Science Lesson Ideas

Elementary Classrooms

Grade: 3-5
Subject: Science (electricity)
Objective: The student will be able to create a simple circuit with a switch.
Original Post: The $55 Interactive Whiteboard

In my heart, I’ll always be a fourth-grade teacher (4th grade ROCKS!), and one of the main science objectives at that grade level is basic electricity. Students learn how circuits work and, at least in my classroom, they built simple circuits, with switches, to turn on a lightbulb. That’s why the idea of having students build their own infrared pens to use on the Wiimote Whiteboard is so intriguing to me. To buy the parts in bulk for a classroom wouldn’t cost too much (plus, you could always have students work in groups of four), and students could use the pens they built for the remainder of the year in class.

Grade: 3-5
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to illustrate how energy flows through ecosystems.
Original Post: From Trash to Treasure: Three Easy Steps to Convert Corporate Garbage into FREE Classroom PCs

At the beginning of a unit introducing energy in living systems, have students use Dia diagramming software to illustrate how energy is transferred from the sun to plants to animals. Based on their grade level, this diagram can be simple or extremely detailed. At this point, the diagram doesn’t need to be accurate. Students can create the diagram alone, in groups, or even whole-class. Students could print it out for their notes or present it to the class.

The diagram should be a living document. As students proceed through the unit and learn more about the interdependence of organisms, they should edit and add to their diagram as needed. For example, as you learn about different plants and animals throughout the school year, students could add them to their diagram.

The beauty of having the diagram in electronic form, rather than on paper, is that it’s easy to edit and make much, much larger as students learn more. It’s also easier to keep organized, as many student-drawn diagrams will get very messy very quickly.

Grade: K-2
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to observe and explain that different materials have different properties.
Original Post: Make Your Students Mythbusters with Video Lab Reports

Kindergarten teachers are masters at recruiting helpers from upper grades. Several of my fourth-graders used to regularly give up their recess to read to their younger peers. So why not use this partnership for technology projects?

I once partnered fifth-graders with first-graders for podcast creation, and it worked great. This is one way to integrate film-making into lower elementary classes. It’s important to introduce students to technology tools early and give them the opportunity to try to create videos. However, many of them (especially those in Kinder and first grade) will need hand-holding. Teachers rarely have the time, but partnering with an upper elementary class could be the perfect solution. Perhaps a fifth-grade teacher at the same school would be willing to bring an entire class in for an hour. Or you could just have older students volunteer during recess, and rotate your younger kids through a “video center,” where older students are in charge.

Here’s how the interaction could be structured:

  • Using your science content, write out instructions for an experiment and a list of questions for the older students to use.
  • Have them partner with younger kids individually or in small groups.
  • The older kids videotape the younger students as they follow the older kids’ instructions to complete the experiment and record their observations. (For example, testing what materials will float and what materials will sink.)
  • The older students then read the questions to the younger kids and record their responses.
  • The students work together to edit a short video showing what the younger kids did and learned.

Teachers can use these videos later in the year, to see if students’ conclusions change after watching just the experiment. They can also show the videos to parents to explain what and how students are learning in science.

Grade: K-5
Subjects: English Language Arts and Science
Objective: The student will be able to

  • research and report on a topic;
  • understand that different animals live in different places and have body parts that they use for different purposes.

Original Post: Powerpoint Schmowerpoint: Teach kids to create really engaging presentations

At some point in every child’s early elementary years, they do a research report on an animal. Wouldn’t it be great if these kids could express their own personality in these reports and share them with the world?

With blabberize, they can. Students can write a research report on an animal, as always, but, rather than reading the report to the class, they can upload a photo of the animal to blabberize and then make the photo talk. Students can act as the animal and record a first-person narration that includes animal facts.

Grade: K-5
Subject:
Math (or Science)
Objective:
The student will be able to explain and demonstrate how things change over time.
Original Post: Moving Beyond Bar Graphs with Data Visualization

With younger students, I think it’s important that they still create their own charts and graphs by hand. But visualization tools can allow teachers to take students a little further into data analysis.

As a 4th-grade teacher, I always taught a math unit called “Changes Over Time.” As part of the unit, students grew small plants and collected data for graph creation. Students started by each planting their own seed in a small paper cup (or re-used milk carton) filled with soil and labeled with the plant’s name (I had students name their plants).

Every day, students would record the overall height of their plant, the number of leaves, and the date. After about a month, each student would make a simple graph demonstrating how their plant’s height changed over time.

With the Google Motion Chart Gadget, though, I could have taken this lesson a lot farther. Students could have shared their data and then compared how the entire class’s plants grew.

