Lessons


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* Lessons marked by an asterisk require extra notice to prepare.

  • C02–Chemical Identification

    A single chemical may be able to take on many forms, rendering simple methods of identification such as sight ineffective. Chemists (your students) therefore use a multitude of tests to compare the properties of a sample to known values in order to identify an unknown material.

    C03–Polymers

    This module helps students identify polymers in their surroundings, define relevant terminology, and discover the properties of some plastics and gels. A good grounding in the states of matter is recommended – see our lesson on the States of Matter if your students are not yet familiar.

    C04–Separation of Substances

    After an introduction to elements, compounds & mixtures, common methods & reasons for separating mixtures are discussed. Students then design and implement a multi-step purification process, the effectiveness of which is gauged by calculating the recovered fraction of components.

    C06–Acids & Bases

    The theory of acids and bases is relatively simple—with implications in a variety of fields including chemistry, ecology and biology—yet students of all levels consistently exhibit a poor understanding of its fundamental concepts. This module focuses on chemical strength vs. ion concentration, and formation of salts. The role of indicators is also covered briefly, and several demonstrations of acid/base reactions are presented.

    C07–Nutrient ID

    This activity-based study of nutrients in various foods. Beginning with an explanation of atoms, elements, compounds, and molecules. Then it discusses organic (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids) versus inorganic compounds. The second part of the lecture focuses on carbohydrates (sugar and starch) and proteins which are the main topics of the lab.

    C08–Paper Chromatography

    Students will learn about chromatography in general and use paper chromatography to explore the composition of various inks. We begin with a discussion about chromatography and its various forms and explain how this powerful tool can help distinguish between two or more compounds.

    C09–Soap

    Why do we need soap? How does it work? While answering these questions this lesson can be used to reinforce some aspects of acid/base chemistry, and also to review mixtures and solutions. This “kitchen chemistry” module also helps relate science to everyday experience.

    C10–Distillation

    The purpose of this module is to introduce the process of distillation and demonstrate said process using a simple distillation apparatus. As this is a demonstration, students will not complete a hands-on activity. However, student volunteers should be utilized throughout the entire module as often as possible. For this module, a large amount of time is spent on set-up, which is usually interesting to the students. However, while the distillation is actually proceeding, you may wish to incorporate another activity. Be careful to keep your eye on the progress of the experiment, though!

    C11–States of Matter

    The objective of this module is to introduce/review some of the (more complex) states of matter, and the transitions between them. With some of the worksheets it can also provide exposure to complex charts and graphs.

    C13–Titration *

    This module is designed to give students a practical understanding of titration through quantification of the amount of acetic acid in different types of vinegar. Consider introducing C06 – Acids & Bases first, or using the alternative LS18-Fresh Food.

    C14–Viscosity

    This lesson reviews the concept of fluids and bonding to provide students with an understanding of viscosity. A few brief historical tangents about New England are included, and Newtonian versus non-Newtonian fluids is optionally covered.

    C15–Complex Carbohydrates

    Introduce and review carbohydrates concentrating on complex carbohydrates. Building on concepts taught in Simple Sugars. Touching on the biology of complex carbohydrates as well as the chemistry behind synthetic and naturally occurring carbohydrates.

  • E01–Stress & Strain

    Introduce the important mechanical concepts of stress and strain regarding material strength. Explain strength from a materials science/crystalline solid perspective, and describe material strengthening techniques.

    E02–Rover Restraints

    This module gives students a hands-on, team-oriented introduction to engineering within the context of space exploration. They learn about NASA’s Mars rovers as examples of the challenges engineers face in balancing competing goals, while creating a lander for a mock rover to be tested in an egg drop.

    E03-Introduction to Engineering and Design

    This lesson is a basic introduction to engineering and design using the 8 steps of the Engineering and Design Process.

    E04-Engineering Redesign (with Legos!)

    This lesson focuses on the redesign step of the Engineering and Design Process. Students will begin with a flawed prototype made of Legos that must be redesigned and reconstructed based on certain constraints. The flawed prototype will be presented in SolidWorks, a 3D software program, to introduce students to the concept of design with computers. It is recommended that instructors begin with E03: Introduction to Engineering and Design if students are unfamiliar with the Engineering and Design Process.

