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* Lessons marked by an asterisk require extra notice to prepare.
C02–Chemical Identification (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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 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.
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 (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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.
The lesson begins with a review of atoms, elements, and a discussion of organic versus inorganic compounds. Students learn that organic compounds, such as sugars, starches, and proteins, can be identified with the use of chemical indicators, which produce a characteristic color when a particular substance is present. Using these chemical indicators, students test a variety of food samples for the presence of proteins, and simple and complex carbohydrates. Fats (lipids) are identified by their ability to make paper translucent. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-8th grade) students.
C08–Paper Chromatography (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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.
For younger students, this module introduces the three commonly-observed states of matter (solid, liquid, gas), the most commonly-occurring one (plasma, which makes up the stars), and allows them to observe many of the transitions between the different states. For older students, the topic is connected to heat transfer, as they consider how the flow of energy between materials allows the transitions to occur.
Students investigate viscosity by using falling sphere viscometers to examine the speed at which a marble drops through tubes of liquids with varying viscosities. Students hypothesize about how long it will take a metal marble to travel through each fluid and make predictions about how viscous each one is compared to the others. Students use the data they collect to calculate the average speed of the marble as it travels through each liquid and see if their hypotheses were correct. Older students/lengthy classes can complete the mathematical calculations to determine the actual viscosity of each of the liquids tested. For these classes, instructors should consider teaching Physics 19: Friction first.
This lesson introduces the important mechanical concepts of stress and strain regarding material strength. It explains strength from a materials science/crystalline solid perspective, and describes material strengthening techniques. After some linguine strength demos, students explore stress and strain through three stations: polarization in plastics, elasticity vs. plasticity in rubber bands, and work hardening in steel paper clips. This lesson is aimed at older (6th-8th grade) students.
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.
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.
Using the problem of earthquake-resistant building design, this module focuses on steps 5 and 6 of the engineering design process: constructing a prototype and testing the solution(s). Students will be introduced to the problem—damage due to seismic waves—and will build and test different block configurations to determine which model provides the best solution.
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.
This lesson is an introduction to basic plate tectonics. It includes a review of the earth’s internal structure and the formation of continents, oceans, and mountain ranges as a result of plate movement. There will be a discussion of the mechanism of earthquake production as the sudden release of rock under stress. The types of faults will be defined and the correlation of tectonic plate boundaries with earthquake epicenters will be discussed. The students will hypothesize about how actual geologic formations were made and will test their hypotheses using sponge and clay models of faults. This lesson is geared for students in grades 4-6.
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 lesson reviews and expands on the basics of map literacy. In particular, it familiarizes students with topographic maps – a type of map that describes the physical features of an area of land. In the activity, all students will create a 3D model of a landform and then use it to create a 2D topographic map. Lengthy classes and older students (6th-8th) will also use a topographic map to create a 3D model.
Celestial mechanics deals with the movement or motions of celestial objects (objects found in space). In this lesson, students learn about the moon’s orbit around earth, and how the moon progresses through its eight major phases and why Earthlings have only ever seen one side of the moon!
This lesson provides an overview of the objects that make up our solar system, with an emphasis on scale. Students will learn about the vastness of space and will challenge their assumptions about the scale of our Solar System by building their own Solar System model to scale, in order to visualize how it really looks.
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 information about the Earth’s past inhabitants. This module briefly explores the various time periods known to man and provides students the opportunity to excavate fossils from rock and reconstruct and analyze a fossilized skeleton for clues to the type of creature that existed during the late Jurassic period.
This module provides a brief introduction to the basic structure of a main-sequence star, some of the observations that allow astrophysicists to learn about stars, and the use of the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram, a powerful tool based on temperature and brightness data for thousands of stars. The H-R diagram is used in this lesson to determine the age of a star cluster. Stellar evolution may be introduced and discussed if time and student understanding allows. This lesson is geared towards older (6th – 8th grade) students.
This module presents a game that explains how water cycles through different forms and storage types on Earth and in Earth’s atmosphere. Students act as water molecules and move around the room to the different places water is found on Earth. This lesson is geared towards younger (4th & 5th grade) students.
ES13–Soil Nutrient Cycle (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
This module provides a basic understanding of the key nutrients needed for plant growth.