To create a visualization, a teacher could create a Google spreadsheet document and label the columns as follows: The “A” column should be the plants’ or students’ names. The “B” column should list the dates that you recorded data. Then label a column for each of the remaining variables – plant height and number of leaves. Depending on your students’ level and your equipment availability, here are some ideas for how you could create a class-wide data visualization:

  • share the Google spreadsheet, and have students open it individually to add their data
  • project the Google spreadsheet on the board, and call students up to enter their data, one by one (after the first few students, you might want to have the class start working independently on an activity, such as creating their hand-drawn graphs, as students enter their data because it will take a while)
  • project the Google spreadsheet on the board, and have students read their data aloud as the teacher enters the data (again, you may want to have students working independently after the first few students model what to do)
  • have each student (or student group) create their own Google spreadsheet; the teacher creates one as well, and projects it on the board; the teacher enters all students’ data into his/her spreadsheet as a model; and students copy all students’ data into their individual spreadsheets

Once all the data is entered, click insert > gadget > motion chart to create the playable graph that will show students’ named (and colored) dots moving as time passes. You can use the chart to start a conversation about how the variables are connected, how the plants changed over time, and how different students’ plants compared to one another at different times. (When played, students will likely see the visualization as a race, watching their dot overtake or fall behind their classmates’.)

Grade: 3-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to understand and report the details of a specific scientist, animal, element, or concept.
Original Post: Turn Social Networks into Learning Networks with Edmodo

Just like you can assign each student to be a literary character or a historic figure on a social network, you can extend that idea to science. You could assign your students to be famous scientists, scientific principles, or even scientific theories. What would Evolution say to Creationism? If you’re teaching marine biology, you could assign students to be different marine animals. How would they interact with one another if they had personalities, could speak, and could access social networks?

My absolute favorite idea for a science social network, though, was sparked by a video called “Chemical Party.” The video personifies chemical elements and compounds, and it got me thinking, “what would neon post on hydrogen’s wall?” Wouldn’t it be great if your chemistry students were asking this question at home on a Friday night?

Grade: PreK-3
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to design an experiment to test an original question AND will be able to communicate the results.
Original Post: Digital Storytelling for Beginners

Starting in pre-school, students can begin to design and test their own simple science experiments. In your schoolyard, have your students sit around a tree, a garden, or a patch of grass. Give them hand lenses. Have them record what they see and what they wonder in their science notebooks (for pre-literate students, these notes will be illustrations).

After the students have made several observations, go back into class and discuss what they saw and what they wondered about. Write down their “I wonder” questions on sentence strips. In the next lesson, sort the questions into testable and untestable questions (with younger students, you may have to lead the sorting but older kids can begin to sort questions alone). After the sorting, have students choose a testable question to test. For example, “how long will it take a snail to walk across my desk?” or “do all flowers have the same number of petals?”

Allow students to test their questions. During the testing, have students use old, donated cell phones (without SIM cards or service plans) to take photos. When they’re done, have students report what they did and what they learned by creating a Little Bird Tale. They can upload the photos they took, take photos of their illustrations to upload, or create new illustrations using the website. Then, they can record their voice narrating each photo. Older students can add text to accompany their photos.

Grade: 1-6
Subject:
Science and English Language Arts
Objective: The student will be able to communicate the procedure of a science experiment.
Original Post: Timelining for Every Classroom

When I taught 4th grade to mostly English language-learners, it was always difficult to get my students to write out the procedure of a science experiment, even right after they had completed it. We spent a lot of time learning to read and write directions in class, and a timelining tool could have helped with that process.

To start, a teacher can tell students they’re going to do an experiment as a class and record the steps. The teacher can take photos of the students completing each part of the experiment and then display them, out of order, on a projector. The teacher can then ask students to work as a class to organize the images and write step-by-step directions for what the class did in each step.

The teacher can use a simple timelining tool, like TimeToast, to record the students’ directions and can post each step with the corresponding image. Afterwards, students could work alone to complete a similar assignment (older students could create TimeToast timelines, while younger kids could emulate this in their notebooks).

Middle School Classrooms

Grade: 5-8
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to illustrate the transfer of energy through a food web.
Original Post: Powerpoint Schmowerpoint: Teach kids to create really engaging presentations

When I taught fifth-grade science, energy flowcharts, food chains, and food webs were a large part of my class. Students each had their own terrarium or aquarium, and they each created food webs for the living things inside. This became a difficult task because, as we learned more about the things inside our bottle ecosystems, students wanted to add to their food webs. They soon ran out of room.

