The National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions reports that American 12th graders ranked near the bottom of 21 nations that participated in the Third International Mathematics and Science Survey (www.nassmc.org). What better way to supplement rigorous classroom instruction, support NCLB initiatives, and offer professional development for teachers in math and elementary science than by harnessing free Web resources?
Descartes' Diver (www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/descartes_diver.html): This inquiry-based, problem-oriented science lesson will help motivate students to think critically about important science concepts like buoyancy, density, pressure, and displacement. Many educators have posted lesson plans focusing on some aspect of these topics. For 8th grade physical science, see Unit 1: Density and Buoyancy, Lesson 5. See also NASA explores Cartesian Divers for grades 5-8.
Probe Sight (http://probesight.concord.org/what/template_section.htm): There's no better way to teach real science than to provide students with authentic investigation tools and data-gathering activities. Scientific probes help K-12 researchers examine and analyze data like real scientists. At this Concord Consortium site, you can find out what probes are and how they work, as well as learn more about the kinds of activities your students do to support classroom instruction.
Bright Idea Field Trip + ScienceWorks Lab (www.aahom.org/classes/ft_s_brightidea.htm): This hands-on science activity from the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum explores light, optics, how light travels, where shadows come from, and the real color of light. General Electric also lights up the desktop with Learn About Light, a collection of articles, activities, and lesson plans on the science, technology, math, and history of light.
Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics, and You (http://microscopy.fsu.edu/optics): Go where no microscope has gone before with these photographs exploring the world of optical microscopy. Articles, resources, timelines, student activities, and interactive Java tutorials focus on a range of topics including solar eclipse, eclipse of the moon, microscope magnification, powers of ten, and optical illusions. There's also a wonderful collection of classroom resources for the inexpensive Intel QX3 microscope.
Science, Magnets, & You (http://education.magnet.fsu.edu/curriculum/smy): Hands-on standards-based science expeditions, explorations, and activities focus on magnets, magnetism, and electricity to provide elementary-age students with a better understanding of the practical uses of magnets. A free PDF download of the Teacher's Guidebook provides help with classroom instruction.
Be sure to visit the MagLab Alpha microsite for all the resources to conduct 20 expeditions on topics such as What is a Magnet?, Magnets and Work, Build a Compass, and Build a Trash Separator.
Whodunnit: A Unit on Mysteries and Forensic Science for Elementary Gifted Students (www.geocities.com/sseagraves/whodunnit.htm): If Sherlock Holmes were alive today, what forensic tools would he use for crime solving? Inquiring students (ranging from mainstream to gifted) in grades 4-6 can learn more about forensic science with suggestions for movies, writing, and art, plus several hands-on activities such as fingerprinting, cheiloscopy (the study of lip prints), handwriting analysis, and chromatography. Students can also learn about careers in forensic science from the College Board at www.collegeboard.
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TryScience (www.tryscience.org): At this portal to interactive online science activities, elementary school students can go on science adventures, try hands-on science experiments both online and offline, explore science concepts online, head out on interactive field trips to several online science centers, and view live images from Webcams at science and technology centers around the globe. Webcam shots include undersea world offerings at the Carnegie Science Center, leaf cutter ants from the Ant Cam at Bristol, and penguins at the Montreal Biodome.
The MadSci Network (www.madsci.org): What began in 1995 as part of Washington University's Young Scientist Program continues today as the "laboratory that never sleeps." It's an interactive Web site dedicated to improving science teaching and community outreach. Staffed and maintained by volunteer scientists and engineers from around the world, the mad scientists at this site provide an Ask-An-Expert service to field questions in 26 subjects. A search feature allows visitors to explore the MadSci archives for answers to questions asked in the past. There's also a MadSci Library with links to science resources on the Web.
American Museum of Natural History Presents Ology (www.ology.amnh.org): Study up! At this American Museum of Natural History Web site, find out about peoples and cultures studied in anthropology, learn about the creepy crawlies that inhabit the world of arachnology, or investigate the slithering and scaly critters that make their home in the world of herpetology. You can work through several online Ology activities and discover interesting facts about Ologists — who are just plain nosy about the natural world.
The Science Explorer: An Exploratorium-At-Home Book (www.exploratorium.edu/science_explorer): San Francisco's Exploratorium museum of science offers science experiments for the classroom or home. One standout experiment is the mold terrarium, a time-based experiment that can be used to teach observation, journaling, and critical thinking skills. Be sure to check for updates on other interesting science offerings.
Inquiry Strategies for Science and Mathematics Learning (www.nwrel.org/msec/images/resources/justgood/05.97.pdf): Download this free publication from the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory to learn more about the value of inquiry-based teaching and learning for science and mathematics instruction. This 37-page publication offers a research-based rationale and suggestions for specific teaching strategies you can use to integrate inquiry-based science activities into the classroom. Other free NWREL science publications can be downloaded in PDF form.
Resources for Science Literacy: Professional Development (www.project2061.org/publications/rsl/online): Project 2061, a long-term American Association for the Advancement of Science initiative to advance literacy in science, mathematics, and technology, offers workshops for teachers, principals, curriculum and materials developers, policy makers, and others. There's also information about trade books and courses for teachers interested in self-guided professional development. A terrific evaluation tool lets you compare Benchmarks for Science Literacy with the benchmarks set by the National Council of the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the National Research Council, in order to better align individual classroom instruction.
Carol S. Holzberg is the educational technology specialist for the Greenfield Public Schools District.