    E05 – Simple Machines

    This module introduces the six basic simple machines: the inclined plane, the wedge, the screw, the lever, the wheel and axle and the pulley; the students are then challenged to design and build a Rube Goldberg device to ring a service bell in three steps. After the devices are built, the class will identify the simple machines used in their designs.

    E06 – Saving the Beach

    Students will examine the causes of beach erosion and discuss how erosion affects a beach and its ‘stakeholders’. Students work in small groups to engineer solutions to beach erosion through brainstorming, planning, and designing prototypes for their model beaches.

     

  • ES01–Wondrous Water

    In a series of five or six workstations, water’s properties are explored as they relate to its importance in environmental processes including: heat capacity, solvation and density.

    ES02–Earthquakes

    Study the origin, nature, and effects of earthquakes beginning with a brief discussion of plate tectonics followed by a series of small workstations. The lesson ends with the calculation of an earthquake epicenter, and review of the days findings.

    ES03–Cartographic Projections (& Map Elements)

    Review & expand upon the basics of map literacy. In particular, to familiarize students with different projections so that they can cope with seeing “oddly” formatted maps (as in ES02-Earthquakes), and also recognize that the form of the map may distort or enhance its message.

    ES04–Cartographic Symbology

    This module reviews & expands upon the basics of critical map literacy. The preceding module on projections and elements (ES03) introduces students to concepts regarding the critical reading of maps. This continues the theme with a discussion of how information is portrayed (symbology) in different types of maps and culminates with the examination of potentially misleading maps.

    ES05–Topographic Maps

    This module is intended to help students understand topographic maps, a topic which students traditionally find difficult to grasp and also happens to be tested for on the MCAS. This skill can be useful in outdoor pursuits, and may aid in later understanding of advanced concepts e.g; E&M or multi-variable calculus.

    ES06–SETI

    Discuss the possibility of finding life outside of the planet Earth: how scientists classify life, the probability of finding intelligent life in our galaxy, astronomical scale, where we could look for life in our solar system, what type of life we would look for, and the types of experiments we have performed previously.

    ES07–Celestial Mechanics

    Topics covered relate the Moon’s orbit to eclipses, tides and phases of the moon. An optional exercise mapping the phases of the Moon for a month is recommended before teaching this module. An unrelated topic, the seasons are also covered since students will already be thinking about positions in space.

    ES08–Solar System

    This lesson provides a detailed overview of what makes up our solar system, with an emphasis on scale and non-planetary objects. Students learn about the vastness of local space, and the myriad of “lesser” celestial bodies.

    ES09–Rock cycle

    The three rock types found on Earth (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) are discussed and their specific characteristics are identified. Students will examine and identify rock samples using a dichotomous key.

    ES10–Fossils

    Fossils are fundamental to discovering the earth’s past inhabitants that occupied over its 4.5 billion year history. This module briefly explores the various time periods known to man and instructs school-age children how to both make and excavate fossils like paleontologists.

    ES11–Stars

    This module is designed to present an introduction to what stars are made of, their size, and how they are classified. As such, it works well as a follow-up to SM08-Classification.This lesson is geared towards older (6 – 8th grade) students.

    ES13–Soil Nutrient Cycle

    This module provides a basic understanding of the key nutrients needed for plant growth.

    ES14–Soil Properties

    Earth is not only the name of our planet but also refers to the soil that covers much of our land. Because only 11 percent of the Earth’s surface is suitable for farming, and because of the yearly rise in the world’s population, it is imperative that we know as much as we can about soil in order to maximize our land use. This module will explore both the formation and properties of soil that make it so essential to life.

    ES16–Weather

    This lesson provides an introduction to weather and its key components that influence it. Key components include temperature, humidity, pressure, ocean currents and air currents. The four main types of precipitation are also included in the lesson. This lesson was designed to focus on weather concepts that are introduced in 4th and 5th grade, or for students who have not yet had an introduction to weather.

     

  • LS01–Inheritance & Blood Types

    Students are introduced to some of the basic rules of inheritance. These concepts are reinforced with a discussion of human blood types, and activity in which students type match synthetic blood.

