By Debra Shapiro
Solar Eclipse Planning Workshop
NSTA Past President Dennis Schatz is serving on the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force to prepare for the solar eclipses to pass across the United States in 2023 and 2024, both in the same academic year. “We are holding a virtual eclipse planning workshop in early April [April 8–9] that would be especially useful to both formal and informal [out-of-school] educators,” Schatz says. “If you enjoyed the 2017 total solar eclipse, you will want to start getting ready” for the upcoming eclipses, he contends, adding, “I will lead part of the sessions, so hope to see you there.”
The Innovation Collaborative’s E-Newsletter, Winter 2022 Issue
The Innovation Collaborative is a national transdisciplinary forum (arts, sciences, humanities) to foster creativity, innovation, and equity in teaching and learning. This edition of its e-newsletter features information about NSTA’s National Conference in Houston, March 31–April 2, as well as news stories about various science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) initiatives, including one on teacher professional development and one on using imagination in STEM.
Celebrate Pi Day With NASA
On this NASA web page for formal and informal educators, you’ll find ways to celebrate Pi Day with students, ways NASA uses Pi to explore space, Pi in the Sky lessons for grades 4–12, and information on the NASA Pi Day Challenge, which launches on March 10.
The Question Game: Creating Questions About Primary Sources
The Library of Congress (LOC) has Free to Use and Reuse sets of visually engaging materials from its digital collections. These sets include STEM-related topics like aircraft, bridges, lighthouses, and Work in America. Teachers can choose items from one or more sets to create an inquiry-based learning game to help students practice questioning skills.
Teachers create sets of six game cards—one set per pair of students—by writing each of the six question starters on an index card: Who…? What…? Where…? When…? Why…? How…? The objective is for student pairs to create as many different questions as possible about an image within the time limit.
NOAA’s Whale Resources and Activities
Whale species can be found worldwide from Alaska to Hawai`i to the Gulf of California. Explore a collection of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lesson plans and activities to help students develop a deeper understanding of whale species and NOAA’s efforts to protect them and limit the threats they face. Topics include How Increased Ocean Noise Affects Whales (grades 3–5), Humpback Whales 101 (grades 4–8), and Humpback Whale Trivia (middle level and high school).
Teachers of young children can use these books, with their engaging illustrations and photos, to talk about Black innovators’ contributions to STEM. The list indicates Black representation (author, STEM innovator, character), and whether the books include accurate and age-appropriate STEM concepts. Some of the books are accompanied by videos in which the pages of the books are shown and people are reading the stories.
Titles include The Marvelous World of Shapes by Sherrita Berry-Pettus (babies and toddlers); Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell (ages 3 and older); A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade (preschool); and What Is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (kindergarten).
How to Train Your Robot
Use this illustrated 15-page e-book written by the curriculum design team at University of California Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science to integrate science and literacy by introducing elementary students to cutting-edge robotics. The e-book’s content models authentic engineering practices such as iterative design, testing, and learning through failure. The diverse cast of characters in the Razzle-Dazzle Robot Club can inspire girls and members of other underrepresented groups to explore engineering, robotics, and coding.
Environmental Justice! How Can We Create Environments That Are Healthy for Everyone?
Developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) in partnership with the InterAcademy Partnership as part of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project, a new community response guide, Environmental Justice!, enables students in grades 2–8 to work in teams to explore this question: How can we create environments that are healthy for everyone? The 120-page guide features eight tasks that incorporate investigations and hands-on science to help students discover, understand, and take action.
After first considering their own identity and relationship with their environment, students then investigate their ideas about justice, environmental impacts on health, local examples of environmental problems and injustices, and ways they can act. Opportunities to gather data, consider causes, and interrogate the systems that create problems can help young people develop research and critical-thinking skills. Ideas from individual scientists, researchers, and activists are included to help inspire children and guide them regarding ways to take action to make their local and global communities more just. The guide is accompanied by a StoryMap that provides additional resources and activities and Teacher Instructions, including how to adapt the lessons for different ages.
March 14 is Pi Day. Check out this related U.S. Census Bureau activity, and have students use population data to read and write numbers in scientific notation while comparing data for states and decades. Students will also write ratios of the populations of their school’s state in different decades, determine if the ratios show a pattern, and make a scatter plot of the data. Teachers will need to have graphing calculators for students to use to make the calculations.
Students ages 13 and older can learn more about the engineering, science, and technology needed for talking to astronauts and retrieving data from the Moon and beyond with this quick Kahoot! quiz. They’ll explore the challenges faced by communications engineers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Questions cover topics like why astronauts on a spacewalk use radios to communicate, why the size of a satellite dish is important, and why NASA uses wireless methods to talk to spacecraft. Teachers can test students’ knowledge as a class, assign a quiz to students individually, or arrange a team competition.
Jon Darkow is an Ohio teacher who has created many simulations. “Quantitative modeling allows students to interact with complex mathematical relationships without needing to understand all the math. More importantly, students can manipulate the models and easily discover complex properties of many biological and ecological systems,” Darkow explains. “I have found that simulations are a powerful method of teaching the Scientific Practices identified by AP science courses, and the Next Generation Science Standards,” he contends.
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