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.
Valentine's day is almost here! One fun activity to try is an oh-so-romantic-science-themed speed dating lesson. I've tried it with my students multiple times and they really enjoyed it. I even hung up red twinkle lights and put candy conversation hearts and flowers out on the tables (gotta set the stage to engage!) Here are a few options you can try based on your curriculum:
Since I teach genetics in the spring, this punnett square speed dating lesson is always perfect timing. Students are given a monster card where they can see their genotypes and phenotypes. They go on dates with other monsters and fill out punnett squares on each date. There are both mendelian and non-mendelian versions included.
If you teach chemistry, this element speed dating activity is a sure hit. Students are assigned an element, fill out a dating profile, go on dates with other elements, and figure out what type of bond they would make. You can download the lesson here.
If you are teaching ecology, here is a symbiosis themed speed dating lesson. Each student is assigned an organism card, and they go on dates with 5 other students in the classroom. They need to meet each other, discuss their traits, and decide if the relationship would be mutualistic, commensalistic, parasitic, competitive, or predatory.
In this GMO speed dating lesson, students are assigned an organism and go on dates with other organisms, looking for genes that they could potentially share. It's a great way to get students thinking about gene editing and lead to discussions on ethics of CRISPR technology. You can download the lesson plan here. Note: I have done this lesson before and would recommend it for upper biology/AP students.
If you happen to be teaching cells around Valentine's day, you can have students do this organelle speed dating activity. Each student is assigned an organelle and they need to identify relationships they might have with other organelles. It is a great way to reinforce cellular processes!
I came across a version of speed dating for biomes that many AP environmental science teachers use. I wasn't able to find a reliable link, but if you try googling "biome speed dating lesson plan" I'm sure you will find a few versions floating around for free.
In this forms and transfer of energy speed dating activity, students are assigned an energy card. They will go on speed dates with 5 other students and have to come up with objects that transfer energy between the two types. For example, chemical energy (in a battery) could be transferred to a light energy (bulb) in a flashlight. This version is great for middle school students.
TIP: You may have some students that are shy and don't want to talk much on their dates. One issue I had arise during this activity was students were just trading cards, copying down the information, and not talking to each other. I made a rule that students were NOT allowed to show each other their cards, and had to ask their dates specific questions. It went much smoother after that.
I hope your students have a blast with one of these activities! If you are looking for some valentine ideas other than speed dating, check out this blog post.
We live in the world of technology and instant streaming. It's amazing that we can see and talk to people on the other side of the world with almost no delay. I recently came across a couple of live streaming websites where your students can observe nature and wildlife from locations around the world. Many of our students may never have the opportunity to see the great barrier reef or go on an African safari- but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy looking at the animals from afar! I've created a list of a few websites where students can observe live streaming from some pretty cool places:
1. Deep Sea Exploration: Head over to http://nautiluslive.org/ to see real time deep sea exploration! Students can even type in questions and organizers are willing to skype with your classroom!
2. Explore.org: Out of all the websites, explore.org is probably my favorite. You can click on tons of animals and it will take you to a live streaming location. Sometimes you won't see much, but that is the nature of it being live. It will recommend which animals are most active and has highlights you won't want to miss.
3. National Park Service: This website has links to some webcams within some of the US National Parks. (Many of these are also available on explore.org, so you may just want to start there).
4. Zoos: Many zoos such as The Houston Zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have webcams within their exhibits for you to view. You can even take a turn controlling the webcams at the Houston Zoo!.
Ideas of how to use these websites:
1. If you are teaching a lesson on making observations, have students observe the animals, write down behaviors they see and make inferences about their lifestyle or habitat.
2. Are your students quietly working on an assignment? Many teachers play background music. I personally struggle with this, because I'm one of those people that has to have it quiet in order to focus. Instead of playing music, try putting up a webcam on the screen. It allows students to take small mental breaks to observe the animals, and is also gives the early finishers something to do instead of pulling out their phones. It's a great classroom management tool.
3. If you are teaching about conservation or sustainability, put up a webcam and discuss why animal conservation is important and the ethical implications of zoos.
4. Don't have the money to take your students on a field trip? Use these sites as a "virtual field trip." They can see a national park from your classroom!
I hope you enjoy these sites! I've wasted my prep hour a few too many times by sitting and watching animals! Enjoy!
Ordering class sets of prepared slides can be pricey. Want a fun and free way to make your own? All you need are some slides, clear tape, and some animal hair samples. Put a few pieces of hair on a slide and carefully cover it with clear tape. A couple tips:
(Below: Left image is human hair, Right image is cat hair)
Another way to get some unusual hair samples is by checking with your local game and fish department. In Arizona our Game and Fish department has skull and pelt boxes that they loan to schools for free. I had borrowed the skull box for my ecology unit and had my students compare skulls of different animals. While I had the box, I also plucked a hair or two off the pelts and made prepared slides. It was fun to look at mountain lion, bear, and coyote hair in addition to the everyday pets.
