, Civic Environmentalism, offers a collection of curated lessons on the topic. The unit explores the environmental movement in the United States from its origins to the current global climate crisis. Featuring important figures, movements, and music across several decades, the unit highlights how climate change affects people and communities differently, especially with regard to race and class. Examples of lesson titles are Singer-Songwriters and the Environmental Movement; Confronting the Climate Crisis; Kanye and Katrina: Environmental Racism in New Orleans; The Science and Civics of the Flint Water Crisis; Cleaning Up the Plastic Beach; and Greta Thunberg, Music, and the Climate Crisis. Supporting teacher materials include an overview of how to sequence the lessons in the classroom and guidelines for culminating assessment projects. 

NSF’s Four Awesome Discoveries Video Series

Help your students stay current on engaging science research with the fast-paced science video series Four Awesome Discoveries You Probably Didn’t Hear About This Week, produced by the National Science Foundation (NSF). From singing robots to odd animals to medical marvels, the videos present quick summaries of scientific breakthroughs and research discoveries pulled from the headlines of the nation’s top science journals. Most appropriate for ages 13 and up, the more than 40 short (less than three minutes each) videos are designed to spark curiosity and inspire students’ inner scientist while highlighting notable discoveries from NSF-funded research projects.

High School

The Science of COVID-19

This multi-module online course was developed at the Penn State Center for Science and the Schools. The introductory course examines COVID-19 through the lenses of three distinct scientific fields: virology, epidemiology, and public health preparedness. As students work through the lessons in three self-paced learning modules (one dedicated to each field), they engage in the science processes used in the field and learn what researchers do to investigate and take action against a new virus. Designed for maximum flexibility in the classroom, the modules can be completed in any order and contain multiple lessons and built-in assessments (quizzes), which teachers can modify to suit specific learning needs. (Note: Free registration is required to access the modules.)

Environmental Role-Playing Games

Try these role-playing games in your high school chemistry classes to help students recognize the important role of science in their lives and develop real-world skills in the art of debate and compromise. Developed as part of the Science History Institute’s Science Matters program, the games engage student groups in role-playing characters representing all sides of an environmental issue, from activists and manufacturers to regulators and consumers. Science Matters: The Case of Plastic has student groups debate current conflicts surrounding plastics, while Science Matters: The Case of Rare Earth Elements has student groups working to find solutions to challenges arising from the harvesting of, dependency on, and distribution of elemental Earth materials. Supporting teacher materials, including an instructor’s manual, gameplay directions, and relevant background and student worksheets, help facilitate the use of the games in both the classroom and in after-school environmental clubs or programs. 

High School and College

pGLO Resources

Check out these free resources (except for kits mentioned at the bottom of the page) from Bio-Rad Laboratories exploring pGLO transformation, a key topic in molecular biology and Advanced Placement (AP) high school and undergraduate biology curriculum. The resources—including background information, plasmid maps and sequences, online lab videos, and case study activities—can be incorporated as part of digital lessons exploring gene expression and regulation, bacterial transformation, protein separation, and the biomanufacturing process.

COVID-19 Teaching Resources

The pandemic has likely raised many questions for students about COVID-19, giving biology educators an opportunity to teach key concepts in biology in a real-world context. To facilitate the process, Bio-Rad Laboratories has a collection of educational materials to explore the biology and detection of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Targeted for AP high school and undergraduate levels, the resources include PowerPoint presentations describing the structure and origin of SARS-CoV-2 (What Is the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus?) and emerging strategies in detecting COVID-19 (How Do We Detect COVID-19?), as well as animations to learn about topics such as polymerase chain reaction and antigen-antibody reactions.

Also of interest is Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay (ELISA) Disease Detection, a paper model activity that has been adapted for digital learning environments. In the activity, students work through an interactive pdf featuring animations and text describing the components of an ELISA and how antigens and antibodies work together to detect disease. After learning about the ELISA components, students use provided shapes to build digital models of the processes.

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