By Debra Shapiro
The Earth Scientist Magazine
Check out the Fall 2021 issue of Earth Scientist, a publication for K–12 educators from the National Earth Science Teachers Association. The digital issue features articles about water resources, monitoring water from space, marine debris, using virtual reality technology to engage students in learning about the ocean, and more. Each article has embedded links with additional resources on that topic. For example, "Take an Immersive Dive Into America’s Underwater Parks—Your National Marine Sanctuaries" provides links and lesson plans showing teachers of grades 6–8 how to use underwater virtual reality video technology to help students explore underwater habitats such as coral reefs in the Florida Keys, kelp forests on the Southern California Coast, volcanic islands of Hawaii, and shipwrecks in Michigan’s Lake Huron. "Geoscientists Help Save Lives Globally," another notable article, highlights the Geoscientists Without Borders program, which showcases careers in geoscience and the ways geoscientists are helping to build resilient communities worldwide.
Did you know Earth is not the only ocean world in our solar system? This space science slideshow—produced by educators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for grades 5–12—highlights other worlds that, like Earth, have oceans and therefore the potential to support life. Each slide describes the attributes—including size, distance from the Sun, and type of ocean worlds—of Earth, moons (e.g., Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Enceladus), and dwarf planets (e.g., Ceres, Pluto) with oceans in our solar system. Review the slides as a class, then challenge students to consider which celestial body would be most likely to support living things. Each slide includes a “More about. . .” link, as well as Related Tags, where teachers can access additional information from NASA about the featured moon or dwarf planet and other objects in our solar system.
The National Park Service offers thousands of lesson plans and other educational resources for K–college audiences to explore the unique environments of National Parks in the classroom. The resources address core subject areas, including science, and feature lesson plans, activities, labs, and more developed by educators at park sites around the country. The lesson plans provide opportunities for students to learn more about our National Parks even if they are unable to visit a particular site in person. For example, the lesson “Fishy Business” Don’t Let It Loose (grades 5–8) from the Everglades National Park, uses role play to teach students about the effects of an exotic species on an ecosystem. Another lesson, Carrying Capacity and Bears in Alaska (grades 9–12), from the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, develops critical-thinking skills as students read, research, and analyze data to explain why, within the same ecosystem and park, bears might choose one location over the other. Teachers can select various parameters (e.g., resource type, location, subject, grade range, learning standard) to search the database for resources that meet their specific instructional needs.
Innovation Fellows from the Innovation Collaborative, a national transdisciplinary forum, developed these exemplar science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) experiences—called “experiences” because they are more than a single lesson; they are learning experiences that have been researched and validated. For example, Creating an Acoustical Garden is a multi-week unit in which K–6 students design, create, and analyze original musical instruments powered by a renewable energy source, such as wind, water, or solar. Art in Motion: Kinetic Sculpture challenges students in grades 6–8 to use the design process (e.g., identify the problem, brainstorm possibilities, choose a direction, construct a prototype, test and record data, revise and refine model) and to experiment with materials to collaboratively create a three-dimensional work of art that can move in some way. In Art Bots and Kinetic Toys, a STEAM exemplar for the high school level, student groups collaboratively build a robot that would become the armature for a kinetic sculpture. After building their robots, students study the movement of the art bot and use what they observe to individually design a kinetic toy using a 3D printer and software.
Visit the website for lesson plans for other exemplar units such as BioArt: Painting at the Cellular Level With Bacteria (grade 6) and Cellular Ceramics (grade 7).
Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center offers plenty of online content for K–12 teachers, students, and parents. At the Center’s website, educators can find science lesson plans, activities, and videos—organized by grade level (PreK–2, 3–5, and 6–12)—that can be adapted for online instruction and virtual classrooms. For example, make modeling clay to explore the science of change with young learners (grades preK–2); learn about wild weather through the demonstration Tornado Cannon (grades 3–5); or discover the science behind the Tesla Coil (grades 6–12). Browse the More Science Activities and Resources section for a daily roundup of things to read, watch, and do at home for all ages, from virtual planetarium programs and educational videos to hands-on activities like bubble wrap art and flip-book animations. Finally, check out the page of recommended Resources for Parents and Teachers suggested by the museum’s science educators. Based on museum exhibits, the resources include websites such as Science of Cooking, How Circuits Work, Real Live Earthquake Simulator, and the Periodic Table of Videos.
