By Debra Shapiro
SubjectToClimate.org (StC) has lesson plans to help K–12 teachers integrate climate change studies into subjects from civics to science. The lesson plans are presented in an easy-to-follow three-step format (e.g., Synopsis; Step 1: Inquire; Step 2: Investigate; and Step 3: Inspire) and include teaching tips, standards information, and links to accompanying teacher materials. Elementary lessons (grades 3–5) explore topics such as an Introduction to Air Quality and How Can Air Pollution Affect Our Bodies? At the middle and high school levels, students investigate the Chemistry of Climate Change (grades 6–8); Calculate Your Own Carbon Footprint (grades 6–12); and explore connections between Cryptocurrency and Climate Change. Other lessons for the middle level (grades 6–8) provide opportunities for students to work with data, such as Comparing Air Quality Index and Cities: Finding Patterns in Data and Renewing Hope: Analyzing Renewable Energy Data.
The U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has a new COVID-19 data dashboard to inform the public about the impact of COVID-19 on K–12 schools. The dashboard contains data on pediatric COVID-19 cases, youth vaccination rates, and numbers on schools that are operating in-person, hybrid, or remote. The website will be updated weekly, and when possible, the information will be presented geographically, enabling educators and families to understand the impact of COVID in their communities. This is the first time such data will be presented in a single location to the public.
Lost Women of Science Podcast Series
This podcast series is produced in partnership with public media organization PRX and Scientific American magazine. The first season consists of four in-depth episodes centered on Dorothy Andersen (1901–1963), a pediatric pathologist who identified and named cystic fibrosis in 1938. It will be available free on-demand across all major podcast listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Amazon Music. The podcasts have two goals: to tell the story of female scientists who made groundbreaking achievements in their fields, yet remain largely unknown to the general public, and to inspire girls and young women to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Amazon’s Class Chat program encourages K–12 students to pursue STEM careers through virtual visits with Amazon employees working in different STEM roles at the company (e.g., Amazon Robotics software development engineer, Amazon UX designer, Amazon Future Engineer intern, technical product manager, and AWS Startups account manager). Teachers can register for a live Class Chat (currently wait-listing requests) or view archived Class Chat presentations in the online library. In the approximately 10-minute recorded videos, an employee shares their personal career journey, offers insights into working in a tech field, and answers students’ questions about their specific STEM career.
Teachers and students can also view archived Career Panel presentations on careers such as software engineers and designers. These hour-long recorded webinars provide students with multiple perspectives and offer a more in-depth look at what it is like to work in an engineering- and technology-based career at Amazon.
Smithsonian Educator’s Day 2021
In September, more than 1,300 preK–12 educators nationwide attended the first-ever Smithsonian Educator’s Day Conference, participating in virtual sessions on topics such as innovative interdisciplinary lesson design, skill development across content areas, and using Smithsonian tools and resources to enhance learning. Archived presentation videos and accompanying session materials from the conference’s more than 30 sessions are available online at the Educator’s Day Conference web page and through the Smithsonian Education Learning Lab. The sessions cover various subjects—including STEM—and are led by classroom teachers, museum educators, and content experts.
Highlights from the conference’s STEM-focused sessions include presentations organized by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), such as Integrating Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) in the PreK–12 STEM Classroom; Using STEM Education to Develop Sustainability Mindsets to Ensure an Equitable and Just World; Imagine the FUTURES; and Engineering Through Empathy: Connecting Kindergarteners and Animals to Inspire STEM Learning. Also of interest is the session Outbreak Spreads to the Classroom: Tools for Educators from Outbreak DiY. Based on Outbreak DiY, an exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, and most appropriate for middle and high school educators, this session provides tools and resources to bring the exhibit’s science into the classroom. The session focuses on helping students understand how infectious diseases spill over from wildlife and spread to become pandemics, as well as how the health of humans, animals, and the environment are intimately connected.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) education web pages contain a curated collection of educational resources for K–college audiences. The resources address all Earth sciences (e.g., geology, ecology, hydrology, atmospheric sciences, and planetary sciences) and feature lesson plans, activities, maps, podcasts, online lectures, videos, animations, and more. Educators can search the extensive resource collection by grade level, topic, or resource type.
