I was on the #scitlap (Science Teach Like a Pirate) Twitter chat last night, and a comment came up about breaking down the four walls of the classroom to engage and connect students with the real world. People were sharing their ideas and experiences, and I thought back to a meeting I attended in the fall at our local high school. We observed a pre-calculus class as it participated in a video conference using a program called Nepris. The presenter was a young mechanical engineer who gave examples of how various pre-calculus and trigonometry principals were used to create and analyze blueprints. Using real plans on the screen, he walked the students through a set of actual calculations he had to complete. In addition to the technical lesson, he also talked about his high school and college experiences, his work history, and even the perks of working for his company. Student were able to text questions into the Nepris system, and the presenter was able to see and answer them in real-time.
Nepris is a non-profit organization local to me in North Texas, and their goal is engage students in STEM subjects at all levels. They have opened up their free dashboard to allow teachers to submit session requests based on their curricular needs. When an industry expert responds to a request, he/she is connected with the teacher so that they can communicate to plan and set goals for the session together. If you are short on time and can’t wait for someone to sign up for a personalized live session, teachers can also browse recorded sessions to find something that matches your needs.
I really liked how the presentation had technical/instructional components, as well as opportunities for students to learn about the presenter as a person. These students were mostly 10th graders, so they were interested in hearing about how he chose the right college and major, and if he was able to get a job when he graduated. The program is fairly new, so I’m sure that things will be changing and growing in the near future. But Nepris is definitely something that I would love to include regularly in my Science classroom.
What Causes the Phases of the Moon Lesson Page
So I’ve been a fan of TED videos and the TED Radio Hour on NPR for both personal and teaching use, but I can’t believe I hadn’t explored the full lessons available on TEDEd before. We just finished studying the phases of the moon in my 8th Grade Science class, but I know this is a topic that many of my students struggle with. I am always looking for more lessons and different ways to address the topic, so I was excited when I found a link for this video on Twitter. When I got to the page, I was surprised to find that there was a whole “flipped” format lesson to go along with it, including assessment questions, supporting reading materials, and an open-discussion question. The format would be great to assign to students as an independent flipped lesson through something like Edmodo, but I could also see a teacher very easily using the materials in a whole class activity with face-to-face discussions, too. I love how it is a small chunk of information presented and assessed in a variety of ways – perfect for differentiated instruction in a junior high classroom!
There are hundreds of lessons organized by content area, and you can even see how many times they have been viewed or used by other people. Obviously, I am particularly excited to share that there are over 5 pages of videos for Science alone, but there are also interesting and engaging resources for math, literature, social studies, health, and psychology, among other topics.
Since the videos are short (usually 6 minutes or less) and the material is well organized, it would be easy to incorporate one of them as a warm-up or hook as you are starting a new lesson. Let me know if you find one that works for your class!
The Concord Consortium – Middle Grade Resources
Like the PHeT simulations I mentioned last week, the Concord Consortium has all kinds of virtual labs and simulations perfect for the middle school Science classroom. They put a big emphasis in STEM education, so there are also lessons and activities for math and engineering, as well. I am making sure to bookmark simulations on Earthquake prediction and graphing motion for future use in my 8th grade classroom this year.
PhET Interactive Simulations
The University of Colorado Boulder continues to update the interactive science simulations on the PhET website. These free sims are excellent ways to expose students to often complicated topics in new ways. The site was originally designed to deliver physics simulations and virtual labs, but they now offer all kinds of tools for chemistry, biology, graphing, and other math/science topics. I recently discovered the teacher resources, that include lesson plans, handouts, and assessments that help teachers better integrate these simulations into their classrooms in a meaningful way. Users can upload their own activities or documents, and as they are reviewed, the best ones are given “gold star”, high quality status.
This site is described as a free, online social studies course for secondary students. Although social studies is mentioned initially, I found a great deal of connections and lessons that specifically match my 8th Grade Science standards, including life cycle of stars, relationships between ecosystems and living organisms, and basic chemistry. I love that it works to answer big questions about the universe and major developments that have occurred throughout its history.
The Big History site is extremely well organized, and includes all kinds of resources for teachers. There are PDF documents, lessons, notes, quizzes, and explanations on how units might be used complete or as parts added into an existing curriculum. There are also a few extremely detailed PBLs (Project-Based Learning Assignments) in the Buck institute format. The PBL documents even have day-to-day guides and very helpful tips for implementation.
Teachers must sign up for an account, but it is completely free and I received my confirmation email immediately. I think that the resources available on Big History would be great for Pre-AP level Science and Social Studies at the middle school and high-school level.
Crash Course – US History
Crash Course is a YouTube channel that takes major courses like US History, Biology, and Chemistry and breaks them down into 10-15 minute episodes on key topics. The videos are quick-paced explanations by narrators John and Hank Green and include graphics, important quotes, and plenty of sarcastic comments and jokes. Some of the content might be beyond the middle school level, but I know that I found some segments within the episodes that might be good for introduction or review of a key topic. I linked above to US History, but there are also currently crash courses in World History, Literature, Biology, Chemistry, and Ecology.