    LS03–Visual Illusions

    In this module, students will learn about human vision and visual illusions. We begin with a discussion about the human eye, its physiology, function, and how we perceive visual illusions.

    LS04–C. Elegans *

    This activity serves as introduction/unifying nexus of myriad scientific concepts including genetics (reproduction) and anatomy (differentiation).

    LS05-Food Webs

    This module teaches the basics of the energy pyramid and food webs. Students learn about the different trophic levels of the energy pyramid and how to identify organisms in food webs at these trophic levels. They then construct a food web model for a simplified Yellowstone ecosystem. This lesson is geared towards younger (4th and 5th) grade students as an introduction to the topic.

    LS07–Eye Dissection

    In this module, students will learn about the general structure and physiology of the mammalian eye, comparative to the human eye. This module can be done alone or combined with the Visual Illusions module. We begin with a discussion about light, the human eye, its physiology and function, and lab safety.

    LS08–Owls!

    We begin with a discussion of adaptations key to owls’ success as predators, and the resulting pellets. Student’s then dissect an owl pellet and learn about the diet of owls and basic physiology of their prey.

    LS09–Cell City

    By competing to construct a model, students learn about its components and their functions. The metaphor of the cell as a city is used to make the information more accessible.

    LS10–Population

    Introduce and review a wide variety of ecological and population-related concepts including carrying capacity and natural fluctuations, namely that population levels are not static but vary over time.

    LS11–Heart Dissection

    After reviewing lab safety, the instructor will provide students with an orientation of the heart’s surface features and identification of key structures and vessels. The basic pathways of blood flow will be outlined and the physiology of heart function will be introduced. Students will complete a dissection of a preserved sheep heart to identify key external and internal structures. Orders for hearts are needed at least 2 weeks before the lesson.

    LS12–Fingerprint

    Students learn about fingerprint analysis beginning with a discussion of what fingerprints are and how they are collected. They will have the opportunity to practice identifying different types and patterns of fingerprints.

    LS13–Electrophoresis

    This lesson provides an exploration in electrophoresis using wet and dry activities. The wet activity is to run an actual gel electrophoresis, which is typically done to separate DNA in a laboratory setting. In this lesson the students will be running food dyes instead of DNA. The dry activities are designed (1) to convey the concept that the gel matrix acts as a molecular sieve, (2) to simulate the methodology used to generate a DNA profile (also known as a DNA fingerprint), and (3) to use a fictitious case study to analyze a DNA profile to solve a crime and/or design a drug therapy. This lesson is geared towards older (6 – 8th grade) students.

    LS14–Mitosis

    This module teaches the basics of mitosis using plant root tips. Students learn to identify cells in the different stages of mitosis, as well as how to use a compound light microscope and (for classes with ample time) prepare a wet-mount slide. This lesson is geared towards older (7th & 8th grade) or advanced students. It is recommended that LS09: Cell City and LS16: DNA is Everywhere are taught prior to this lesson unless students are familiar with the structure and function of cells and of DNA.

    LS15–Intro to Infectious Disease and Epidemiology

    This lesson introduces the study of epidemiology and focuses on the transmission of infectious disease. The importance of disease mapping and methods of preventing infection are emphasized.This lesson is geared towards older (6 – 8th grade) students.

    LS16–DNA is Everywhere

    We begin with a brief overview of DNA’s role in the storage of genetic information, followed by a hands-on activity to extract DNA from food.

    LS18–Fresh food

    Students learn about the relationship between nutrition and fresh/processed foods, then verify this information by measuring the concentration of vitamin C in different forms of orange juice.

    LS19–Sugars

    Introduce and review many different types of sugars including artificial substitutes, covering how sugars are broken down and used by the body.

    LS23–Calories *

    This module introduces the concept of calories, the relationship with food, and diseases related to caloric intake. Students will learn how to measure calories in everyday foods by constructing and using a calorimeter.

    LS24–Food Additives

    This module allows students to become more aware of what they eat and why as we explore a variety of food additives prevalent in the modern diet of processed foods and how they are used.

