Ecological succession can seem like a simple process... grass, shrubs, small trees, big trees. But how does an ecosystem evolve from nothing? I always begin this lesson by showing students a picture of earth as it was first developing and a picture of the earth today. Next I ask students- how did we go from this.... to this? How did our thriving ecosystems evolve from nothing? It really gets them thinking and leads to great class discussions.
Check out these resources to help your succession lessons be a success! (pictures courtesy pixabay)
1. Here is a powerpoint and card sort activity I created that you can use to introduce ecological succession.
2. This lesson plan from National Geographic shows the formation of a coral reef. It's pretty cool to look at succession underwater, not just below water!
3. Here is a free card sorting vocabulary activity I found on teachers pay teachers.
4. Here is a free lesson plan that looks at the succession that occurred following the eruption of Mount St. Helens
5. Here is a succession board game you can have students play. Looks fun!
6. Here is an online interactive game from Bioman on succession.
7. Succession occurs within aquatic ecosystems as well. Have students look at the succession of protozoa using this Carolina lab. (Don't have the funds to order protozoa? Here are directions to make your own hay infusion!)
8. Most of your students have cell phones, so have them go outside and take pictures of primary and secondary succession in their neighborhoods. They can upload them and create a photo journal.
I hope you lichen these lesson options! (ok... that was lame)
Diffusion is a topic that is covered in biology (when we introduce cell membranes) and chemistry (particle movement and kinetic theory). I came across this "smelly balloons" activity on Flinn's website and thought it was such a fun way to introduce diffusion. In this activity, students will smell balloons that have different flavor extracts inside. Their task is to guess the scent and explain particle movement. How is the smell passing through the latex barrier? (Note: Prior to this activity you will need to make sure none of your students have latex allergies. Bust out those lab safety contracts they signed at the beginning of the year!)
For this activity you will need:
- Balloons (an assortment of colors is ideal)
- Eyedroppers or pipettes
- A variety Flavor extracts* or different odor substances
- String and tape (optional)
*Flinn's directions say to use a variety of flavor extracts. Flavor extracts can be pricey, so if you don't have very many at home you have some other options. You can use essential oils, perfume, or cooking spices. I used vanilla extract, lemon extract, eucalyptus oil, and cinnamon (mixed with a little bit of water to make a slurry).
You've made it to the end of the school year! The last month can be tough to get through, and students start checking out mentally. I've compiled a list of some fun projects and activities you can do with your students to keep em engaged.
1. Have computer access? Have students create an infographic for a topic you learned about this school year. Here are directions on what program I use, and you can find student handouts here.
2. Students love completing labs, but take it a step further and collect meaningful data to contribute to a citizen science project. Check out this blog post with links to dozens of projects that can further scientific research in your community.
3. While hard copy newspapers are slowly becoming a thing of the past, all the parts are still available in a digital format so it's good for students to learn about a newspaper format. I created a newspaper project that can be used for any science topic. You can find the activity lesson plan here.
4. Want to have your students make a difference in their community? Have them plan and execute a fundraiser! Find a great nonprofit to donate to such as Water Is Life or One Tree Planted. (I've had personal experience working with Water Is Life and they are a stellar organization).
5. Almost every student has a cell phone these days, and it can be tough to keep students off them during class. Try having students get the phones out and create a photo journal for a science concept. For example, if you recently taught ecology have students go outside and take pictures relating to succession, food chains, and habitats. Then they can do a small write-up on what their photos represent. Find the editable project here.
6. Summer is almost here, so have them plan a vacation! Have students pick a national park they would like to visit. (If they aren't sure what their options are, check out Google's 3D views of national parks they can explore- it's so cool!) Once they've picked a national park, give them a travel budget. Tell them they need to account for travel expenses, food, park entry fees, and souvenirs.
7. Did you teach force and motion? Rube Goldberg projects are always a student favorite. Assign students with a task (such as getting a marble to land in a cup) in a certain number of steps. You can have them complete it in class or have them work on it at home and record a video. It's a blast! You can find a lesson plan here.
8. If you have any students that are fans of the show Survivor, they will love this Survivor Science project from The Science Spot. You can find the activity write-up here.
9. Want to review vocabulary? Have students create an ABC book with science vocabulary from the year. For each letter of the alphabet students will find a vocabulary word, write out the definition, and draw a picture. You can find the printable template for free here.
10. Show and Tell may sound like an elementary school activity, but you can make it meaningful with a scientific twist. Give students a topic or theme and have them bring in objects from home that fit that topic. For example, you could assign the topic of friction. What is something at home that represents friction? They could bring in a pair of baseball cleats, a piece of sandpaper, or a can of WD-40. Then they have to explain to the class why they brought that particular object in and how it relates to the topic. Middle schoolers will really enjoy it!
What are some of your favorite end of the school year activities? Lets share more ideas in the comments!
WHAT IS CITIZEN SCIENCE?
Citizen science is when the public participates in scientific research. Every-day citizens share and contribute data with the goal of increasing scientific knowledge. You do not have to be a trained scientist in order to participate.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT
Citizen science is great to do with students because:
Ready to try it out? Here is a list of websites and project ideas to get you started.
