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Freebies for Science Teachers, September 28, 2021

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, September 28, 2021

Grades PreK–12

Artemis Mission to the Moon Resources

Visit NASA’s Artemis Mission to the Moon web page for resources to excite K–12 students about this multi-mission lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Through the Artemis program, NASA will use new technology to study the Moon in new and better ways and prepare for human missions to Mars. The web page presents a mix of information, activities, and lesson plans to introduce students to the Artemis missions. 

Read an overview of the Artemis program (versioned for grades K–4 and 5–8), or learn about the spacecraft and space hardware used in the Artemis missions through coloring sheets (grades K–4) and video-based drawing activities in which students in grades 5–12 draw alongside mission astronauts who share information about their role in the missions. Another hands-on activity suitable for classroom or at-home settings is Impact Craters (grades K–8). In this activity, students act as mission astronauts studying the composition of craters on a model of the Moon’s surface. Moon to Mars Bingo, an activity for grades 5–12, reinforces students’ understanding of key mission vocabulary (e.g., Orion, Space Launch System, Payload, Deep Space) in a lively, game-based format. Finally, beginning on October 26, educators and families are encouraged to register to receive four weeks of Artemis 1–themed content, covering everything from prelaunch to post splashdown and delivered directly to their e-mail address. 

3D Design With Tinkercad is a user-friendly three-dimensional (3D) design program and app for teachers, students, and hobbyists of all ages to imagine, design, and make anything. The site has dozens of 3D tutorials and starter projects to teach elementary to high school students how to use the software program. (To browse the available tutorials, select 3D Design, an orange box on the bottom left side of the page.) Once comfortable using the program, teachers can extend student learning with one of the site’s lesson plans, or students can create an original 3D design project of their own. The lessons—suitable for both remote and in-person learning environments—support the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core, and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) learning standards and address topics in engineering, technology, computer science, design, electronics, art, and other fields. Titles include Recreate a Pattern in Nature (grades 3–8), Create Your Own Avatar (grades 4–7), Design an Inclusive Play Space (grades 5–8), Create a Solar-Powered Invention (grades 5–12), and Program an LED Light Show (grades 6–12). 

Virtual Passport to Your National Parks Program

America’s National Parks and the National Park Service have developed new virtual park experiences to enable nature enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy the U.S. national parks from any location, including the classroom. Organized by region (e.g., North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, National Capital Region, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Western, and Pacific Northwest and Alaska), the Virtual Passport to Your National Parks Program offers video tours and other activities developed by educators at participating parks in each region. The resources can be used as part of interdisciplinary science and social studies lessons in many K–12 classrooms. 

For example, teachers can use a ranger-led, video tour of Assateague Island National Seashore to introduce students to the coastal ocean habitat and the island’s ever-changing sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests, and bays. Similarly, a virtual visit to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument provides opportunities for students to bridge history and environmental science as they study the histories of two 17th-century Franciscan Spanish mission churches and the pueblos they served. Though the missions and pueblos were abandoned in the late 17th century, their original stone walls remain, and the landscape is now home to various plant and animal species, making the virtual site tour of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument an appropriate resource for use in science class as well. 

National Geographic Library Resource Collections

The National Geographic Resource Library offers curated resource collections on science-, social science–, and geography-related topics, including hurricanes, infectious agents, abiotic factors, energy, and natural resources. The collections feature a mix of maps, lesson plans, videos, interactives, articles, and encyclopedic entries, many of which have versions for different reading levels. While most collections are targeted for middle and high school levels, a few collections are available for elementary educators, such as Best of Explorer Magazine (K–5); Learn at Home: Grades K–2; and Learn at Home: Grades 3–5. In addition, collections such as Interpreting Data (grades 5–12) and Interpreting Maps (grades 5–12) provide experiential opportunities for students to develop skills working with data and maps. Create an educator account, browse the collections, and bookmark your favorite resources.  

STEM Rising 

STEM Rising, a project of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Public Affairs, highlights ways the Energy Department supports science education and workforce development. At the website, K–12 teachers can access educational online content, events, internships, workshops, activities, and more. View a list of annotated descriptions (and links) for more than 170 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources for K–12 audiences, developed by scientists and educators from national labs.

Explore the properties of matter and more through activities from Brookhaven (New York) National Laboratory, which offers at-home activities for K–12 audiences that include a video-based study of Shifting Shadows for elementary learners; a collection of mini experiments investigating Dark Matter and Energy for middle level learners; and a video series introducing careers in science research for high school learners. Or find information, lesson plans, safety tips, games, and more to explore energy topics in the classroom at Energy KIDS, an educational website for K–12 teachers and students from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another notable resource is the Science at Home video series from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Most appropriate for middle and high school levels, these video experiments provide opportunities for students to learn alongside LLNL scientists as they conduct Light Experiments at Home with a Laser Physicist; learn What Atmospheric Scientist at LLNL Does; and Make Backyard Craters With a Planetary Defense Physicist. 

Big Green Learning Gardens

Big Green, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to building learning gardens in schools nationwide. School gardens offer opportunities to help students connect to real food, increase academic achievement, and experience hands-on learning through gardening activities. At the Big Green Learning Gardens website, K–12 teachers can find resources to support the implementation of a school garden program at their school. The resources include complete garden-based curricula, such as Ready, Set, Grow (grades K–8) and Real Food Lab (grades 9–12); “bite-size” lessons and activities for various grade levels investigating soil and other topics, such as Garden Soil Community (grades K–2), Layers Underground (grades 3–5), Make Your Own Sub-Irrigated Planter (grades 6–8), and Design a Plant for the Future (grades 9–10); a video library with planting tips, advice, and video-based plant investigations for students to conduct at home; professional development learning modules for teachers about food literacy; and informational materials about planning, establishing, and maintaining a successful school garden program.  

