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Freebies for Science Teachers, October 26, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, October 26, 2021

Grades PreK–College

STEM Smart Library

As part of their STEM Smart Initiative, Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) has created a library of promising practices and tools to support educators in effective science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in schools and programs. The searchable library features annotated descriptions and links to more than 75 high-quality STEM resources, including National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded curricula, apps, modules, simulations, and more. The resources address various STEM fields and cover a range of audiences from preK–12 teachers to college undergraduate and graduate learners and preservice educators.

Highlights from the resource collection include tools such as the Easy Global Climate Modeling (EzGCM) Toolkit, which enables high school students to examine climate change using the same tools and following the same scientific processes as real climate scientists, and the Getting Unstuck Scratch Curriculum (elementary and middle levels), a 10-module curriculum that reimagines the classroom as a design studio to help students develop greater creative and conceptual fluency with code. 

3D Printer Safety Resources and Poster

Chemical Insights has a collection of tools and resources on 3D printer safety for K–college audiences. The resources include an informational website covering topics such as 3D Printers and Human Health Impacts, How to Reduce 3D Printer Emissions, and Tools for Promoting 3D Printer Air Quality Safety, along with printable handouts (e.g., 3D Printer Safety: 10 Ways to Promote Healthy Indoor Air Quality While Using a 3D Printer and Mitigation Strategy Checklist) and a self-paced online course for teachers (3D Printers and Indoor Air Quality). In addition, teachers can send a request to receive a poster to hang in the classroom highlighting "How to Use 3D Printers Safely in Schools." 

Handbook for Bird Educators: Connecting Children to Nature Through Birds

The Nature Conservation Foundation’s Handbook for Bird Educators provides information, tools, and ideas to engage K–12 students and teachers in the wonder of birds and birding. Peppered with sketches, illustrations, and evocative quotes, the 142-page handbook contains information about birds, including detailed instructions for conducting bird walks with students, as well as games and activities to help them learn more about bird features, behaviors, and habitats. Browse a digital flipbook of the handbook, or download a copy of the publication in pdf format (e-mail registration is required to access the pdf copy). 

ScienceMakers Biographies

As a part of the extensive HistoryMakers archive, ScienceMakers provides biographies and oral histories of more than 200 African American pioneers in STEM professions. Originally developed in 2009 as part of an NSF-funded initiative to create positive role models and increase the number of African Americans, women, and other minorities entering STEM professions, the ScienceMaker biographies and accompanying classroom toolkits engage K–12 students in pursuing STEM careers by showcasing the compelling life stories of a diverse group of STEM professionals. Featured scientists range from acclaimed figures like mathematician and computer scientist Katherine Johnson to lesser-known scholars who have made substantial achievements in their respective fields. Through the scientists’ firsthand accounts of their careers and lives, students discover some of the key forces and factors that keep individuals in STEM education and careers, and what may contribute to their leaving. While the interviews were conducted some years ago, the toolkits’ discussion questions about the ScienceMakers’ fields of study (subject matter) are relevant and give students a useful introduction to STEM careers.


Explore and Learn With Ada Twist, Scientist

Take preK–grade 1 learners on a science adventure with educational resources based on Netflix’s animated science series, Ada Twist, Scientist. In the series, Ada and friends Rosie and Iggy investigate the world around them, brainstorming, exploring, and discovering the ups and downs of science experiments along the way. The series’ accompanying educational resources—including two video science experiments and their corresponding activity sheets—allow students to investigate the program’s topic at home, even without viewing an episode. For example, Balloon Blow-Up Experiment shows students how it’s possible to blow up a balloon without using their breath. The Lava Lamp Experiment explores the density of liquids: Students investigate whether different types of liquids will float, sink, or mix in water. The activities include brief explanations of the science observed in the videos and Lab Sheet handouts on which to record activity observations. 

Elementary and Middle Level

Ask Dr. Universe 

Join Dr. Universe and her friends at Washington State University as they investigate STEM–themed questions from learners worldwide. Targeted for elementary and middle levels, the podcast series and accompanying educational resources (e.g., website, videos, activities) tackle big questions like these: What is fire? Why does soda fizz? Why is the ocean salty? Why is liquid nitrogen so cold? In each approximately five-minute episode, Dr. Universe joins professors, researchers, and experts in the field to answer the question and inspire students to keep exploring and discover ways science and engineering can help improve our world. A Guide for Listening to the Podcasts (at the bottom of the page) presents tips and guiding questions for parents and teachers to ask Before You Listen, While You Listen, and After You Listen. 

