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Freebies for Science Teachers, October 12, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, October 12, 2021

Grades K–12

The Power of Exploration for Learning Science

Looking for ideas to refresh your teaching or guide your professional learning communities (PLCs) this year? This article discusses planning considerations for teaching in ways that address the three dimensions of the Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Use it as a guidepost for helping you think about your curriculum and instruction, and this article also lends itself to collaborative PLC work. Author Patrick Brown also links to two NSTA Daily Dos that he has used with many students and teachers through professional learning experiences and development. “These NSTA Daily Dos work great in virtual or face-to-face environments,” Brown notes.

Virtual Magnet Lessons

Did you know that the world’s strongest magnet is in Tallahassee, Florida? Schedule a virtual visit with an education expert from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and your students can learn about magnets and other electricity-related topics. The Lab offers outreach lessons for K–12 classrooms nationwide. Choose from 30-minute live virtual lessons on topics such as Electromagnets (grades 4–12), Electricity (grades 4–12), and Magnet Exploration (grades K–3), or extend student learning with a 60-minute outreach activity that combines lessons with a virtual lab tour (grades five and up). The lessons include downloadable pre- and post-activities to help educators prepare and debrief for each session. 

No time for a virtual visit? Check out the Lab’s recorded lessons, which can be viewed in the classroom anytime. In addition, teachers can visit the site’s Magnet Academy to find demonstrations, videos, and activities exploring all things electric or magnetic. Watch demonstrations to find out how to Make an Electromagnet, see How Atmospheric Pressure Affects Objects, or observe a Junkyard Magnet in action, squashing water jugs and melons with the power of an electromagnet. Join the MagLab Educators Club to stay current on Lab happenings and materials.

Data Literacy Cube and Leveled Question Sheets

Check out My NASA Data’s updated Data Literacy Cube and Leveled Question Sheets to guide students’ exploration of line graphs, data tables, and mapped images of NASA Earth science data (or other sources of Earth data). These tools were created with the NGSS in mind. They can help students develop their Data Analysis and Interpretation skills, as well as help them recognize patterns, cause and effect, stability and change, and other crosscutting concepts.

My NASA Data also can make it easier for teachers to differentiate for reading ability and language proficiency with the question sheets that are leveled with WIDA and Lexile ranges. The leveled question sheets are in Google Forms, too, to support flexible learning environments. 

National Laboratories Virtual Tours

Give K–12 students an inside look at our nation’s world-class science and research facilities—and have them learn about cutting-edge science research occurring there—with virtual tours of the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories. Available at Laboratories nationwide, the virtual tours allow students to connect with real scientists and see what science research is all about—all without leaving their classrooms. Visit California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to take a 360-degree tour of the world’s largest laser (grades 6–12), or explore quarks, atoms, and particle physics on a virtual tour of the Jefferson Lab in Virginia (grades 9–12). 

At New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, K–12 students and teachers can participate in virtual field trips led by Brookhaven scientists. Here, the Lab’s virtual experiences include Discovery Programs (for grades K–5), such as Observing Nano in Nature (grade 3), and Exploration Labs (for grades 5–12), such as DNA Extraction (grades 5–8) and Bioinformatics (grades 9–12). 

Understanding Mosquitoes

Teach students in grades 4–12 about mosquito biology, as well as how to avoid the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, with lesson plans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prevent and Protect curriculum program. In the lessons for grades four and five, students watch (and complete guided notes on) a PowerPoint presentation about the mosquito’s life cycle and types of mosquitoes, such as container mosquitoes (those that lay their eggs in vessels with standing water). After viewing and discussing the PowerPoint presentation as a class, students create a model of the mosquito’s life cycle using various candies and snacks. (Note: Students with allergies can complete a mosquito life cycle model using alternative supplies, such as beads and modeling clay.) For homework, students create a map of their home identifying potential sources for container mosquitoes. 

Students in grades 6–12 complete more extensive lessons about the mosquito. They watch PowerPoint presentations and complete guided worksheets to learn about mosquito biology, understand how to reduce the source of mosquitoes, and discover more about mosquito-borne illnesses and mosquito control practices. 

Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World

This curriculum for grades 3–12 was developed by the American Nuclear Society in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy. Through the curriculum’s resources—including digital lessons, project starters, career profiles, and virtual field trips vetted by engineers, scientists, and professionals from a range of nuclear fields—students explore many applications of nuclear science and its impact on energy, healthcare, food, and the environment. The materials help students understand how nuclear energy and radiation works as well as highlight notable uses such as how nuclear technologies power NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover mission. Other points of particular interest are the curriculum’s three virtual field trips, which take students inside a nuclear reactor, to the nation’s leading energy laboratory, and to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The Career Profiles present facts and information about becoming a nuclear researcher, mechanical engineer, and a radiochemist alongside interview “chats” with real-world professionals in those fields. 