With Prezi, though, students can create enormous food webs that an audience can view from afar. Then, students can zoom in on each section of the food web and provide more details about the animal or plant represented there. The food webs can be made more interesting with the inclusion of photos and videos (possibly some taken by students).

Grade: 6-8
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will understand the causes and effects of climate change.
Original Post: Harness the Power of Social Networking in Your Classroom, Safely and for FREE

After learning about climate change, post an assignment on your class social network asking students to come up with a project that will help stop the climate crisis. Students can advertise their project idea however they’d like – with videos, glogs, blogs, etc. – but they must post all their advertisements on the social network.

Then, the entire class will vote on which project they’d most like to undertake. As a teacher, you can decide if you want the entire class to take on the project that gets the most votes. Or you can have each student choose a single project, outside of their own, to help with and leave a comment on that post. Then, every student completes their own project, using the other students who signed up as helpers.

Grade: 6-8
Subject:
Science
Objective: The student will be able to communicate the results of an experiment.
Original Post: Moving Beyond Bar Graphs with Data Visualization

Throughout the school year, middle school students complete dozens of lab experiments, and they often collect unique data sets. Once you’re confident that students are able to create their own basic graphs, have them use Many Eyes. Students can type or paste their data directly into the site, assess 20 visualizations to find the one that will best communicate their findings, and create a visualization with two or more variables. Not only will the product help students communicate their findings, it may help them make discoveries about their data that they didn’t recognize earlier.

Grade: 3-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to understand and report the details of a specific scientist, animal, element, or concept.
Original Post: Turn Social Networks into Learning Networks with Edmodo

Just like you can assign each student to be a literary character or a historic figure on a social network, you can extend that idea to science. You could assign your students to be famous scientists, scientific principles, or even scientific theories. What would Evolution say to Creationism? If you’re teaching marine biology, you could assign students to be different marine animals. How would they interact with one another if they had personalities, could speak, and could access social networks?

My absolute favorite idea for a science social network, though, was sparked by a video called “Chemical Party.” The video personifies chemical elements and compounds, and it got me thinking, “what would neon post on hydrogen’s wall?” Wouldn’t it be great if your chemistry students were asking this question at home on a Friday night?

Grade: 5-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to recognize the cumulative nature of scientific evidence AND perform tests, collect data, analyze data and display results.
Original Post: Skype’s New Education Site Connects Classrooms Across the Globe

On Skype in the Classroom, post a request for a partner science class with students of the same age as yours. Depending on your scientific focus, it might be interesting to find a class in a different climate or geographic area (coastal vs. plains). Once you find a class and a teacher that meets your needs, set up a schedule of Skype calls — several in the following weeks or months. Using class lists from both classes, work with your partner teacher to create Skype buddies or groups.

Have students meet their buddies on Skype — these will be their lab partners. Either have the students work together decide on their own science experiment or offer them a guided experiment. Have students communicate with their partners via Skype and each collect their own data for the experiment. Have students use Google docs (or another wiki-like tool) to collaboratively record and analyze data and create a final report or presentation.

High School Classrooms

Grade: 9-12
Subject: Chemistry
Objectives: The student will be able to:

  • explain the periodicity of the periodic table;
  • describe various trends that occur both horizontally and vertically through the table;
  • use the software to manipulate the table and draw conclusions based on their observations.

Original Post: From Trash to Treasure: Three Easy Steps to Convert Corporate Garbage into FREE Classroom PCs

Chemistry students can use Kalzium to explore the periodic table, to investigate chemical equations, to graph elemental data, to visualize molecular structure, and as a reference. Here’s a video showing everything the program can do:

The following lesson was developed by Jim Hutchinson and comes from https://wiki.edubuntu.org/Lessons/Kalzium:

  1. Preface the activity with some discussion of the periodic table. Ideally, students will be somewhat familiar with the structure of atoms, the meaning of atomic weight, atomic number, etc.
  2. When introducing students to new software, it is beneficial to set aside time for students to explore the software on their own prior to beginning the activity. This would be most effective if it was a separate day. This could be an activity in and of itself with students being asked to make two or three “discoveries” and writing about them.
  3. The overall objective of this lesson is for students to use guided discovery to learn about the logic behind the periodic table and the properties of the elements.
  4. Use the attached handout (Open Office version) (MS Word version) as a guide for the lesson. Modify it accordingly if you want to split it over a couple days. Ideally, two shorter sessions may be more profitable than one longer session. Consider adding time for discussion or group collaboration between the two days and at the end.
  5. Conclude with a class discussion in which students share their observations and offer explanations.

