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Freebies for Science Teachers, May 25, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, May 25, 2021

Grades K–College

Guide to Virtual Field Trips and Activities

With this list of virtual field trips and travel activities compiled by, a website focused on finding travel bargains, K–12 students can experience the wonders of many zoos, aquariums, technology and science centers, national parks, historical landmarks, art museums, and streamed musical performances worldwide without leaving their classroom or home. Virtual opportunities include close-up encounters with animals through live webcams at sites such as the Houston Zoo (giraffe, leaf cutter ant, giant river otters, and others) and Georgia Aquarium (beluga whales, sea lions, piranhas, and African penguins); video-based explorations from the Nature Conservancy’s Nature Lab on themes such as climate change, renewable energy, and America’s rainforests and deserts; and space-related tours and activities from NASA Visitor Centers, such as Rocketry (grades 6–8, Wallops Flight Center). Tech for Tomorrow, a 40-minute virtual field trip developed at The Tech Interactive (most appropriate for middle and high school levels) highlights the work of tech engineers and entrepreneurs and offers students a glimpse of medical labs, workshops, and makerspaces, as well as advice for following their passions to rewarding careers in tech fields.
Goddard Space Centers Virtual Field Trips 

These virtual field trips from the NASA Goddard Visitor Center enable students of all ages to experience out-of-this-world adventures right from home! Two virtual field trips—Living and Working in Space (grades K–4), which focuses on the different ways scientists, engineers, and astronauts have developed to help humans live in space, and How to Build a Satellite (grades 4–8), which focuses on understanding a satellite’s various components and highlights how scientists and engineers are using the engineering design process to solve problems at the Goddard Space Flight Center—feature videos, an interactive presentation with a question-and-answer session with a NASA scientist, and optional self-guided activities using common supplies already available at home. A third field trip, The Goddard Overview (grade 9–adult), presents a lecture-style overview of current missions at Goddard facilities and includes a question-and-answer session with a NASA scientist and additional self-guided resources to extend learning. 

Water Cycle Diagrams

Teach students about the water cycle to begin their understanding of how we use and recycle our water. Check out the collection of online diagrams and other resources on the topic from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science School and help students of any age (K-college) learn more about this vital natural resource. The collection includes a basic diagram summarizing the water cycle process appropriate for schools and kids; a self-paced online interactive—versioned for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels—that teaches the components of the water cycle; and a group of water cycle diagrams in more than 35 languages to help teachers better reach all learners, whatever students’ home learning languages might be. A Teacher’s Resource section provides classroom teaching guides, water education posters, water opinion surveys, and quizzes to extend learning.

Astrobiology Learning Progressions

NASA’s Astrobiology Learning Progressions website supports K–12 educators and the scientists who visit their classrooms in using the interdisciplinary nature of astrobiology to teach fundamental concepts required by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The website presents direct connections between discipline-based, fundamental concepts in science and the interdisciplinary core concepts of astrobiology, deconstructing the science of astrobiology into a series of seven core learning topics and sub questions: How did matter come together to make planets and life? How did Earth become a planet on which life could develop? What is life? How did life on Earth originate? How have life and Earth co-evolved? How has life evolved to survive in diverse environments on Earth? How do we explore beyond Earth for signs of Life? 

For each sub question within a core learning topic, the website presents an age-appropriate storyline, NGSS Connections for Teachers, Concept Boundaries for Scientists, and Resources for teaching the concept in the classroom. The resources are drawn from NASA’s extensive collection of educational materials and include videos, lesson plans, classroom activities, web interactives, and more. A helpful How to Use section provides an overview of the various components within the resource and serves as a starting point for learning how to navigate the website effectively. 


Scavenger Hunt: Where Is Gina the Geographer?

In this online activity for grades 4–5, developed by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program, students solve a series of clues about landmarks, weather, population, and other statistical hints to track the whereabouts of Gina, a missing geographer. Clues such as, “Gina does not like cold weather and is somewhere that’s usually warm and rarely if ever gets snow. Which states could she be in?” provide opportunities for students to develop reasoning skills as they complete the scavenger hunt and learn more about how the U.S. Census Bureau works.

PhDScience for Grades K–2

PhD Science, an open-source science curriculum created by content manufacturer Great Minds, offers authentic science learning modules for grades K–2. The modules support the NGSS and engage learners in deeply exploring anchor phenomena to build enduring knowledge of core science topics through investigation. The curriculum modules—each of which includes a downloadable Teacher Edition and a Science Logbook for students—present lessons that build upon one another and incorporate cross-curricular connections of core texts and fine art, providing students with numerous entry points to the topic of study. Modules include Weather and Pushes and Pulls (kindergarten), Survival and Light (grade 1), and Matter and Earth Changes (grade 2). Additional modules will be released in the future. (Free registration is required to access the downloadable curriculum.)

Elementary and Middle Level

Vaccines! Community Research Guide

Developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center and the InterAcademy Partnership as part of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project, this guide has eight hands-on lessons and activities to help students in grades 3–8 learn accurate and trusted information about vaccines. Through the guide’s various tasks, students learn about the science of vaccines throughout history; understand the science of how vaccines work; explore how vaccines are developed; examine issues of equity, access, and misinformation; and develop an action plan for addressing vaccines concerns in their communities. The guide includes a video tutorial to help teachers use the Vaccines! resource in the classroom. 

“Ask a Scientist” Comic Series

Most appropriate for elementary and middle levels, this series of comics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tackles medical science topics with facts and fun graphics. Through three 12-page publications, students can explore how the body fights disease, how people may become infected with germs, and how loud sound can lead to hearing damage or loss. 

Middle Level

Enriching STEM Projects With the Product Design Process 

Written by STEM enthusiast and veteran middle level educator Anne Jolly, this article from the Middle Web blog highlights the connections between the Product Design Process (PDP) used in real-world manufacturing industries today and the Engineering Design Process (EDP), which is emphasized as part of the NGSS. According to the article, the PDP enables students to take science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) project solutions further. PDP allows students to expand their thinking to include things like scaling up designs, manufacturing products, customers and marketing practices, distribution, environmental impacts, and so on. The article features a downloadable PDP template to try with students, as well as practical tips for teachers to help students move STEM projects from prototype to product.

Middle Level and High School

Cicada Safari App and Resources

Teachers can access an app and other educational resources to make the most of the 2021 emergence of the periodical cicada Brood X in the classroom. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the Cicada Safari app (available for iOS and Google platforms) lets students participate in mapping the 2021 emergence of Brood X. After downloading the app, have students go on a hunt to find periodical cicadas. Students photograph the periodical cicadas they find and submit their photos to Cicada Safari. Once the photos are verified, they will be posted to the live map. In addition to the app, the website also includes cicada facts, activities, and other resources. For example, students can make an origami cicada, study cicadas’ nymphal burrows, or complete a cicada coloring sheet. 

High School

Investigating Civil War Aeronauts

Did you know hot-air balloons were used for aerial reconnaissance in the U.S. Civil War? Engage high school students in this topic and the importance of technological innovation with an activity from the Teaching With the Library of Congress (LOC) blog. In the activity, Civil War Aeronauts: Exploring 19th-Century Technology Innovation With Photographs, Manuscripts, and Newspapers, students examine several primary source documents from the 1860s to explore how hot-air balloons were used during the Civil War to convey messages to soldiers in the field. The documents include a historical photograph, newspaper advertisement, telegram, and two newspaper articles. After examining the documents, students share their reflections and insights about how technologies emerge or become implemented in key moments in history. The blog post includes links to historical documents from the LOC and questions to guide students through the activity.

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