This lesson introduces students to the characteristics and formation of soil. In the hands-on portion of the lesson, students examine the color, texture, and field capacity of soil. The debrief includes a discussion of the importance of soil, and the significance of these properties to the ability of soil to support plant life. This lesson is appropriate for 4th-8th grade students.
This lesson is an introduction to the concept that S- and P-waves travel at different speeds away from the epicenter of an earthquake, and explains how we can take advantage of this fact in order to locate the epicenter. After a brief review of basic earthquake plate tectonics, S- and P-waves will be defined and explained with a demonstration using multiple Slinky toys. Students will then be challenged to locate the epicenter of an earthquake by using data from the timing of S- and P-waves to triangulate on a map. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-8th grade) students.
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.
In this lesson, students will learn about weather patterns, weather symbols, and how to interpret a weather map. They will then use the skills they have learned to highlight the weather on a national weather map and identify pressure systems and weather fronts. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-8th grade) students. Prerequisites: Students should have seen the module ES16 Weather, or have a strong background in weather basics, including air pressure and weather fronts. The introduction for this lesson should serve as a brief review of air masses, pressure systems, and weather fronts so that the weather mapping activity can be the main focus of this lesson.
This is an introductory lesson detailing the components of blood and highlighting the process and importance of blood typing. The lesson starts with an introduction to the cells and fluids making up our blood, followed by a simulated blood typing activity where students work in groups to determine blood types of 4 individuals before they can donate blood to an injured friend, and wraps up with a microscopic examination of human blood smears. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-8th grade) students.
New Lesson Under Construction. Coming Soon!
LS03–Visual Illusions (Lesson currently under construction, updates coming soon!)
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.
n this lesson students are introduced to one of the most simple—yet powerful—model organisms, the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). Students will conduct a very simple controlled experiment to test the preference of C. elegans for different odors. With this chemotaxis test, students will be able to understand the basics of the sense of smell and visualize the nervous system in action. This lesson is intended for older (6th-8th grade) students. Due to the timing constraints of the experiment, this module requires a minimum 60-minute class.
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.
After reviewing lab safety, the instructor briefly introduces the dissection procedure and students work in pairs to explore the anatomy of a preserved sheep eye. We end the lesson with a review of mammalian eye anatomy and the basic mechanics of vision.
The physical and behavioral adaptations that make owls excellent (nocturnal) predators are reviewed. Students then examine an owl pellet and identify the bones found within.
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.
This lesson introduces and reviews 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.
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.
Students learn how fingerprints are formed, the forms friction ridges take and the prints they can leave behind, before investigating the various ways of studying fingerprints. Students will experiment with fingerprint dusting, lifting, inking, and will also practice analyzing prints.
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.
This lesson begins with an introduction to the location and structure of DNA and provides an overview of DNA’s role as the blueprints of life and is followed by an exciting hands-on activity designed to extract DNA from strawberries (or other plant matter).
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.
This stations-based lesson allows students gain an understanding of the cardiovascular system and an appreciation for the importance of physical activity for heart health.
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 begins with a broad overview of the plant kingdom and classifies plants into groups according to the presence/absence of a vascular system, seeds, and flowers/fruits. Topics of discussion include photosynthesis, pollination, and plants effects on the weather. The lesson ends with a student investigation and dissection of plant anatomy.
This lesson provides an opportunity to investigate the processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis in living organisms and will highlight how carbon dioxide and oxygen cycle through a biological system. During the virtual activity, students observe the interaction of a snail and a water plant in a closed environment and use a chemical indicator to determine the presence of carbon dioxide in the environment. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-8th grade) students. A solid understanding of photosynthesis is critical to successfully completing this activity. Classes unfamiliar with the photosynthetic process should complete LS25 Plants prior to this lesson.
New Lesson Under Construction. Coming Soon!
Camouflage & mimicry are explored as examples of adaptations adopted by animals to increase their chances of survival. Students play a tabletop hunting game as desert island castaways to gain appreciation of the problems that camouflage adaptations pose for predators.
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.
This lesson is an introduction to the human nervous system (NS), and focuses on the human brain and its functional units, the neurons. The neuron is the basic working unit of the NS: it is a specialized cell designed to transmit information to other nerve cells. The activity in this lesson allows younger students to explore the structure and function of the brain and neurons through the construction of models. Older (6th-8th grade) students will construct models, as well as learn about nerve cell communication.