1. CitizenScience.gov is a government website that has a TON of project ideas and is a great place to start. You can collect data that will be used by NOAA, USGS, National Science Foundation, and even NASA.
2. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a website run by the Audubon that encourages students to get outside and start birding. They are looking for regional data where people can upload pictures and species of birds they see in their neighborhoods. Time to dust off those binoculars!
3. National Geographic has a list of citizen science projects, ranging from wildlife observation, measuring night sky brightness (light pollution), butterfly census, listening for frog and toad calls, and more.
4. SciStarter.org is a website put together by Arizona State University and the National Science Foundation. You can search for projects near you or online only.
5. Project Green Challenge is a website that gives students environmentally-themed challenges. You can register your school and enter to win prizes!
6. Zooniverse is "people powered research." This website has a ton of ongoing projects that also venture into other content areas outside of the natural sciences.
7. inaturalist Do you ever take pictures of insects and cool species in your yard or neighborhood? inaturalist is a website (and phone app) that allows you to upload pictures of your findings and share/discuss with fellow naturalists.
8. Captain Planet Project Hero is a PBL driven website where students can help threatened species and ecosystems in their area.
9. The GLOBE Program is looking for people to contribute data for cloud types, mosquito habitats, and land cover observations.
10. Project Budburst was created by Chicago Botanical Garden. Their goal is to uncover the stories of plants and animals affected by human impacts on the environment.
11. Gorongosa Webcams If you've ever used curriculum from Biointeractive, you know it's pretty stellar. In this lesson students study webcams from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and do animal identification.
12. Pollinator Live is a website that includes links to a bunch of citizen science projects centered around attracting and monitoring pollinators in your area. Teach students the importance of pollinators!
Looking for low stress and low prep ideas as we navigate distance learning? Here are 5 ideas you can use with your secondary science students:
1. CLICK HERE to check out virtual field trips your students can explore!
2. CLICK HERE to see a full list of science related movies, TV shows, and documentaries.
3. Check out American Chemical Society's blog post on kitchen chemistry ideas!
4. Have students create a photo journal!
5. Have students build something out of recycled materials. Ideas could include a rube goldberg contraption, a parachute, or a solar cooker.
Hope those tips help you through this tough time!
Don't have the funds to take students on a field trip? Living in the age of technology allows us to virtually visit and see sights around the world (or solar system!) that most of us wouldn't get the opportunity to ever see. I've compiled a list of science-related virtual field trips you and your students can experience. Happy travels!
1. Virtual Field Trips.org is a great place to start. They have videos that can take students to the galapgos, national parks, and the amazon. Head here to watch!
2. I've always been fascinated with caves. Visiting Carlsbad Caverns was one of my favorite vacations. Let students visit the world's largest cave, Son Doong, which is located in Vietnam. This place looks pretty spectacular! They can take a virtual walk through with 360 degree views HERE.
3. The Nature Conservancy also has a variety of field trips to choose from. They have teacher guides and videos for a ton of topics. Check them out HERE.
4. I'm sure you have played around with Google Earth, but did you know there is also Google Moon and Google Mars? Let your students explore the solar system and see what the surface of the moon and Mars look like! You never know, humans may be regular visitors to these places in their lifetime!
5. Another cool site to check out if you have students interested in space is Stellarium. Students can visit this online planetarium and check out constellations visible from their current location.
6. You might think of Easter Island as more of a history trip instead of a science trip, but this island has an interesting (and disastrous) history relating to ecosystem collapse and sustainability. What is now relatively barren land, Easter Island was once lush and heavily populated. There is some debate about what wiped out the trees (deforestation? invasive rats?) and the ecosystem collapse that followed, but either way it is a good lesson on population growth and sustainability. Students can check out the island HERE.
7. Discovery Education has a bunch of virtual field trips to choose from. Head here and you can filter by content area.
8. Would you like to view webcams from different zoos and aquariums? I often put live webcams up on the classroom board when students are doing independent work. If they finish their work early or need a brain break, watching animals is a fun thing to do! Check out this blog post to see which zoos and aquariums offer streaming webcams.
9. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC offer virtual tours using Google Street View. Check them out HERE.
10. Google Art and Culture has virtual field trips from TONS of locations worldwide. Click here to view US national parks and explore places like the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellowstone, and more! (Warning: It's addicting).
Do your students truly understand protein synthesis? Not just knowing how to convert DNA to mRNA to amino acids, but TRULY understand how and why the process works? I struggled with this for a while. My students were great with A's, T's, C's, and G's (and U!) but couldn't explain the bigger picture.
I wanted students to be able to answer this question: If every cell in the body has the exact same DNA, then why do cells look different and do different jobs? Why are muscle cells long and stretchy while nerve cells are web-like, yet they have the same set of directions inside?
To answer this question students needed to understand that genes can be turned on an off. Even though every cell in the body has the same DNA, cell types only read the genes that apply to them. Eye cells only read and use eye genes, skin cells only read and use skin genes, etc. So how do specialized cells know which genes apply to them?