What Works Clearinghouse: STEM Webinars on Demand 
The U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released two webinars introducing educators to its collection of evidence-based resources to support instruction. Each of the approximately 30-minute webinars includes an overview of the WWC’s resources for educators. Evidence-Based Practices and Programs in STEM presents classroom-tested examples that help K–12 teachers apply evidence-based practices in their classrooms and schools to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction for students. Evidence-Based Math, Reading, and Writing Tips for In-Person and Remote Instruction addresses evidence-based practices to support math, reading, and writing instruction in remote, in-person, and hybrid learning environments and provides access to WWC resources, including ones that educators can share with parents and caregivers to support student learning while at home.  

PikWizard Photos and Videos

PikWizard offers a database of royalty-free images and videos—including animals, nature scenes, and wildlife—to enhance lessons, educational presentations, and more. Browse the collection’s headings at the top of the page to access images sorted by category. Be sure to check all the categories for resources of interest. Several category names are broad and not particularly descriptive (e.g., “Most Popular” and “Another Heading 1”), but many of the images contained within (e.g., nature scenes, farm animals, wild animals, seasonal pictures, and more) may be of interest.

Early Childhood

STEMI2E2 Resources

The STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) Center has gathered educational resources—including videos, media, archived presentations, and other materials—to help early childhood educators cultivate inclusive STEM education for young children ages 0–5. The collected materials were developed by a combination of STEMI2E2 staff, STEM and inclusion experts, museum professionals, early intervention specialists, and other stakeholders in early STEM education. Of particular interest are the archived presentations from the 2020 STEMI2E2 Fest, the Center’s annual virtual conference. Highlights from the archived conference materials are the collection of Practice-Focused Presentations, which focus on practical applications of early STEM learning for children with and without disabilities. These 15-minute talks address themes such as STEM Learning Within Family Routines and Activities; Science and Talk: A Natural Fit for Young Dual Language Learners; and Making Science and Engineering Visible in Early Childhood and include Q&A sessions with an inclusion expert. 

STEM Mini Chats, another notable resource collection, feature recorded discussions with STEM and inclusion experts on topics such as STEM for Children with Autism and Online Learning Resources and STEM Instructional strategies for young children with disabilities. Finally, the MakerFest collection—provided by STEMI2E2 presenter Little Orchestra Society—features videos of music-focused STEM activities you can do with young children, such as Make Your Own Drum Set; Wind and Water: Create Pitches With Water Bottles; and BalloonTune.

Elementary Level

Grace in Space Read Aloud
To celebrate International Literacy Day on September, 8, 2021, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir collaborated to create a video reading of Grace in Space, an award-winning story written by Obai Al-Alloush and illustrated by Sara Wafeeq. The book tells the story of a space-loving fifth-grade girl who gets the chance to journey to Mars and beyond. Through rhyming words and colorful illustrations, the story brings the joys and challenges of space exploration to life for student and adult listeners alike. 

Elementary and Middle Level

Sustainable Communities! Research Guide

Sustainable Communities! is a student-centered community research guide developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project. The guide can empower students in grades 3–8 to serve as action researchers: students who are both learners and “doers.” The guide uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to focus on sustainable actions that are defined and implemented by students. Through the guide’s seven task- and activity-filled learning modules, students explore what they can to do help to help their community thrive, addressing topics such as inclusion (e.g., How can including people help our community thrive?), urban planning (e.g, How can we use our space to help our community thrive?), housing (e.g., How can housing help our community thrive?), transportation (e.g., How can the transportation system help our community thrive?), and resource use and waste (e.g., How can we use resources wisely to help our community thrive?). 

The modules’ research tasks and activities help students access their existing knowledge of the topic (discover), gather new information about the topic (understand), and analyze and apply new information to make decisions about actions that would be best for their community (act). The tasks also include real-world stories from experts worldwide, giving students new perspectives and opportunities to learn from scientists worldwide. Supporting materials, including a Getting Started guide and a digital Planner, can help teachers facilitate implementation. 

EiE Careers for Engineers

Introduce elementary and middle level students to the variety of careers in engineering through the Careers for Engineers program. This online experience developed through Museum of Science Boston’s Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum program, gives students a peek at dynamic professions such as computer scientist, biomedical engineer, agricultural engineer, aerospace engineer, and acoustical engineer. Designed for ages 7–12, the experience begins with a quiz to help students determine how their personal interests match with engineering fields. Next, students are matched with an engineering field based on their interest and receive a colorful infographic with key facts about their engineer career match as well as links to EiE and Museum of Science resources to dig deeper into their field of choice. Teachers can also download the career infographics directly to share with students without having them take the quiz. The resources are available in both English and Spanish. 

