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Freebies for Science Teachers, Week of July 3, 2020

By Debra Shapiro

Freebies for Science Teachers, Week of July 3, 2020

BackPocket Learning: Easy Nature Explorations. Looking for screen-free activities to encourage elementary students’ love of learning, healthy food, and nature? Try these simple nature-based explorations and projects created and curated by Life Lab’s BackPocket Learning program, with support from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. Perfect for at-home learning settings, the activities require minimal supplies, can be completed in 30 minutes or less, and involve easy-to-access outdoor exploration, such as in the yard, from a porch, or in a garden. Go on a yard-based nature Scavenger Hunt, study how plants grow in Root View Cups, hone observation skills with Nature Journaling, or make (and plant) mud-and-native-flower Seed Spheres in the garden. Other activities use nature to inspire creative endeavors, such as Wheat Head planters, Soil Art paintings, Pressed Nature Art, and Flower Pounding bookmarks. Teachers also may contribute their own nature- and garden-based activities to the collection.

SIMOC Interactive Mars Simulator. What would it be like to live on Mars? With SIMOC, an interactive simulator developed by National Geographic and partners Over the Sun and Arizona State University, students in grades 5–14 can explore what it takes to survive in an “off-world” community such as Mars. The simulator enables students to design a habitat that sustains human life using a combination of mechanical and living plant systems. Just as scientists do, students must consider myriad factors to find a suitable balance to enable survival, selecting various combinations of crew quarters, greenhouse, food and plants, energy generation and storage, and mission duration. The model is based on actual data derived from life support and closed ecosystem research at NASA and universities worldwide, which makes the simulator a useful tool for experimenting and testing theories about the possibilities for future off-world communities in the solar system. Accompanying lesson plans, versioned for grades 5–8 and 9–14, are available to guide educators in using the simulator as part of remote instruction. 

Digital Science Resources. At, K–college educators can access a searchable database of more than 1,000 free educational resources in core subjects and other topics, including science/STEM. The resources can be used in remote learning environments, and include a varied mix of ready-to-use materials to supplement content instruction (e.g., games, lessons, labs, videos), as well as tools and websites to enhance online instruction for both students and teachers (e.g., interactive learning platforms, video lesson templates, quiz platforms). For example, a search of “seventh grade/science” yielded 268 available resources—from augmented reality lessons on the human body and space from Curiscope, virtual field trips from Arizona State University, and interactive lab simulations from Smart Science Education and other content providers to teacher tools for creating engaging digital lessons, such as Animoto (a video maker for educators) and GooseChase EDU (a digital scavenger hunt–making platform). 

SEPUP Simulations and Digital Investigations. Check out this collection of digital activities and interactive simulations for remote learning developed by the Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California-Berkeley. Targeted for the middle level, the resources support the Next Generation Science Standards and cover key topics in biology, ecology, evolution, physics, geology, and space. The materials are drawn from SEPUP’s middle level science textbooks and provide access to Student Book Pages and Student Sheets for each activity. Simulation titles include Modeling Cell Structure and Function, Visualizing an Electric Field, Plate Motion Simulation, Seasons Interactive, and Modeling Gravity. Digital investigations, such as Mapping Locations of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, Manipulating Genes, and Effects of an Introduced Species, differ from the simulations in that students use the Student Book Pages and Student Sheets as a guide to complete internet-based activities or research about the topic.

Antibody Attack. Show K–12 students how antibodies “work” with a model-based activity from the Exploratorium’s Science Snacks collection. The activity explores adaptive immune response, one part of the human body’s immune system response. Using paper cutouts of antigens and antibodies (templates provided), students model how these two substances interact in the body to disable pathogens and prepare the body for future attacks. The activity includes questions for students as they work with the model (e.g., “To Do and Notice”); explanatory text describing the science of the immune response (e.g., “What’s Going On?”); links for additional information on the immune system and vaccines (e.g., Going Further); and guidance on connecting the model to applicable teaching standards at elementary, middle, and high school levels (e.g., Teaching Tips).   


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