Notable resources include the USGS Water Science School (all grades), which presents information about all aspect of water and the water cycle along with photographs, data, maps, and more; outreach activities from the Earth Resources and Observation Science (EROS) Center (most appropriate for middle and high school levels), which features a link to the remote-sensing podcast Eyes on Earth, as well as games, images, and more to learn more about how satellites work; and Earthquakes for Kids (grades K–12), a collection of fun facts, information, science fair project ideas, earthquake animations, and lessons curated by the USGS Earthquakes Hazard Program to help students learn about the science of earthquakes.
National Energy Education Development’s (NEED) Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal activity guide engages K–12 learners in calculating the energy costs required for making a Thanksgiving meal. From meal planning to appliance use, using natural gas vs. electric appliances, comparing ENERGY STAR labels and electric nameplates, graphing results, and more, the activity guide helps students become more aware of energy consumption and provides food for thought. (Note: The guide is available free; however, educators need to add it to their cart and provide an e-mail address to receive the download.)
The U.S. Department of Education publication Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health provides information and resources to promote mental health and social and emotional well-being among preK–college students. The comprehensive resource highlights key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K–12 schools, and higher education settings—including rising mental health needs and disparities among children and student groups; perceived stigma as a barrier to access; ineffective implementation of practices; and a lack of access to usable data to guide implementation—and presents corresponding recommendations. The report also includes many real-world examples of how the recommendations are being carried out by schools, communities, and states nationwide.
Artemis I STEM Engagement and Public Engagement Collaboration Meeting
Join NASA senior leaders from the Office of Communications, STEM Engagement and Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate on January 19, 2022, for a day-long meeting for partners, grantees and other interested organizations to learn about Public and STEM Engagement plans and opportunities for NASA’s upcoming Artemis I Mission. This event will feature updates on the mission and opportunities to use Artemis I content to serve students, educators, families, and the general public. Attendees will have an opportunity to connect with other partners and take a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA facilities.
The meeting will be held both on-site at Kennedy Space Center and virtually. Request in-person attendance (deadline November 29) or register for virtual participation (by January 16, 2022) via the website.
Schoolyard Habitats Planning Guide
The National Wildlife Federation’s 96-page guide presents the information needed to plan, build, and maintain a successful garden program. The guide walks readers through each step of the process from engaging the community, creating a Habitat team, and assessing the garden site to designing, building, maintaining, and celebrating the completed garden site. The guide features images and stories from successful garden programs built at schools around the country and suggested learning activities to support educators in making the most of their garden site.
Museum of Science’s Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program and NASA have teamed up to create a collection of engineering-based, space-themed learning units for students in grades 3–8. The research-based, classroom-tested units are designed to support students’ understanding of space, while helping students see themselves as capable problem solvers and engineers. (E-mail registration is required to access the units.)
For example, the unit In Good Hands: Engineering Space Gloves (grades 3–5) challenges students to work as materials engineers, considering the trade-offs of each material in their space gloves to help astronauts complete one of three missions to an asteroid, Earth’s Moon, or Mars. In The Sky’s the Limit: Engineering Flying Technologies (grades 3–5), students learn how scientists and engineers often study harsh environments on Earth to understand environments they might encounter in space. At the middle level (grades 6–8), the unit Remote Sensing: World’s Apart enables students to use the Engineering Design Process to design remote-sensing devices that can help scientists learn about a newly discovered moon. Water Use: Testing the Waters, another middle level unit, engages students as water engineers who use the Engineering Design Process to design creative ways to reuse water. All the units feature multiple activities and include a downloadable Educator Guide, Engineering Journal, and Online Resources.