Grade: 9-12
Subject: Physics
Objective: The student will be able to explain how Newton’s laws of motion can predict the motion of most objects.
Original Post: Screencasts Turn Students into Digital Teachers

If you haven’t tried out Phun yet, I suggest you download it immediately. It’s a great FREE game where students can build machines that are controlled by the laws of physics (a more advanced version, Algodoo, is $39). Check out one project:

For more, just search “Phun” on YouTube — there are hundreds of examples. With Jing, though, you could take Phun a step farther. As they record their Phun machines, students could explain how the machines work, with specific references to the physics concepts they’ve learned in class. They could annotate over their creations, writing definitions, explanations, and even calculations.

Plus, as a teacher, you could use Phun to demonstrate any number of concepts, like this one:

Grade: 9-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to describe the question, procedure, results, and implications of a science experiment.
Original Post: Make Your Students Mythbusters with Video Lab Reports

  • Show students a clip from a Mythbusters episode.
  • Discuss how the clip is similar to a lab report. Explain to students that they will become Mythbusters in their next lab report.
  • Discuss how to make the videos compelling as well as informative.
  • Read about an experiment that students will complete in their next lab.
  • For homework, have students storyboard a Mythbusters-type video about the lab.
  • During the in-class lab, allow students to record their experiment using a Flip camera or the students’ own cell phones.
  • For homework (or in class, if needed), have students record the remaining scenes on their stroyboard. These should include a creative way to ask the question, discuss predictions, report results, and make real-world connections. (Some students might even choose to use puppets.)
  • Either in class or for homework, have students edit their videos using iMovie (Mac), Movie Maker (Windows), OpenShot (Linux), or Flip software.
  • Use your normal lab report rubric to grade the videos.
  • Have students share their videos on a class Web site or a video-sharing site, like YouTube (once you have parent permission).
  • For homework, require students to watch at least three other student videos and leave unique, in-depth comments.

Grade: 9-12
Subject: Social Studies, Science, English Language Arts, or Art
Objective: The student will be able to communicate the beliefs and motivations of a historical figure, based on research.
Original Post: Harness the Power of Social Networking in Your Classroom, Safely and for FREE

In social studies, students research leaders of countries. In science, they learn about famous scientists. In English language arts, they study remarkable writers. And in art, they learn about artists.

For each of these tasks, teachers can have students choose a specific famous figure. Through research, the students become experts on their subjects. Then, the role playing begins. Using a social networking site, students create profiles in the guise of their subjects. They update their status, leave comments, and post questions that their subject might actually post. (Wouldn’t it be great to post a status update as Emily Dickinson every day for a month? “I’m nobody, who are you?”) They interact with other historical figures – have conversations and debates – in the role of these subjects.

Teachers can create rubrics for this assignment as they see fit – for example, the profile must include the figure’s birthday, childhood details, photo, and beliefs about government. Each student must update their profile at least once a day and must comment on at least three other students’ profiles each day.

Grades can reflect how often a student contributed to the class network, as well as how accurate his/her statements were.

Grade: 3-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to understand and report the details of a specific scientist, animal, element, or concept.
Original Post: Turn Social Networks into Learning Networks with Edmodo

Just like you can assign each student to be a literary character or a historic figure on a social network, you can extend that idea to science. You could assign your students to be famous scientists, scientific principles, or even scientific theories. What would Evolution say to Creationism? If you’re teaching marine biology, you could assign students to be different marine animals. How would they interact with one another if they had personalities, could speak, and could access social networks?

My absolute favorite idea for a science social network, though, was sparked by a video called “Chemical Party.” The video personifies chemical elements and compounds, and it got me thinking, “what would neon post on hydrogen’s wall?” Wouldn’t it be great if your chemistry students were asking this question at home on a Friday night?

Grade: 5-12
Subject: Science
Objective: The student will be able to recognize the cumulative nature of scientific evidence AND perform tests, collect data, analyze data and display results.
Original Post: Skype’s New Education Site Connects Classrooms Across the Globe

On Skype in the Classroom, post a request for a partner science class with students of the same age as yours. Depending on your scientific focus, it might be interesting to find a class in a different climate or geographic area (coastal vs. plains). Once you find a class and a teacher that meets your needs, set up a schedule of Skype calls — several in the following weeks or months. Using class lists from both classes, work with your partner teacher to create Skype buddies or groups.

Have students meet their buddies on Skype — these will be their lab partners. Either have the students work together decide on their own science experiment or offer them a guided experiment. Have students communicate with their partners via Skype and each collect their own data for the experiment. Have students use Google docs (or another wiki-like tool) to collaboratively record and analyze data and create a final report or presentation.

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