Girls Who Code offers free coding curricula for schools, libraries, and extracurricular programs. Targeted for grades 3–12, the curriculum activities foster resiliency as students learn to code and apply what they learn to solve a real-world problem in their community. Teachers are encouraged to host a Girls Who Code Club at their school or community venue. Clubs are open to all genders and can be conducted in in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning environments at any time of the year. Participants in grades 3–5 learn coding concepts such as loops, conditionals, and functions, which form the basis of all programming languages, while participants in grades 6–12 build coding skills and community through a computer science impact project.
Clubs also offer Code at Home Activities—both plugged and unplugged—to encourage students’ computational thinking while at home. Students can conduct activities such as creating digital art, building an activist toolkit, programming their own digital game, developing websites, and using block coding. Unplugged home activities encourage students to create positive messages with binary bracelets, connect with friends through various communication games, and learn the essential process of debugging.
Increase your science literacy with these self-guided courses for educators. Available via Coursera, the courses cover topics such as Genetics and Society; Evolution; The Dynamic Earth; Ecology: Ecosystem Dynamics and Conservation; Our Earth’s Future; and The Science of STEM Cells. Teachers earn a shareable certificate after completing each online course.
Want to ease into a deeper understanding of astronomy and space science? NASA’s Universe Unplugged video series engages educators and others in astronomy topics in playful ways. The videos integrate the talents of celebrities, astronomers, and educators to communicate the wonders of the universe as revealed by NASA's many astrophysics missions. The series includes monthly live video chats with astronomers on different topics (Ask the Astronomer); dramatic visualizations of nebulas and galaxies based on real NASA data (AstroViz); fun Astrophoto challenges from NASA; and videos exploring what it takes for a world to be habitable (The Habitable Zone Unplugged).
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Science Trade Book Educator Guides
Build K–5 students’ science and literacy skills with these science trade book–based Educator Guides. Versioned for two grade levels (K–2, 3–5), the guides engage students in close reading of an exemplary science trade book and can inspire meaningful learning about topics such as life cycles, habitats, and conservation through various hands-on activities. For example, after reading An Egg Is Quiet by Diann Aston (2014), K–2 students design and paint eggs that can be camouflaged in their schoolyard; make nests from found natural materials; and view footage from live nest cams to observe an authentic birds’ nesting season in the wild. Older students (grades 3–5) explore migration, wing shape, flight, and more through the book Animals in Flight by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page (2005). This book’s guide features standards-based student activities such as making paper birds with different wing types and testing them to observe variations in flight (e.g., how far each bird flies, its flight pattern, how long it stays up, and so on) and comparing the rates of wing beats of different bird species, then trying to match the birds’ rate by flapping themselves.
Access the K–2 guides at https://www.birds.cornell.edu/k12/books-and-activities-k2/ and the guides for grades 3–5 at https://www.birds.cornell.edu/k12/book-activities-2/.
With these educational cards developed by KidsGardening.org and Dick and Jane Educational Snacks, K–8 students play matching games and other activities to learn more about what they eat, local foods, and how they grow. The printable card set contains more than 40 food item cards from categories such as fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, fungi, legumes, and whole-food sweeteners. Each card features a photograph of the food item on the front and two garden-related facts about the item on the back. For example, reading the Sunflower Seeds card, students learn that “Sunflower blossoms face East when the Sun rises in the morning and change orientation as it moves in the sky” and “Each sunflower can have as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds.” The set includes ideas for using the cards in the classroom, such as for a matching activity, part of a garden scavenger hunt, or as a guessing game to identify a mystery food item.