Have you made prepared slides for specimens other than hair? I'd love to hear about it! Leave it in the comments!
(Want to save this blog post for later? Click here to repin!)
Cladograms are my favorite part of the classification and taxonomy unit. They are relatively simple for students to grasp and are great for visual learners. While they can be easy to read, sometimes students struggle once you ask them to make their own.
Enter: the ultimate teacher engagement tool. Candy.
In this activity, students will be given a ziplock baggie with 4 types of candy inside. On the front of the worksheet students will be given the traits to analyze and then are asked to complete the cladogram. On the back of the worksheet students need to use the same candies but analyze them using different traits. Once they finish their cladograms they are free to eat!
TIP: As I've used this activity over the past few years, I've found students sometimes struggle with the back side of the worksheet where they have to make their own cladogram. One line of questioning that really helps them organize their thoughts is this:
"What is a trait all 4 candies have in common? What is a trait only 3 of them have in common? What is a trait that 2 of those 3 remaining candies have in common? What is a trait that only 1 of the remaining candies has?" Once they think of it that way it is much easier to fill out the chart and complete the cladogram.
I've made this lab worksheet completely editable so you are free to change the candy types based on what you can find on sale at the store. Don't feel forced to use the candies I have listed! Keep in mind, if you change the candy types you will likely have to change the traits students are looking for on the front side of the worksheet.
It's April. Sigh. If you live in the US, you are likely experiencing testing season. Between ACT, SAT, and state exams, it seems like the entire month is taken. Kids are burned out and teachers just want to start teaching again. Students have to be quiet when they finish testing which can be a struggle no matter which age group you teach. If your school is like mine, students aren't allowed to be anywhere near their phones when they are done testing. As much as I would love to see them whip out their favorite book, the last thing many of them want to do is read when they just finished a 3 hour test. Here are some ideas to keep them quiet until everyone else is finished testing:
1. Print out sudoku pages. The first few times I did this I realized many students had never done a sudoku puzzle before, so you might need to teach them. But your left-brained students will have fun working on them! You can print them for free by clicking here.
2. Word Searches- Check out this website where you can print pre-made word searches or even create your own.
3. Coloring Pages- This is my personal favorite stress-relief activity. I love printing out Mandala images and letting my creativity run wild. You can find free ones here, or I've even seen books of them at the dollar store. You can just buy a book and make copies for your students.
4. Extreme Dot-to-Dot- These will take your students quite a bit of time! Unfortunately I haven't found free ones online that are very good, but the books are inexpensive on amazon's website (just search for extreme dot to dot). I have one that I make copies from and the kids love figuring out what the image is.
5. ABC Books- I know this sounds a little elementary, but middle school students enjoy it. Give students 14 pages of paper, have them fold in half, and staple on the edge like a book. Have them write one letter of the alphabet on each page. Then, they have to choose a vocabulary word that is specific to your content area, write the definition, and make a picture. Since I teach science, they might choose acid for A, biotic for B, catalyst for C, etc. It is a great way to brush up on vocabulary from the year.
6. Write a thank-you note- Since teacher appreciation day is coming up, sometimes I have my students pick their favorite teacher at school and write them a thank you note. Then I have the notes delivered on teacher appreciation day. It will truly brighten those teacher's day to read them!
7. Hidden Pictures- Remember the hidden pictures in the highlights magazines when you were little? Well you can print them! Head over to highlights website and print off a few. Are they intended for little kids? Yes. Will your secondary students still love them? Yes.
8. Crossword Puzzles- Here is a website that has pre-made puzzles, or check out this site where you can make your own.
9. Metal Mind Teasers- This one isn't my favorite only because it makes a little noise. If you head to a local dollar store, you will probably find the little metal puzzles that students have to separate by twisting and turning the pieces. Some students manage to do them quietly, but a few like to make it an ordeal, so be careful on who you hand them to.
And last but not least.....
10. Sleep- If your school allows it, let that tired kid put their head down. Seriously. Studies show that teenagers don't get nearly as much sleep as they should. After a 3 hour test, let that brain rest.
Any other fun ideas to keep kids quiet after testing? Drop them in the comments!
Do you have some awesome coworkers? I do. My students have been preparing for a debate on GMO's that was going to take place after school. We needed judges that would be willing to stay late and score them on their performance. We got 3 volunteers without hesitation that were willing to stay at school until 8pm... That's a 13 hour work day! Anyway, I made this little printable that I taped around a box of Andes mints to give to each of the judges. It wasn't expensive and a little gesture goes a long way! Make someone's day and download it for free by clicking on the link below!
I love when I find a new website or online activity I want my students to try. Our students are growing up in a technology reliant generation, and as teachers we need to tap into their interests and strengths. But every time I go to the computer lab, it seems like some kids whiz through the activity I want them to complete, and other students are constantly calling me over for help and don't finish by the time the bell rings. The students that finish early inevitably end up on facebook or youtube as soon as your back is turned.