Check out this collection of virtual museum activities for students in grades 6–8. Created by the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Utah Education Network, with funding from public and private foundations, the multiple lesson investigations engage students in developing an evidence-based understanding of people who lived more than 1,000 years ago (Investigating Artifacts); studying the phenomena of change and stability in ecosystems (Change in the Uinta Mountains); and researching paleontological questions about a dinosaur quarry (Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry). All the units incorporate the use of artifacts and other materials from the Natural History of Utah’s collection and include Instructional Guides, Research Assistant Notebooks, and Assessment Rubrics. (E-mail registration is required.)
Infrastructure and Primary Sources
In this post from the Teaching with the Library of Congress (LOC) blog, you’ll find ideas for using historical posters from the Works Project Administration (WPA) as part of a study exploring the importance of infrastructure. Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, the featured lesson helps students understand the importance of infrastructure projects while providing valuable practice in working with and analyzing primary sources. The LOC collection features several WPA posters on infrastructure-related themes: posters encouraging citizens to save water, dispose of trash properly, and work to protect land from damage and loss. In addition, a series of posters highlights the history of New York City’s infrastructure, featuring brief stories about important events in the history of the police and fire departments in New York, as well as information on the work to protect and provide access to the city water supply. The blog’s lesson plan includes reflection questions for students to consider while examining the posters, along with links to the LOC’s primary source analysis tool and teacher’s guide for analyzing photographs and prints.
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Student Competition
The contest challenges students in grades 6–12 to show how STEM can be applied to help improve their communities. For the first time, Samsung has partnered with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) for the contest. Eligible for the inaugural Environmental Sustainability Winner award, this year’s applicants are encouraged to use responsibly sourced materials in their prototypes and align their project ideas with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The judging rubric for this year’s contest will also include a component that will evaluate factors such as how to sustain the project idea over time.
By entering, educators will be considered to win up to $100,000 in technology and other classroom supplies. One hundred semi-finalist schools will receive a $10,000 prize package; 10 National Finalist schools will receive a $50,000 prize package and participate in the Virtual Pitch Event, in which they will virtually present their prototype to a panel of judges. And one team will win a $10,000 prize package for the Sustainable Innovation Award. The contest is open to all classroom formats, whether your district is on a virtual, in-person, or blended model. (Deadline November 15)
Pathways: The Brain and Anesthesia
Check out The Brain and Anesthesia, the latest module in Pathways, a digital science curriculum produced by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences and Scholastic. Targeted for grades 6–12, the curriculum aims to teach students about basic science and its importance to health while inspiring careers in research. The latest unit explores the brain and anesthesia: Students will discover how scientists research the mysteries of pain. They will also learn about the function of anesthesia on the brain and “meet” some anesthesiologists who study pain to fuel innovation in pain prevention. The digital unit contains a student magazine, teaching guide, vocabulary list, and an online quiz.
Confronting Science Misinformation With NOVA Resources
This article provides descriptions and links to resources from PBS Media’s NOVA Education to help high school students learn to make informed judgments about science media and become critical consumers of information. One such resource, the short video Misinformation Nation, traces misinformation on mask-wearing from internet circles to social media influencers, and back to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Teachers can use this resource to help students learn to identify evidence-based science in media, define misinformation and disinformation, and develop critical-thinking skills as they analyze media rhetoric surrounding the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic from multiple perspectives. Sciencing Out: Building Trust in Science and Medicine, another digital resource highlighted in the online article, introduces two female science communicators—one historical and one contemporary—to help students understand how public trust in science is built, gained, and kept.
Data Explorer Data Literacy Tool
Data Explorer, a new web tool from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Biointeractive targeted for high school and college levels, helps students build their skills in data literacy and science practices by exploring real research data. The tool includes a curated collection of authentic data sets supplemented with background information and in-depth BioInteractive activities. Users can also upload their own data.
The provided data sets explore high-interest topics (elephant populations under poaching and finches in the Galapagos), and the accompanying guided activities help students discover the features of the Data Explorer tool and get comfortable working with and analyzing data. The tool can be used to create various graphs to highlight relationships among data, as well as conduct statistical analyses using data. Supporting materials, including the documents How to Use Data Explorer, Plot Selection Guide, and Statistical Analysis Selection Guide, provide additional details on using the tool’s various components.
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