Fall is by far my FAVORITE time of year. Seeing the leaves change color is truly the highlight of my year. Are you looking to bring some fall or thanksgiving themed activities into your classroom? Here are some ideas:
The best part of thanksgiving is the meal, but do students think twice about how far that meal traveled from farm to plate? In this lesson students learn about "food miles" and calculate how far an average meal traveled before it hits your stomach.
Save some of your food scraps from your thanksgiving meal prep and have students re-grow vegetables. It works great with lettuce, celery, onions, and carrots.
One thing you often see outside or in your fall centerpiece are acorns and pinecones. But have students thought twice about why those seeds have adapted to be so hard or spiky? How does it benefit them? Students can explore seed adaptations and dispersal mechanisms.
Does eating turkey really make you tired? In this free lesson from Biology Roots, students will learn about tryptophan and see if it really causes thanksgiving zzzzz's.
Why do leaves change color in the fall? In this experiment, have students try out leaf chromatography.
Speaking of leaves... grab some fall leaves from the ground outside and have your students make preserved leaf skeletons! They can learn about leaf anatomy and what travels through those veins. You could also discuss how decomposed leaves return nutrients to the soil.
Have a leftover pumpkin from Halloween sitting on your porch? Bring it in and have students learn about the process of decomposition. Or, cut off the top (with seeds left inside), throw in some soil, and watch em germinate!
Want to throw in some graphing practice? In this free lesson from Science with Mrs. Lau, students graph turkey gobbles. Graphing practice is always a good use of time!
Around autumn you can always find variegated corn in grocery and craft stores. They are a great way to introduce genetics, dihybrid crosses, and chi-squared analysis.
I hope you have a great time trying out some of these activities with your students! And I hope you have a great thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. Remember, your students are very thankful to have you in their lives even if they don't often say it.
It doesn't matter what age you are, glow in the dark experiments are a blast!
Did you know that tonic water glows under a black light? It has a chemical in it called "quinine" that causes it to glow. You can substitute out tonic water for regular tap water in some of your go-to experiments to make them glow! Here are a few of my favorites:
Ooblek is super fun to make when learning states of matter. Is it a solid? Is it a liquid? (It's a colloid). To make ooblek, you normally mix 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch. Sub out tap water for tonic water and now you have a glowing non-Newtonian fluid. Around Halloween we call them "ghost guts!"
When teaching cell membranes, many teachers do the classic rubber egg experiment. In this lab, you begin by dissolving the shell of an egg with vinegar (change out the vinegar on day 2 and continue to let it sit about 2 more days). Once your shell is dissolved you are left with the membrane of the egg sans shell. You can take it a step further and soak your rubberized egg in different liquids such as corn syrup and see what happens. This simulates osmosis and how cells swell in hypotonic solutions and shrink in hypertonic solutions.
To make your rubber egg glow, use a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and tonic water. (You could even be sneaky and add tonic water to a random few beakers from the class and freak them out by telling them they must have gotten radioactive eggs).
DIY LAVA LAMP
Want to make your own lava lamp? Fill a container with 50% tonic water and 50% vegetable oil. Turn off the lights, add your black light, drop in an alka selzer tablet, and enjoy the show! This can be done to reinforce density (layers) and chemical reactions (CO2 bubbles).
Looking for more spook-tacular Halloween science ideas? Check out this blog post!
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.
It's December! Fa la la la la! I love the holiday season and I love giving my students some fun Christmas themed lessons that tie into science. Below you will find a list of fun activities that you can do in the month of December. Note: even if you have students that don't celebrate Christmas, many of the options below are simply science oriented, not dependent on the actual holiday. Enjoy!
Before you throw out your Christmas tree, grab your saw, cut off a few tree cookies from the stump and sand them down. You can do a fun mini lesson on dendrochronology! Check out this lesson on tree rings and tree cores.
Check out this "Case of the Christmas Cookie" mystery lab from The Science Spot. This lab is fun for middle school students- they test mystery powders to help Mrs. Claus save Christmas. You can download the lab here.
Did you know poinsettia leaves can make great pH indicators similar to red cabbage? Check out these lab directions from Flinn on how to turn this Christmas plant into a pH lab. You can download the lab here.
If you live where it snows in December, this lab looks fun! (Disclaimer: I've never tried it since I live in AZ, so if you try it let me know how it goes in the comments, I'd love to hear!) Have your students preserve a snowflake and look at them under the microscope. You can find the lab directions here.
An oldie but goodie! Make borax crystal ornaments to hang on your tree. This set of directions also has you add glow in the dark paint so your ornaments glow at night. Check out the procedures here.