Middle Level and High School

Climate Change Resources for Middle and High School

Increase secondary students’ climate literacy with this collection of resources exploring the science behind global warming and energy. The resources, written and developed by filmmaker/climate activist, engineer, and educator Oliver Rosengart, include a high school–level movie, book, and an activity guide for teachers (World On Fire—The Science), and a comic book on the same topic for middle level audiences (Global Warming What You Need to Know). All three resources address the causes and effects of global warming and the present and future sources of energy. 

The downloadable activity guide for teachers (in pdf format) presents nine classroom experiences and numerous organizers and student handouts that can help students synthesize their learning. Through the guide’s activities, student engage in meaningful group discussions on various topics related to climate change. The activities culminate in a project in which students explore career paths involving the fight against global warming and create informational posters about global warming and some potential solutions.

Reflections on Science and Cherokee Fire Pots 

This series of multimedia physical science lessons teaches students in grades 6–12 about thermal conduction while broadening perspectives about science. In the activities, which were produced by the Science Friday Educator Collaborative, students explore how early Cherokee people used science to figure out how to carry hot coals and flames and examine how science can be practiced and shared in different ways. The activities feature reflection questions and embedded media clips and primary source images within each. For example, in How Does Heat Move?, students examine how heat moves by observing how quickly butter slides off spoons of varying sizes and materials set in hot water. In the activity, students model Indigenous ways of knowing by using only their hands, senses, and memories to collect their observations, determine if there are differences in temperature among the spoons, and communicate information to others. 

Similarly, in Do Factors Other Than Material Affect Thermal Conductivity?, students again model Indigenous ways of knowing as they investigate (without using standardized science tools) how the shape and size of the spoon rather than its material affect thermal conductivity. In the third activity, Design Challenge: Build a Better Insulated Cup, students use their experiences from the previous hands-on activities to reflect on the design of early Cherokee pots and apply their understandings to design a better insulated cup from provided materials (e.g., foil, wire, craft sticks, clay, plastic bags, and plastic cups). The activities conclude with reflection questions exploring themes such as Storytelling as a Tool for Science, How Do We Share Knowledge?, Why Is It Important to Include Different Methods or Points of View?, and What Is Science?

High School and College

Mineral Identification Online Study Guide

Best suited for high school and introductory college geology courses, this online study guide developed by Scott Brande, geologist and associate professor of chemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, teaches students the processes of testing and identifying minerals. The mineral identification study guide is one of several online geology identification study guides available on the website (the other study guides are for Igneous Rocks, Sedimentary Rocks, and Metamorphic Rocks) and is designed to help students without access to physical samples of minerals learn how to identify minerals, then practice doing so. The guide features videos and images of simple tests used to identify minerals, such as the streak test and the acid test. It also features a digital Mineral Bank that lists the properties of more than two dozen common minerals typically identified in an introductory geology course. In addition, guide screenshots are available to show users how to navigate the online resource on various devices (e.g., tablet, desktop, and mobile phone).  

QUBES Teaching Materials Platform

The QUBES (Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis) platform offers an open and inclusive virtual space for sharing STEM classroom activities and resources, discussing teaching and the adaptation of educational materials to specific institutional contexts, and collaborating to contribute to STEM education reform. Developed as part of the BioQuest Project, which aims to empower life science educators to drive innovation in STEM education for all, the platform hosts hundreds of teaching materials and other resources to use and adapt using open Creative Commons licenses. Most appropriate for advanced high school and college levels, the resources are submitted by educators, project leaders, and organizations dedicated to STEM education reform. Materials range from K–12 to higher education, lectures to lab. Highlights include resources to engage high school and college non-science majors in relevant science conversation and debate, such as Using Comics to Make Science Come Alive, as well as resources to build authentic research experiences into college coursework, such as Using Yeast to Make Scientists: A Six-Week Student-Driven Research Project for the Cell Biology Laboratory. Courses such as Converting a Face-to-Face Lab to Online: An Example of Process and Outcomes for a CRISPR-Based Molecular Biology Lab, in which students analyze data, write about results, and discuss experiments in a virtual environment, provide support for instructors moving between in-person and online settings. 

Biology Careers Climate Change Crosscutting Concepts Curriculum Disabilities Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering English Language Learners Environmental Science General Science Inclusion Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Literacy Multicultural News NGSS Physical Science Physics Professional Learning old Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Middle School Early Childhood Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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