Get in Gear! STEM Activity

Satellite internet provider HughesNet and youth organization 4-H have developed an at-home STEM activity, Get in Gear! Targeted for grades 3–8, the engineering-based activity challenges students to assemble and test different gear sets to see how small actions create big movements, highlighting fundamental STEM mechanics in the process. The activity—available in 4-H At Home, an online hub of hands-on science and other learning activities for students to do at home—includes step-by-step instructions, a Test Your Knowledge quiz, Reflection Questions, and Related Activities. In addition, a short video, Exploring STEM Careers With Aidan Spencer, introduces students to what a systems engineer does. 

“Today I Was a Scientist When I…” Poster

This poster from The Lawrence Hall of Science and Amplify Education celebrates the idea that there’s a scientist and engineer in each of us. Featuring photographs of scientists and engineers at work, the downloadable poster asks, How were you a scientist or engineer today?, and has a checklist of science and engineering practices: asking questions, analyzing data, using models, carrying out investigations, using mathematical thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, and communicating information.  

First Woman: Dream to Reality

First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity is a series of interactive comic-style graphic novels imagining the story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the Moon. While Callie’s story is fictional, the first woman and the first person of color will soon walk on the Moon, achieving these historic milestones as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. The story is most appropriate for elementary and middle levels and is available in multiple formats. Teachers can download a pdf version of the graphic novel, listen to an audio version of the publication, read the 44-page book online, or experience the story through First Woman, an augmented reality–enabled app. The app (available for Android and iOS devices) allows students to walk through life-size scenes from the graphic novel and explore NASA technologies that will help real astronauts sustain life on the Moon. 

Middle Level

Save the Whales PBL Unit

Developed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, this project-based learning unit engages students in an authentic study of the science and issues surrounding Southern Resident Killer Whales, a critically endangered species found in the Pacific Northwest. The interdisciplinary, standards-based unit has nine lessons and activities through which students explore the cultural, economic, and ecological importance of Southern Residents; make connections between individual actions and watershed health; understand the limitations and benefits to different types of action; and acknowledge the power of youth for driving change to help protect them.

For example, in Task Force, students assume the roles of various resource managers (tribes, local government agencies) and stakeholders (fishers, tour boat operators) to evaluate measures designed to save the whales. During a mock meeting, student groups weigh the pros and cons of each measure and decide whether their group would support it. The groups are then faced with a budget crisis and must decide how to prioritize each measure. The unit concludes with a student-led stewardship project that showcases students’ personal talents and interests.

Middle Level and High School

Claiming Antarctica

Ever wondered who owns Antarctica? Who is allowed to visit? What scientific research and exploration occurs on the southernmost continent? A post from the blog Teaching With the Library of Congress (LOC) shows middle and high school teachers how to engage students in a study of Antarctica using two primary source maps from the LOC. The post describes how the maps can be incorporated as part of lessons in geography, life science, physical science, and interdisciplinary science courses and includes guiding questions for each subject area. The maps also enable students to develop understandings about geopolitical and scientific interests in the region. 

Iceberg Diagram: A Systems Thinking Tool

Graphic organizers can be effective tools in helping students of all ages and levels make sense of learning. For example, the Iceberg Diagram: A Systems Thinking Tool—a graphic organizer for middle and high school levels from the My NASA Data program—helps students move from “simply knowing” to “figuring it out” by guiding students to look for patterns and examine connections among Earth science phenomena. The organizer can be used in both in-person and virtual environments and uses the metaphor of an iceberg to demonstrate the idea of visible vs hidden as it relates to Earth science phenomena. The organizer helps students see beyond the obvious and develop awareness of the underlying causes, relationships, and/or conditions that contribute to phenomenological events. 

At the My NASA Data website, teachers can access a Google slide presentation describing how to use the organizer in the classroom. The presentation addresses all four components of the organizer—The Phenomenon Event, Patterns of the Event, The Phenomenon Structure, and the Earth System Connection—and includes guiding questions for each element. Teachers can also view an example of a completed organizer developed as part of a virtual lesson on the website.

Biology Careers Climate Change Computer Science Crosscutting Concepts Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering General Science Inclusion Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Life Science Literacy Mathematics News Phenomena Physical Science Professional Learning old Safety Science and Engineering Practices STEM Teaching Strategies Technology Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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