Science Phenomena 

A carefully chosen phenomenon can drive student inquiry. A good phenomenon is observable, interesting, complex, and aligned to the appropriate learning standard. The Wonder of Science—high school teacher and education consultant Paul Anderson’s website focused on helping teachers shift science instruction to three-dimensional learning advocated in the NGSS—presents a collection of science phenomena that support NGSS-led instruction for each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The website also has other resources to support teachers in their use of the NGSS, including graphic organizers, mini-lessons, and assessments. 

STEM Programs @CILC
The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) has STEM programs and resources to engage K–12 students and teachers in interactive technologies and experiences that extend learning beyond the classroom or the pages of a book. A search of “free resources” on the CILC website turned up myriad experiences from ranger-led virtual visits through national parks (e.g., Bird Easy, Indiana Dunes National Park) and discussions with nonfiction children’s book authors (e.g., iNK's New Nonfiction to Excite Young Learners!, iNK Authors on Call) to guidance on using open source planetarium software to facilitate astronomy activities in your classroom (Virtual Planetarium Shows, National Air and Space Museum). Teachers can also register to participate in a Pinnacle Education Collaborative (PEC) Festival, a biannual virtual event celebrating the use of interactive video conferencing in the classroom. Highlights from the upcoming PEC digital learning festival (scheduled for October 6, 2021) include virtual programs on topics such as engineering practices used in building Rube Goldberg machines; creepy animals; weather; and scary sea monsters. 

Cyber Citizenship Hub

Looking for instructional materials to help students develop resilience to misinformation and disinformation? Check out Hub, a one-stop shop for cyber citizenship education for preK–12 educators (including teachers, librarians, and instructional technologists), and an interim site for a larger, forthcoming portal for cyber citizenship education. Developed as part of Cyber Florida and partners’ Cyber Citizenship Initiative, Hub offers a searchable online library of curated resources focused on digital citizenship and civics and cybersecurity awareness. The resources include games, quizzes, lessons, and other materials submitted by educators and leading educational publishers on cyber citizenship themes. Browse K–12 digital citizenship curriculum from Common Sense Media; read the Digital Smarts Blog, a weekly summary of articles related to digital safety, including information on digital resources on media literacy and misinformation; or play games such as Harmony Square, an online game developed by the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center to teach high school students and others how to identify fake news and some of the tactics and manipulation techniques used to mislead people with regard to information.

Middle Level and High School

Math and Music: Algebra

Explore the scientific and mathematical principles of sound and music with Math and Music: Algebra Featuring Mickey Hart, a four-lesson unit for grades 7–9 from TeachRock. Through the lessons, students conduct hands-on activities to learn about the physical principles of sound waves and why sounds vary so widely; calculate, plot, and graph sound waves based on measurable, real-world acoustic data; calculate pitch, tension, and frequency using musician Mickey Hart’s famous beam instrument; and discover the math and science behind Pythagoras’ calculations of ratio, tuning, and harmony. The unit concludes with a culminating project in which students create their own musical riff using knowledge they gained from the lessons. Lesson materials include a Unit Plan Overview, the Summative Assessment: Compose a Riff Teacher’s Guide and Student Handout, and a biographical article about Mickey Hart.

Middle Level Through College Level

Vernier Experiment Sampler

The Vernier Experiment Sampler is a digital publication featuring 21 data-collection experiments for students from middle to college levels. The book contains four experiments each in biology, chemistry, engineering, middle level science, and physics, as well as an Introduction to Data Collection experiment to help get started. The experiments give students practice in using sensors to collect and record data. Experiment titles include Reflectivity of Light (middle level), Mapping a Magnetic Field (middle level), Enzyme Action: Testing Catalase Activity (biology), Acid-Base Titration (chemistry), Accelerations in the Real World (physics), and Calibrating a Sensor (engineering).

High School

Monitoring Emerging Diseases

Available from the TEDEd Lesson Creator database, this high school biology lesson developed by Texas educator Jennifer Sweaks explores efforts to monitor the globe for emerging diseases, the need for adequate funding of these programs, and the effects of failing to do so. The lesson centers around a 2009 TED Talk in which virologist and epidemiologist Nathan Wolfe discussed the threats of emerging diseases and the advent of a global viral monitoring program PREDICT, which was defunded in 2019. After watching the approximately 15-minute video, students can complete a four-question quiz (Think), find more information about viral monitoring programs (Dig Deeper), and share their opinions online in two guided discussions (Discuss). 

High School and College

The Received Wisdom Podcast

The monthly podcast series Received Wisdom examines the complex relationships among science, technology, policy, and society. Professors Shobita Parthasarathy (University of Michigan) and Jack Stilgoe (University College London) interview leading thinkers and doers worldwide to discuss issues and share insights about questions at the intersection of science and society: Are robots racist? Should we regulate gene editing? Have people stopped trusting experts? Does scientific research make the world a more unequal place? Most appropriate for high school and college levels, each episode includes study questions and a transcript to encourage listeners to reflect on the concepts discussed in the episode and practice applying them to other topics and technologies. 

Astronomy Biology Careers Chemistry Computer Science Curriculum Distance Learning Earth & Space Science Engineering Environmental Science General Science Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans Life Science Literacy Mathematics News NGSS Phenomena Physical Science Physics Policy Professional Learning old STEM Technology Middle School Elementary High School Postsecondary Preschool

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