Want to throw in a little science literacy before Christmas break? Check out this free article on Christmas trees from my friend over at Biology Roots. You can download it here.
The past few years at my school we have done a door decorating contest. I wanted to do a science themed door so we made a "chemis-tree" with elements from the periodic table. It turned out great (yes we went a little overboard) and the students had fun putting it together. You can download element squares here.
While you are decorating your door, check out these cool scientist snowflakes from the Franklin Institute! We tried the Einstein one and it was hard to make look good, but the flask one was pretty easy. You can download the templates here.
Raid the chemistry stock room and do a cool copper and silver nitrate Christmas tree demo. You can see the YouTube version here or do a small scale microscope version of this lab here.
Do you have a string of Christmas lights that don't work well? Chances are most of the bulbs are still good. Grab some wire cutters, cut apart the bulbs, and turn it into a series and parallel circuit lab. You can find lab directions here.
This last link isn't an activity, but if you like to send home a small gift with your students for the holidays, check out these cute hot chocolate molecule gift tags from my friend over at Nitty Gritty Science. Adorable! You can download them for free here.
I hope you have a great holiday season! Make sure to check out the holiday category on my blog and see what other science activities I have for other holidays throughout the year!
Looking for some fresh and fun ideas for Halloween this year? This Spooky Science product bundle from Educational Innovations will have you covered! Your class will have a blast with products included in this bundle, and you can teach them some science at the same time!
Here's what's included:
1L of Slime- Have your students learn about polymers while they make some slime! You can also discuss properties of substances before and after a chemical reaction has occurred and have students make qualitative observations as they get their hands dirty.
800 Gooey Eyeball Spheres- These eyeball spheres have so many fun uses! After soaking the small spheres in water, they will expand to over 3cm long. Have students take both quantitative and qualitative data before and after the spheres expand- great measurement practice! You can also use these spheres to germinate plants for students to observe root growth. If you are gentle with them, they can be dried out and re-used.
100 Sheets of Goldenrod Paper- This golden paper is treated with a pH indicator so when it is exposed to a base you will see it change from yellow to blood red. Put a little ammonia (or another base) on your hand, touch the paper, scream you are bleeding, and watch the priceless look on your students faces! After their hearts have slowed, discuss pH and see if they can figure out how to turn the paper back to yellow.
A Dozen Glow Light Sticks- Glow sticks are always a fan favorite. You can use these glow sticks to teach conservation of matter before and after a chemical reaction. Another fun idea is to have students put one glow stick in hot water and another glow stick in ice water and observe the effect of temperature on the rate of chemical reactions.
Two Bug Lollipops- Teach entomology or forensics? Even if you don't, bug lollipops are a creepy crawly hit! You can use these two lollipops as student prizes and have your students eat some healthy bug protein.
Jello Brain Mold- Anatomy teachers will love this brain mold! Students can review parts of the brain and you can even have them dissect it into slices. It's great practice before getting out preserved specimens and having them do the real deal.
Would you love to win this product bundle for FREE!? Head over to my instagram account and see how to enter! Hurry, the giveaway only runs from 11/13 - 11/17!
*This blog post is sponsored in part by Educational Innovations
Every year, we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. If you have some flexibility in your curriculum, it is great to take a day or two and do some fun Earth Day activities. If you already teach science, it is really easy to pick a topic that should fit into your curriculum. I've compiled a list of activities, projects, articles, and movies you can use this month. Find one or two that catch your eye and have fun!
LABS and ACTIVITIES
Carbon Footprint Calculator- Have students calculate their carbon footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org. If you would like a worksheet to accompany the activity, click here.
Quadrat Biodiversity Survey- Go outside and have students complete a biodiversity survey. You can mark off quadrats with string, meter sticks, or even borrow hula hoops from the PE teacher. Here is a worksheet you can use for this activity.
Air Quality Lab- How clean is the air you are breathing? Use this simple 2 day lab to look at particulate matter in the air. (Microscopes required).
Learn About Acid Rain- If you are lucky enough to have rain during April, collect some of that rain water! Have your students compare the pH of tap water, bottled water, and rain water. They will be shocked how low the pH of rainwater is (It is generally around 5.6)!
Build A Water Filter- Millions of people around the world don't have access to clean drinking water. Challenge your students to build a water filter with every day resources. Here is a free lesson to get you started from NASA.
Urban heat islands- Here in Phoenix, we have a major urban heat island problem. If you live in a large city, chances are you do too. Teach students about urban heat islands, and have them go outside and record temperatures of different materials on your school campus. Here is a lab worksheet you can use.
Build a Solar Cooker- If it is warm enough where you live, solar cookers are really fun to make! I let students use whatever materials they want. I've had them bring in shoe boxes, pizza boxes, and even pringles cans. Cook up some smores and have a gooey treat.
