By Debra Shapiro
Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) is a network of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education researchers—funded by the National Science Foundation’s Discovery Research PreK–12 (DRK–12) program—working to improve STEM education. One of the network’s initiatives is producing Spotlights on STEM Education, which provide educators with links and information about innovative resources and successful projects addressing important themes in preK–12 STEM education research. The latest Spotlights include Earth and Environmental Science, which features commentary from environmental education expert Karen Hollweg alongside research highlighting projects that help students understand complex Earth and environmental science topics, such as natural phenomena, ecosystems, and human impact on our environment. Sustaining and Scaling Professional Development highlights nine successful projects focused on sustainable professional development and includes a discussion with education research experts on facilitation approaches to professional development. Supporting Students With Disabilities details successful DRK–12 projects focused on addressing approaches and developing tools to support STEM teaching and learning for students with disabilities.
Achieve3000 Literacy at Home
Achieve3000 is offering free access to resources for differentiated literacy instruction. Registered educators can sign up their students for accounts in Achieve3000 Literacy at Home. Students then can log in to read nonfiction articles with accompanying comprehension questions on topics in science, social studies, and current events. Articles are available for grades 1–12 and are differentiated at three reading levels: standard (at grade level), support (slightly below grade level), and challenge (slightly above grade level). In addition, Literacy Printable Packets, a set of 20 articles and accompanying questions, can be printed for students without reliable or daily internet access.
Annenberg Learner has online science resources and courses to help educators of all ages and levels boost their science knowledge and confidence and enhance science instruction in the classroom. Organized by grade span (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12, and College/Adult), the resources include self-paced, video-based courses addressing “Essential Science” topics in Earth and space science, life science, and physical science. Another notable resource is the three-part video documentary Minds of Our Own (grades K–12), which discusses misconceptions about how children learn and how these misconceptions can affect teaching practices. In addition, the site presents online interactives for middle level and high school audiences to learn about the Rock Cycle, our Dynamic Earth, and Amusement Park Physics.
Join Jodie Guillen, space education specialist at the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as she provides practical advice and resources to help K–12 teachers learn best practices for writing successful grants and finding funding for innovative classroom projects and schoolwide programs. The 35-minute video covers everything from where to look for funding sources to effective writing techniques. While much of the information discussed in the video focuses on space education programs, the effective grant writing practices can be applied to any subject matter.
KidsGardening.org and Gabby’s Dollhouse—DreamWorks’ cat- and fairy-themed animated television series for students ages 3–6, available on Netflix and YouTube—have teamed to create a set of home-based gardening activities to help young learners experience the magic of the garden. Featured activities include experiences such as growing new plants from old plant parts (Kitchen Scrap Gardening), growing edible greens (Grow Your Own Salad), and designing a miniature house for Kitty Fairy and her friends in the garden (Build a Fairy House). Through these simple hands-on activities, students can have fun while connecting with nature and gain a better understanding about where their food comes from. Register to receive an e-newsletter with more gardening activities for students.
Featuring engaging videos, lessons, activities, games, and more, this website from the National Fire Protection Association presents family-friendly fire safety information for use in the classroom or at home. Targeted for grades K–5, the resources include practical fire safety tips, information about careers in firefighting, and facts about the history of fire safety. Introduce important fire safety messages—such as smoke alarms are important, plan and practice a fire escape plan, and call 9-1-1 from outside the home—with a slideshow geared for grades K–2, or hone older students’ (grades 3–5) reading comprehension skills with lessons using e-publications such as Rescue Dogs, Firefighting Heroes, and Science Facts or informational text about Firefighting’s Weird History and Fascinating Future. K–5 students will enjoy the trivia app Sparky’s Brain Busters—available in both Spanish and English—which reinforces core content along with fire safety tips.
Keep students engaged and occupied this summer with more than 20 hands-on, family-friendly STEM Design Challenges from Discovery Education and the TGR Foundation. The challenges—available in English and Spanish and targeting elementary and middle level audiences—foster creativity as students explore, design, and test solutions to real-world problems. The challenges use everyday household items and can easily be adapted to suit whatever materials are available at home.
Featured challenges include shorter learning experiences such as Move the Marbles, in which students design a maze to move marbles from a tabletop to the floor, and Spin a Marshmallow, in which students design a device that will spin a marshmallow at least five revolutions. Longer challenges include Design a Game, in which students must create a new game the family can play at the end of the week, and Animal Shelter, in which students spend a week designing a home for creatures using materials found inside and outside the home. All of the challenges have relevant reflection questions to extend the learning experience.