Lately there is a big push for STEM in the classroom. Data has projected that STEM related jobs will increase to 9 million by the year 2022 (www.bls.gov). As teachers we need to not just teach science, but let students truly experience it first hand.
Every year when I teach cells, students do a good job memorizing what the organelles do but have a hard time understanding how the organelles actually work together. I wanted my students to really visualize cell processes and how the cell functions as a whole. I came across a website from MIT that allowed students to create animated videos. I decided I was going to have my students create a video for a specific cellular process. This project can be scary for many students that aren't tech-saavy (although most students are better with technology than we are!) To ease their minds, I let students work in pairs- one student could do a lot of the research and the other student could do more of the video building. Next I came up with a list of 15 different cellular processes (endocytosis, mitosis, DNA replication, etc.) that they could pick from. I have class sizes around 30 students so each group had a different topic for their video. This project could be used for any topic, not just cells!
Here are a few tips that will make the project run smoother:
1. Before you assign the project, play around with the website yourself. It was also helpful for me to watch youtube tutorials (like the one HERE) as I was learning. If you are familiar with the website then it is easier for you to help students when they hit road blocks... which they will.
2. Students will need to create a login for their video. I told students to use their school ID number as their login and their school password. Many students have multiple usernames for their emails and social media accounts, so I didn't want them to forget their login. Also, when students shared their videos with me I could see whose video it was based on their ID number.
3. Before students begin, have them map out what they want their video to look like. I gave them a storyboard timeline worksheet (see image 2 below) and made them draw out their cellular process and write captions. I had to check and approve their worksheet before they could begin working on the video. It was a good way to check in with them and give them feedback to ensure they weren't missing anything.
4. Allow students to look around at videos that are already made. On the scratch homepage you can search for videos that other people have shared. If you find a video you like, you can click See Inside (see image 3 below) and see how they actually built the video. I made it clear that students could only look there for ideas, but couldn't copy what other people made.
5. It will take time, and get ready for the whining. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "can't we just make a powerpoint instead?" I would be going to a steakhouse for dinner tonight courtesy of my students. One student even said "Come on Mrs, we've been making powerpoints since we came out of the womb!" That is exactly why I didn't let them make a powerpoint. In the end (I gave them a week), they came up with some awesome videos. The great thing about this site is they don't have to be at school to work on it, just anywhere with an internet connection. If they don't finish in the assigned class time, they can work on it at home.
6. Chances are you will have a group or two that just can't figure out the website and how to make things move and work. As a last resort for these groups, I showed them how to make it "powerpoint-like." When you click on the "backdrops" tab, you can create multiple backdrops, which is essentially like powerpoint slides (see image 4 below). Then all they have to do is add a script that when the space bar is clicked, it moves to the next backdrop.
7. When students are finished, they need to click SHARE before the video goes live (see image 5 below). Once they clicked share, I had them copy and paste the URL into an email and send it to me for grading. I made it clear to students that the majority of their grade would be based on the video content, not the animations. For example, if the mitosis group had awesome visuals but forgot to tell me about what mitosis is, why cells divide, and which cells undergo mitosis then they wouldn't get a great grade. That lowered the stress level for students who struggled with the animations.
Even though both teacher and student felt frustration at times, I'm so glad I had my students create these videos. Below is a sample from one of my students. Enjoy!
Need a great inquiry lab? This soda lab is FUN! And I know what you are thinking.... "what a mess it must be!" But I've done this lab multiple times, and never had a spill. Students will get 3 types of soda, and will measure which brand has the greatest amount of carbonation. The best part of this activity is there are 4 different versions included- you can choose which you think is best for your students.
~ EASY~ Great for lower grade levels. Students pour the soda into a cup, and measure the amount of time it continues to bubble.
~ MEDIUM~ (Pictured bottom left) Students cover the top of the bottle with a balloon. After shaking the balloon covered bottle, students will measure the diameter of the balloon with a string.
~ HARD~ (Pictured bottom right) Students will measure the amount of carbonation by putting a tube into the bottle, and catching the gas that escapes into a graduated cylinder. This is the most accurate way to measure the carbonation. I used a tube that was from a fish tank bubbler.
~ EXPERT~ Students will come up with their own experimental design (They may come up with one of the other three ideas already discussed). Great for inquiry, collaboration, and practice writing procedures.
To save money on this lab I buy the smaller bottles of soda, and usually snag them when they are on sale, even if I'm not doing this experiment right away. I love that this lab is a great time to review the scientific method, experimental design, and discuss variables such as temperature, rate of shaking, and other factors that could impact the results. This is a great lab for days before holidays or testing days when the kids are antsy. They will have a blast! Interested? Check it out in my TpT store HERE!