    LS25–Plants

    This lesson presents a broad introduction to the plant kingdom. Other topics of discussion include photosynthesis and plants’ effects on the weather. The lesson ends with a student investigation and dissection of plant anatomy.

    LS26–Roles of Vitamins *

    The objective of this module is to help students understand the importance of vitamins & minerals in nutrition. The demonstrations will visually show some of the roles that vitamins and minerals play in our bodies.

    LS28–Camouflage & Mimicry

    Camouflage & mimicry are explored as examples of adaptations adopted by plants and animals to increase their chances of survival. Students play a table-top hunting game as desert island castaways to gain appreciation of the problems posed for predators by those adaptations.

    LS29-From Genes to Proteins

    This module is a hands-on simulation of DNA mutations and their effects on protein encoding genes. Students are provided with a normal gene sequence, which they must first transcribe into mRNA and then translate into a protein. Students have opportunities to investigate the effects of three types of mutations (insertion, deletion and substitution) on their gene sequence or to evaluate how differing gene sequences contribute to diversity within a species. This is an advanced DNA module designed for 7th and 8th grade students. Students should have a firm understanding of cells and the structure and roles of DNA prior to this lesson. If students have not been taught these concepts, LS16 DNA is Everywhere and LS09 Cell City should be taught before teaching this lesson.

    LS30–Learning and Memory

    The human brain is highly adaptable. This activity demonstrates how the brain learns to adapt to a new situation. Students divide into small groups and learn to toss beanbags at a target while wearing prism goggles. They then remove the goggles and “unlearn” the task. Students collect data from these experiments and interpret it in the context of connections between neurons (synapses) in the brain being made stronger and weaker during the learning process.

    LS99–Frog Dissection

    Students will get the chance to dissect a frog and observe frog anatomy.

  • P01–Standard Curves

    This module will introduce students to the importance of using standard curves to make predictions in science. A standard curve is a graph that is made from a small set of data points from an experiment. Many people are familiar with a line of best fit drawn through a linear set of data, and this is in fact an example of a standard curve.

    P02–Electricity

    AThis lesson is a basic introduction to electricity and circuits for younger audiences or for audiences with no prior exposure to the topic. Students create a basic circuit, test the conductance of various materials and examine a battery made out of produce. This lesson is geared towards younger (4th – 5th grade) audiences. A better choice for older students would be our lesson on Circuits or Ohm’s Law.

    P03–Blue Skies & Rainbows

    Many people look into the sky and ponder “Why is the sky blue?” Unfortunately, this fascinating question often remains unanswered for students. Science is built upon these kinds of questions. For centuries, investigators have made advancements in science and technology by observing their surroundings and posing similar questions. Therefore, this module serves an intellectual purpose by exploring the characteristics of light, while simultaneously demonstrating the power of observation and experimentation.

    P04–Gravity

    Students learn about the difference between mass and weight while exploring the phenomenon of gravity with demonstrations of inverse-square laws, mass-dependence & the curvature of space.

    P05–Pendulums

    Pendulums have played an important role in the history of technology, and still have many uses in modern society. Students explore the periodic nature of pendulums by testing variations in three parameters of their design to identify the variable(s) which affect the pendulum period.

    P06–Ballistics *

    This activity-based study of projectile motion teaches students fundamental scientific concepts while generating student interest in the sciences. The lesson begins with the definition of a projectile and gives various examples of projectiles. It then discusses specific properties of projectile motion.

    P07–Electrostatics

    Students will learn the fundamentals of electrostatics and its role in everyday life. It is recommended that this module be used during the drier winter months since humidity will interfere with the build-up of sufficient charge.

    P08–Circuits

    Students gain a basic understanding of the nature of electric circuits after constructing common examples, including a “stairway circuit” whose successful completion demonstrates a real grasp of a fundamental law of electronics: electricity can only flow throw a closed circuit (MCAS PS5-6).

    P09–(Electro-)Magnetism

    Introduces a variety of magnetic phenomenon including but not limited to ferromagnetism. Students should have some familiarity with electricity/electrons.