Can it be recycled? Try this card sorting activity where students sort objects based on how and if they can be recycled. You can find it here.
Want to try a virtual recycling activity? Check out this interactive.
Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup- This lesson from National Geographic is really engaging! Students use vegetable oil, water, soap, food coloring, and other inexpensive materials to simulate an oil spill and analyze the best way to clean it up. You can check it out here.
Research a National Park- Have students do some research on a national park and add it to an interactive bulletin board. You can find a template here.
How Much Waste? Have your students see how much trash they produce by having them carry their trash around for a day. Give each students a grocery bag and the next day in class they can weigh their bags and analyze what percent is food waste vs recyclables etc. You may get some groans, but it is a very eye opening experience for them!
Bioblitz- A bioblitz is a citizen science biodiversity study hosted by National Geographic. You can learn more about it here.
Plan a Fundraiser- Have your students plan a school fundraiser for an organization such as Water Is Life or One Tree Planted. Even small donations go a long way!
Neighborhood Clean Up- Have students organize a neighborhood or park clean up near your school. It is also a great way to earn some community service hours they may need for classes or clubs!
Virtual Field Trip- Don't have the funding to take your students on a field trip? Try a virtual one instead! Many sites such as Discovery have cool virtual experiences for students to see things that they wouldn't normally have an opportunity to see. Here is a list of more options.
Plant a Tree on Campus- I know this sounds cliche, but honestly when I've done it in the past students really enjoy it and never forget it. I've had students that graduated come back and check on their tree. Call around to a few local nurseries, and they will often donate a tree for free to a school, or you can do a small fundraiser on campus to raise money for one. You can also check out this freebie that has students measure the worth of one tree.
Make an Infographic- Assign your students an Earth Day related topic (water pollution, renewable resources, recycling, etc) and ask them to do research and make you an infographic. Piktochart is a great and free website you can use to make info graphics. If you would like some worksheets to help guide students through the infographic making process, click here.
A Long Walk to Water- If you run a book club at your school or your library has multiple copies of this book, you might want to give it a try. It is a really quick read about kids in Sudan who struggle with having potable water.
Pacific Garbage Patch- Have your students heard of the Pacific garbage patch? Find an article on it (such as this one on newsela) and have students read about pollution in our oceans. Have them brainstorm ways to fix this problem.
MOVIES & DOCUMENTARIES
Below is a list of documentaries and movies that are related to sustainability, conservation, and climate change on our planet. Preview before showing to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
Story of Stuff- This Youtube channel tracks consumer products from production to landfill. Choose a product you think your students might be interested in.
The Lorax- The original is available on Youtube.
Chasing Coral- available on Netflix.
Before the Flood- available on Netflix.
One Strange Rock- available on Netflix.
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind- available on Netflix
No Impact Man
Kiss the Ground
It's almost Valentine's Day! When you teach teens, it can be hard to fight the candy and hormones.... so how about embracing the holiday instead of fighting it? I've compiled a list of Valentine themed activities you can do this year.
MIDDLE SCHOOL IDEAS
1. Make borax crystal hearts! Borax and pipe cleaners are super cheap and students love watching the crystals grow. You can find directions on Steve Spangler's site here.
2. What is the most genuine present you can give your Valentine? Your own DNA of course! Do a DNA extraction of cheek cells, put the DNA into a microcentrifuge tube, and allow students to take their DNA home or give it to their Valentine. Need directions? Check here.
3. If you teach about plants, make some red and pink color changing flowers! This experiment takes a few days, but students enjoy coming in each day to watch the petals change color. You can find directions for this lab here. A few tips: Don't spend a lot of money- look for discounted carnations that are a week old. Also, I've found that leaving the flowers out of water overnight so the stems are nice and dry helps, because when you put them in the colored water they will be nice and thirsty and absorb the water faster.
4. This fun "secret message" demo uses a pH indicator to reveal whatever secret message you want your students to see. Have a hidden note revealed from their secret valentine! It's available free from Nitty Gritty Science and can be downloaded here.
HIGH SCHOOL IDEAS
5. If you are teaching genetics, this speed dating activity is a blast! I put up lights around my classroom and moved the desks in long rows so students face each other. Each student gets assigned a different monster and they rotate around the room on different dates, completing punnett squares with each date. At the end of the 3 dates they pick a monster they would like to go on a second date with. Its a valentine's day they won't forget! You can find the lesson here. Don't teach genetics? Check out this blog post with other versions here.
6. If you teach biology and classification, have students create a dichotomous key using candy hearts. They can classify traits such as color or number of letters on each heart. They are really inexpensive to buy and students can eat them at the end!
