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* Lessons marked by an asterisk require extra notice to prepare.
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.
This module helps students: identify polymers in their surroundings, define relevant terminology, and discover the properties of plastics and gels. It is recommended that students have a good grounding in the states of matter i.e; for younger students the topic was recently covered in class, or for older students you include the section about states versus phases.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Students should be familiar with the material covered in C06 – Acids & Bases, and perhaps P12 – Steam Engines. We discuss several factors which affect the rate of reactions: temperature, particle size, concentration of reactants, and pressure or pH.
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.
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.
This lesson is a basic introduction to engineering and design using the 8 steps of the Engineering and Design Process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This module teaches methods for analyzing different hair samples. It begins by discussing what hair is and why it is important. Students are taught the difference between human and animal hair samples. They are also taught how to use a microscope and how to make a wet-mount slide.
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.
This activity serves as introduction/unifying nexus of myriad scientific concepts including genetics (reproduction) and anatomy (differentiation).
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.
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.
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.
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.
We begin with a demonstration showing the basic processes of heart function. It is then followed by a dissection that will allow visual learners to better grasp the lesson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Introduce and review many different types of sugars including artificial substitutes, covering how sugars are broken down and used by the body.
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.
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.
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.
“Science” extends beyond the scope of classroom experiments and textbooks. Curiosity about anything and everything around us, even trees, can lead to greater understanding and appreciation of our world. Students will discuss the importance of trees, be introduced to their anatomy, and learn about adaptations and specific characteristics that will help them identify various species.
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.
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.
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.
Students will get the chance to dissect a frog and observe frog anatomy.
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.
A basic introduction to electricity and circuits for younger audiences without prior exposure. Students create a simple circuit, battery, and test the conductance of various materials.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Introduces a variety of magnetic phenomenon including but not limited to ferromagnetism. Students should have some familiarity with electricity/electrons.
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.
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.
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.
In this module, students will review the concept of mechanical advantage (M.A.), a ratio of input to output effort, and explore the M.A. conferred by many classes of simple machine.: levers, ramps, wheels, pulleys, gears & hydraulics.
This module elaborates upon the basic forms of energy students may be familiar with, and the conversion of energy between different forms. Note: An instructor demonstration with flash paper is included. Also, a possible skin irritant is used in a student activity, but in a manner that avoids contact with skin.
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.
This lesson is a more advanced version of P08: 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. It is highly recommended that the P08: Circuits lesson is taught before this lesson, unless students already have a strong foundation in circuitry and electricity. This lesson is geared towards older (6 – 8th grade) students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This module provides a broad overview of the history and rationale of common measurement systems, tips for estimation and conversion between systems, as well as discussion of important topics such as intrinsic/extrinsic properties, density, and even (6th grade+) to review exponents.
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.