This spring, billions of Brood X cicadas will appear in many U.S. states across the East, South, and Midwest. The cicadas emerge every 17 years, in large numbers and with thunderous sound. The media have covered their arrival often over the years, providing a rich opportunity for middle level and high school students to explore historical newspaper articles on the topic from the Library of Congress. Using What’s the Buzz About Cicadas?, a post from the Teaching With the Library of Congress blog, as a guide, students can examine how the cicadas have been discussed over time and gain valuable insight into the persistence of scientific misunderstandings. The post features links to articles on the cicadas from 1919, 1902, 1885, 1868, and 1953, along with questions to support students in analyzing the primary source documents.
To extend learning, students can compare the information from the historical newspaper articles to news reports about the cicadas’ arrival this year. In this way, students can see for themselves the continuous and never-ending nature of science inquiry.
Looking for trusted information about the science and history behind COVID-19 research and vaccination? The School Vaccine Hub, a website developed by Brooklyn Laboratory Schools and EquityByDesign.org, provides middle level and high school educators with accurate resources—including informational websites, videos, lessons, and curricular materials—about COVID-19 pandemic–related topics. Notable resources include Introduction to COVID-19, a lesson that lets students explore how the pandemic started, how and why it has spread, and its current and potential impacts. COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Classroom Debates Unit, another featured resource, engages students in researching, writing, analyzing, and evaluating arguments regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. The unit culminates as students apply what they’ve learned in live debates in the classroom and school communities.
Finally, Brooklyn LAB’s Middle and High School COVID-19 Science Curriculum offers resources to support students’ deep understanding of the science behind COVID-19, the vaccine and how it works, and its societal and long-term impacts. The unit concludes by preparing students to complete an action project (or argument writing piece) aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 or addressing vaccine hesitancy in their community.
In this video series from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, scientists and engineers share experiments related to their scientific areas and career paths produced while the scientists were working from home. Targeted for middle and high school learners, each approximately 10-minute video highlights a different science discipline and introduces a novel career in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field. Through the videos, students make “backyard craters” with a planetary defense physicist; conduct physics demonstrations at home with a computational physicist; learn how atmospheric scientists use computer models to study atmospheric conditions at the Earth’s surface; create (and eat) an edible aquifer while learning how environmental engineers treat contaminated groundwater; and conduct light experiments at home with a laser scientist! Brief text accompanying each video presents key learning objectives, terminology, relevant Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and discussion questions to ask students after viewing.
Investigate weather phenomena and weather safety topics with digital lesson plans from JetStream, the National Weather Service’s online weather school for educators and students. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the collection contains more than 50 lesson plans developed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists and educators. The lessons are adaptable for distance learning and in-person settings and address weather concepts relating to the atmosphere, ocean, global circulations, clouds, meteorology, thunderstorms, lightning, and tropical weather.
For example, students can build a three-dimensional model of the water cycle to explore how the water cycle works (Water Cycle Paper Craft); use straws and black pepper to study the behavior of ocean currents (How It Is Currently Done); demonstrate that convection is the original source of our wind (Toasty Wind); study cloud types and improve their sky observation skills (Head in the Clouds); estimate the size of hail stones (Sizing Up Hail); and learn to interpret weather maps like a meteorologist (Drawing Conclusions). For every activity, the lesson plan includes an activity overview, how-to procedures, discussion points, and a Building a Weather-Ready Nation section, which connects the activity’s content to a real-world weather safety topic.
Introduce high school students to multibeam sonar and how it is used to explore Earth’s deep ocean with this collection of standards-based (NGSS) mapping activities developed by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. The activities provide a step-by-step guide to using Ocean Exploration Digital Atlas (a searchable, interactive expedition data map) and a free version of Fledermaus, an interactive mapping data visualization software used by ocean explorers. The activity gives students firsthand experience using the tools to explore multibeam sonar capabilities in 3-D and teaches students how to analyze and interpret maps of specific seafloor features using multibeam sonar data. Students can interpret maps from four authentic case studies: Exploring an Underwater Volcano, Exploring Cold Seeps, Exploring a Northeast U.S. Seamount, and Exploring a Hotspot Volcano.
This video highlights female scientists and engineers making an impact in space. The program presents virtual events to educate and mentor students about career possibilities at NASA. One event is a 30-minute video interview with Tessa Rundle, a NASA spacesuit life support system engineer. Hosted by STEMConnector CEO Jo Webber, the video features Rundle discussing her work on the NASA spacesuits, her favorite part of her work, and other amazing career opportunities at NASA.
Numerade, a company providing high quality STEM video lessons for high school and college levels, has developed online STEM Bootcamps to help students improve their skills and be prepared for future school courses this summer. The camps support learning in physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, calculus, and geometry, as well as provide SAT prep work. Each self-paced camp contains short (10–15 minutes) video lectures, grouped in sections, to address specific topics within the course. For example, Physics 101 (Mechanics Camp) presents more than 400 video lectures covering 23 topics to engage students in learning about phenomena that govern the world, including kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, energy, forces, momentum, circular motion, rotational motion, and rolling and slipping objects.
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