This module explores the mechanisms by which biodiversity (genetic variation) is created within populations. It explains the concepts of mutation, gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection, and how these mechanisms work in different ways to create genetic variation in a population. Natural selection is explored further with a few examples from different species and time-scales. In the activity, students will use beads and event cards to simulate how populations change over time, collect data, and plot a graph. This lesson is intended for older (6th-8th grade) students. Students should be familiar with DNA, genes, and heritable traits before this lesson is taught.
LS99–Frog Dissection (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
Students will get the chance to dissect a frog and observe frog anatomy.
This 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.
P04–Gravity (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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.
Students are introduced to pendulums and their periodic motion. They design and execute an experiment to determine whether bob mass, chain length, or displacement angle affects the period of a pendulum. This lesson is appropriate for older (6th-8th grade) students.
This module is a qualitative introduction to projectile motion. Students first independently compare the paths followed by objects simply dropped from a height (that is, having zero horizontal velocity) with those of objects pushed off an elevated surface (with nonzero horizontal velocity). Student observations are used as a segue into an explanation of velocity as a quantity that has both size and direction, and which can be understood in terms of its horizontal and vertical components. The lesson concludes with an activity testing the horizontal range of a projectile as a function of its launch angle. Students will make a graph of the range vs. launch angle and will discover the angle at which a projectile travels the furthest horizontal distance after launching. This lesson is aimed at older (7th-8th grade) students.
P07–Electrostatics (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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.
This lesson is a more advanced version of the P02: Electricity lesson. The basics of electricity are reviewed and circuits with lamps in series vs. parallel are explored in depth.
This lesson introduces electromagnetism both conceptually and practically. Students learn that electric current can produce a magnetic field. Conceptually, students see that a magnetic field is the same thing whether it comes from an electromagnet or an “ordinary” magnet (called a permanent magnet). On the practical side, students build and test their own electromagnets, gaining an experiential understanding of how they work and how to modify the magnetic fields they produce.
P10–Sound (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
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.
This module introduces students to the properties of light. At the end of this module, students should be able to identify transparent, translucent, and opaque objects, discuss absorption, transmission, reflection and refraction of light, and have a better understanding of light waves and the electromagnetic spectrum.
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.
The concepts of density and buoyancy are explained with several compelling demonstrations. Students then construct boats out of aluminum foil. Younger (4th-5th grade) students measure how much mass their boats can support before sinking; older (6th-8th grade) students also calculate the predicted capacity of their boats, and then test them in order to compare their prediction to the actual maximum load.
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.
This lesson provides students with an introduction to the concept of friction and a chance to discover two types of friction. Students explore the differences in frictional forces for different materials through experimentation and compare their results to those of their classmates in order to draw conclusions about the nature of frictional forces. Advanced students or lengthy classes may present their results graphically. This lesson is geared towards older (6th-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.
An introduction to “data science” through a discussion of exploratory data analysis including measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode), as well as histograms, quartiles, and box plots. Coverage of how scientists measure certainty is possible (t-test) with a longer period for older students.
SM03–Critiquing an Experiment (Lesson currently available, updates coming soon!)
Students (peer) review a lab notebook of questionable merit to learn about the design of good experiments, and the scientific method in general. Working in groups they find strengths and flaws in the design, then present these to the class.
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.
This lesson challenges students’ observational skills—one of the most important basic scientific process skills. Students will learn how to distinguish between subjective vs. objective observations and between quantitative vs. qualitative observations. They will test these skills with a mystery object challenge: students will need to observe objects, describe them, and see if their observations allow their peers to correctly guess their object.
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.
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.
Students are introduced to the central limit theorem through a variety of activities, 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. This lesson is intended for older (6th-8th grade) students.
This lesson provides an introduction to technologies used to communicate information. Students will learn about the components of a communication system and some of the machines and devices used in such a system. The activities provide students with an opportunity to both encode and decode English alphabetic characters to the binary number base, which is the system that computers use to communicate information. This lesson is an introductory lesson for students who have no prior experience with the topic, though it is best suited to older (6th-8th grade) students.