Produced by the Ada Lovelace Day organization, these posters and accompanying role-play materials emphasize the diverse nature of STEM fields and help students see how STEM skills are applied in many fields. The posters—“The Science in Jewelry”; “Ten Types of Technologist”; “Ten Types of Scientist”; “Ada Lovelace: First Computer Programmer”; and “Mary Anning: Paleontologist”—highlight STEM careers in uncommon fields such as the jewelry industry (e.g., gemmologist, materials scientist, quality controller, and processor), and point out varied potential career paths in STEM fields (e.g., analyst, communicator, designer, educator, organizer, businessperson, advocate, facilitator, builder, scientist, entrepreneur, investigator, regulator, policy maker, explorer, service provider, developer, and teacher). The “Amazingly Enormous STEM Careers” poster reinforces the message by showcasing common STEM college majors and linking them to more than 350 STEM-focused careers in a range of industries. The site also includes several role-play scenarios to help students to learn more about specific STEM careers.
This collection of authentic photos, videos, career profiles, and other educational resources highlight innovative women in STEM fields. The collection was created as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s IF/THEN Ambassador program, which showcases the unique journeys of more than 125 women in STEM professions, including computer engineer, atmospheric scientist, genetics professor, oceanographer, cancer researcher, conservation photographer, rocket scientist, chemistry professor, software engineer, astrophysicist, and soil scientist. The resources aim to inspire students, particularly women and those from underrepresented groups, to pursue STEM careers and help shift cultural perceptions of who works in STEM. Search for images and materials of interest by category (e.g., Space and Aviation, Engineers, Wildlife Conservation, Climate Science, Activity Sheets, Hero Videos, DIY, Health and Medicine), and enlighten students about the diversity and far-reaching potential of STEM careers.
Moose Population Simulation
The moose is an iconic Minnesota mammal and has had an important place at the Minnesota Zoo for years. Unfortunately, moose in Minnesota underwent a recent period of alarming decline. The Minnesota Zoo has partnered with researchers across the state to unlock the science behind the moose decline. This educational online platform enables students to discover more about moose and encourages students to try to help manage populations through an interactive Moose Mission web game. The simulation introduces population dynamics as students try to create a healthy habitat for moose with the right balance of deer, predators, trees, and lakes. In addition, the website has facts and information about moose, as well as data and infographics showing current moose research.
Looking for teacher resources to simplify challenging chemistry concepts, spark enthusiasm for learning, and generate interest in chemistry? The ChemTalk website (and accompanying media channels) have the tools you need. The site features tutorials, articles, experiments, and infographics to make chemistry easier to learn and more relatable for students. You’ll find tutorials to learn basic concepts (e.g., What is a Chemical Bond?; Combustion Reactions), as well as articles describing elements of the periodic table (e.g., “The Coy Element Colbalt,” “The Critical Element Carbon,” “Tin-formation About the Element Tin”). The teacher playlist on the ChemTalk You Tube Channel features high-interest videos on topics such as Colorful Compounds, Reactive Reactions, Elements of the Periodic Table, and Experiments for Parents and Kids.
This NASA-funded initiative was established to develop educational resources for high school and undergraduate levels that integrate traditional knowledge (Native science) about the climate with current climate science research. Led by project investigator Germaine White—former information and education program manager for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation, and Conservation—and colleagues from Salish Kootenai College, the project resources include videos, online courses and labs, climate tools and models, a climate-themed social networking website, and a teachers’ guide. The materials in Understanding Climate Science are designed to increase knowledge and understanding about the Earth’s climate, the impacts of a changing climate, and the steps communities can take to adapt and mitigate the impacts. Remote Sensing and Climate Science, a second set of educational resources, explores remote sensing tools and how they can be used to understand and assess climate change impacts and their effects on communities from Alaska to Florida. A series of three introductory tutorials provides support for navigating the project’s extensive resource collection.
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