    P10–Sound

    This workstation-based module introduces students to the idea that sound is a form of energy, transmitted as a longitudinal wave that can travel through solids, liquids, and gases. Simple “instruments” constructed at some stations prompt the students to consider how the vibrations are produced and how their frequency (pitch) and amplitude (loudness) can be changed.

    P11–Dimensions

    Students will learn about the three basic dimensions (x, y, & z) and an effort will be made to extend their understanding of higher dimensions. To do this, students will first try to understand the idea of objects with 1, 2, 3, and finally 4 dimensions through a brief retelling of “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.” Although not required, it is recommended that you teach P4 – Gravity first.

    P13–Introduction to Light

    The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the properties of light. At the end of this module, students should be able to identify transparent, translucent, and opaque objects, discuss reflection and refraction of light, and have a better understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    P16–Energy

    This module presents the concept of energy as the ability to do work and familiarizes students with many of the various forms of energy – by direct observation whenever possible. It also introduces the First Law of Thermodynamics (i.e. “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.”). Lecture demonstrations and a series of workstations allow students to observe a variety of conversions of one form of energy to another. This lesson is aimed at a 4th to 6th grade audience or for students who need an introduction to energy.

    P17–Mass, Weight & Density

    The related and often confused concepts of mass, weight and density are discussed with several compelling demonstrations. Students construct boats then calculate and test how much mass they can support before sinking.

    P18-Ohm’s Law

    This lesson is a more advanced version of our lesson on Circuits. Students are assumed to have a thorough understanding of the basics of electricity. Ohm’s Law is discussed in depth and resistors are introduced as useful circuit elements. The use of multiple resistors in a circuit is explored; specifically the effect of using them in series vs. parallel. This lesson is aimed at older (6-8th grade) students. For an introduction to the topic of circuits and electricity, see our lesson on Electricity.

  • SM01–Mystery Tubes

    Observations in science are crucial to the development and sharing of ideas and theories. This hands-on module introduces the scientific method and focuses on the importance of making detailed observations, writing valid hypotheses and developing and building models that support these hypotheses.

    SM02–Repetition, Probability & Statistics 2

    Students’ introduction to “data science” continues with a discussion of measures of central tendency (averages) and exploratory data analysis (quartiles, histograms and box plots). Coverage of how scientists measure certainty is possible (t-Test) with a longer period for older students.

    SM03–Critiquing an Experiment

    This module introduces students to good practices for scientific experiments and presentations, by placing them in the role of “judges” of a (mock) science fair experiment writeup. Students work in groups to identify weaknesses and suggest improvements to the execution and presentation of the experiment. They may also present their findings to their classmates.

    SM04–Mock Science Fair

    This multi-session module serves a gradual low-level introduction to the scientific method through the use of a mock science fair project, “Under what conditions will a bean grow the most?” It is most appropriate for younger audiences where one will subsequently be later conducting a full science fair.

    SM06–Procedural Thinking

    The ability to create and follow clear, ordered plans is useful in many aspects of life. Thinking in steps is necessary to assemble anything from furniture to lasagna. Students will try to replicate the creation of a classmate from written directions.

    SM07–Observation

    Observations in science are crucial to the development and sharing of ideas and theories. This module focuses on the importance of making detailed observations with oft neglected senses of touch, smell, and hearing.

    SM08–Classification

    Various forms of classification are used on a nearly daily basis, as a way to organize scientific observations, describe relationships between things we see, and communicate our understanding of such clearly. Students will be exposed to the logic and pitfalls involved in creating and using classification schemes.

    SM09–Measurement & Estimation

    Students will learn the difference between estimating and measuring. The difference between precision and accuracy will be explained. Class measurements will be plotted to demonstrate the importance of taking multiple measurements. Students will be taught that precision is largely a function of the measurement tool, and accuracy is a function of the user. Advanced students will be introduced to the concept of significant figures. This lesson is aimed at 4th – 6th graders, or students who are not familiar with measurements and estimations.

    SM10–Repetition, Probability & Statistics 1

    Students are introduced to the central limit theorem through a variety of activities (including graphing), in order to emphasize the importance of collecting multiple data points for an experiment. Real world examples of the normal distribution are shown, as well as related mathematical phenomena.