I created an activity that likens the genome to the blueprint of a house. A house blueprint includes all the information needed to build the house- the electrical, the plumbing, the framing, it's all there. When the electrician shows up to install the wiring and outlets, he only needs the information on the blueprint that applies to him. The same goes for cells.
In this activity, I put students in groups of 4. Each student was assigned a different job- a plumber, an electrician, a framer, and a roofer. On each job card is a promoter sequence. (Promoter sequences are used by transcription enzymes to know where to begin transcribing the gene).
Each student will scan through the DNA looking for their specific promoter sequence. Once they find it, they begin the transcription and translation process until they reach a stop codon.
Once each student has their genes transcribed they go to the house blueprint and look up which trait the house will have based on the amino acid sequence (see image below). If you have honors or pre-AP students you can have them complete all 4 jobs, or 8 genes total instead of 2.
I hope you check out this activity and your students can really understand the process of protein synthesis. If you would like to purchase this activity, you can find it HERE in my TpT store.
States of matter is a topic that is covered in middle school, and reviewed again in high school chemistry with more depth. I've compiled some resources to help you teach this concept! Take a peek!
FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL
1. I created this powerpoint when I taught phase changes to my 8th and 9th graders. It is editable and can be adapted for higher or lower grades. It also includes a foldable!
2. This PHET simulation goes over the basics of phase changes and students can visually see what happens to the atoms as you heat them up and cool them down.
3. I read the book series "Stop Faking It" when I was in my first few years of teaching. In the air, water, and weather book he talks about how students can act like air particles when teaching high and low pressure. This also works great for teaching students about properties of solids, liquids, and gases. For solids, have students huddle up close and vibrate. Then yell out "liquid!" and have students spread out more and shake their arms and legs a little more. Then yell out "gas!" and have students run like crazy around the room waving their arms in the air. I know it sounds silly, and I thought students would hate it... but they ate.it.up!
4. This virtual lab from my.hrw is great for middle school, but does require flash. Be sure it loads on student devices before assigning.
5. I love card sorts! They are a quick and easy way to review new content. HERE is a quick card sort activity on the states of matter.
FOR HIGH SCHOOL
6. This PHET interactive is similar to the one listed above, but includes phase change diagrams. Great for high school students!
7. American Association of Chemistry Teachers has a simulation and quiz students can work through that can be found here.
8. This NOVA interactive website allows students to see particle movement in water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. It also requires flash, so make sure to check the link before using with students.
9. When I taught 9th grade physical science we reviewed states of matter and looked at phase change graphs. Typically teachers have students boil water and graph the temperature change, but I wasn't comfortable getting out hot plates with my squirrely freshman. So instead of dealing with hot plates I had students turn water into ice (without using a freezer!) and graph the temperature change. Check out this video to see the basics of how this lab works:
If you are interested in downloading this lab, you can find it here.
If you want to introduce the CER method to students or have them practice periodically, using video clips is a fun way to go. (If you aren't familiar with the CER method, check out this blog post on ways you can use it in your classroom). I prefer short video clips because they are great for bellwork practice or a good time-filler if you have a few minutes left at the end of class.
A popular video teachers use to introduce CER is this Audi commercial. In it, the daughter gives the claim that her Dad is a space alien. Students should be able to pull out the evidence that she gives, including: he speaks a weird language, he drinks green stuff, just look at him (he dresses weird), and he has a spaceship. In the reasoning section students should be able to explain how the evidence supports the claim.
Here are some additional video clips you can use if you have YouTube access at school:
JUST FOR FUN VIDEOS
SCIENCE BASED VIDEOS
If you are interested in a graphic organizer I use for CER practice, click here!
If you have any other video clips you use, I'd love to see them! Leave the URL in the comments!
Do you love college basketball? I grew up in Tucson, AZ and UofA basketball was all we watched in March. It is really fun to incorporate some sort of science themed tournament in your classroom during March. Here are some ideas to get you started!
MARCH MAMMAL MADNESS
This lesson is taking over science classrooms by storm! What is March mammal madness? "It is an annual tournament of simulated combat competition between mammals. Scientific literature is cited to substantiate likely outcomes as a probabilistic function of the two species' attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, running speed, fight style, physiology, and motivation." They update the bracket every year, so be sure to go download the new one.
FAMOUS SCIENTIST TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
In this lesson created by Surviving Social Studies, students fill out a NCAA style bracket using famous scientists. Students have to prepare a persuasive speech on which scientist made the greatest impact, and winners advance onto further rounds. Check it out here!
FLINN SCIENTIFIC BRACKETS
Flinn Scientific has quite a few bracket options on their website for free. If you teach biology, be sure to check out this sweet 16 cell biology tournament.
If you teach chemistry, you can check out this sweet 16 periodic table tournament or a sweet 16 chemistry of gases tournament.
Not wanting to take up multiple days of class for brackets? You can also check out these cool posters from Chevron dealing with the science and math behind basketball. They are especially great for physics teachers.