7. Your students are probably a little young to have match.com accounts, but they are still familiar with dating websites. In this activity, have students create a dating profile for a famous scientist. They come up with some creative ideas! You can find the lesson here.
8. Check out this "Vanishing Valentine" activity from Flinn Scientific. It is a great demo if you have covered oxidation-reduction reactions.
9. No matter which grade you teach, these anatomy valentines from Suburban Science are adorable! They have phrases like "I want tibia your valentine" and "urine my heart." Tape a piece of candy on them and your students will definitely feel loved. You can download them for free in her TpT store by clicking here.
I hope you and your students have a fun day!
Be sure to check out other holiday blog posts I have to read about activities you can do throughout the year!
Halloween is coming up, and it is always a fun time to do some science experiments. I always try and find an experiment that fits my content area and ensures students are learning a concept they would have to learn in my class anyway. For example, elephant toothpaste in a jack-o-lantern is fun, but it doesn't have anything to do with biology, so it's a pass for me. (Yes, I'm a bit of a party pooper). However, I've come up with a list of ideas you can do for each content area, so hopefully you can find an experiment that is both engaging, AND tied to your curriculum!
If you teach BIOLOGY
This idea is for my fellow biology teacher friends! It seems like every year the day after Halloween all you do is hear rustling of candy wrappers begin opened during class. It's a battle I've stopped trying to fight. Instead of saying "put away the candy," tell them to get it out! Have students pull out their candy, lay it on their desks, and classify it and make a cladogram. You will have some students that don't bring in candy, so I bring in my leftover candy from home. It's a win-win: students get to learn while eating candy, and I don't eat all the leftovers and save myself some time at the gym!
If you are teaching genetics, another fun biology lab is to do a DNA extraction. I typically use strawberries, but during Halloween try extracting pumpkin DNA instead!
If you teach ASTRONOMY
Glow sticks are readily available at the stores around Halloween or can be purchased on Amazon. They are great for demonstrating chemical reactions. They are also great for teaching the concept that hotter and larger stars shine the brightest. Give students 3 glow sticks, have them place one in a beaker of ice water, one in a beaker of room temperature water, and one in a beaker of hot water. Have them compare the luminosity of the 3 glow sticks over a span of 10-15 minutes.
If you teach CHEMISTRY
Nothing says Halloween like some spooky bubbling potions! One of the best parts of teaching chemistry is getting to play with dry ice! In this lab activity, students explore phase changes and sublimation while comparing the change in mass of dry ice in water vs. regular ice in water. I have students use triple beam balances instead of electronic scales because it is good practice for them to adjust the hanging masses and practice their measurement skills.
If you'd rather not mess with dry ice, have your students measure density of different "potions" instead. Get some different liquids (water, rubbing alcohol, oil, soap, etc) add some food coloring, and have them measure the density of each liquid. Once they are done they can figure out the order of the layers to make a density column.
Want to review states of matter? Make some ooblek "ghost guts!" Mix 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch and have fun getting messy! (Bonus Tip: use tonic water instead of tap water to make it glow in the dark under a black light! Check out this blog post for more glow-in-the-dark experiments!)
If you teach FORENSICS
Analyzing blood spatter is always an easy way to keep students engaged! Check out this quick and easy lab from the science spot where students learn about blood spatter patterns.
Want to include some science literacy? Have students read this article about The Body Farm and how scientists have learned about human decomposition rates.
If you teach PHYSICS
Looking for a STEM challenge that is easy and engaging? Have your students build candy corn catapults! Give students some materials like Popsicle sticks, spoons, rubber bands, and tape, and have them create catapults. Offer prizes for the group that can catapult their candy corn the furthest.
Looking for more of a WOW factor? This activity is always fun and a great way to discuss forces! All you need is a pumpkin and some rubber bands (okay.... a lot of rubber bands). Ask students if you think it is possible for rubber bands to make a pumpkin explode. After discussion of how it could be done, take the students outside and have them start putting rubber bands around the center of the pumpkin. (Tip: be sure to buy a medium sized pumpkin- too small and it won't work and too big the rubber bands won't fit). Continue adding rubber bands until it explodes! If students are helping add the rubber bands, I would advise having them wear goggles.
Lastly, if you just want to re-enforce some scientific method skills (observation and inference, CER, and graphing), check out these fun Halloween themed worksheets!
I hope you have a Spook-tacular Science Halloween!
Earth Day will be here April 22nd and I'd love to send you some prizes for you and your students! Not one but THREE winners will be picked to win these amazing prizes!
Enter below to win these amazing prizes!
The fine print: