Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Science is Fun - Ideas and Resources for Hands-on Science Lessons

Conducting lab experiments was my favorite part of every science class that I had in middle school and high school. There was something about the hands-on aspect of science labs that always got me excited about learning. I'm sure many of you felt the same way and that your students feel that way now. Here are some places to find ideas and resources for conducting hands-on science lessons.

Scifun.org, written by a University of Wisconsin chemistry professor, features twenty-five fun and safe science experiments that can be performed with household items. The experiments introduce students to basic chemistry concepts through fun, hands-on activity. The experiments on Science is Fun are probably most appropriate for use with students in the fourth through ninth grade. In addition to providing detailed directions for conducting each experiment, Science is Fun provides an explanation of the chemistry at work in each experiment. Complementing the experiments are easy-to-understand explanations of many chemicals and elements on the periodic table. 

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a great selection of hands-on activities that teachers can use offline in their classrooms. There are activities for twelve topics. Activities for every grade level from pre-K through high school and beyond can be found on the website. To find an activity for your classroom select your grade level then select the topic(s) you want your students to learn about through hands-on activities. A couple of the activities that I liked when I was browsing the catalog were making and flying helicopters and making recycled paper. All of the activities on the site include the standards addressed, the materials needed, and directions for carrying out the activity for the first time.

Discover Your World is a free 158 page activity book from NOAA. The book is available as to download as a complete package in one PDF or you can download it in three separate sections. The sections are titled Explore the EarthUnderstand the Earth, and Protect the Earth. In total the book has 43 activities appropriate for most K-12 classrooms but the majority of the activities seem to be most appropriate for grades four through eight. The activities in Discover Your World are hands-on activities designed to help students learn about topics in meteorology and climatology. A few of the activities that I like include reading nautical charts, building a barometer, and being a weather reporter.

This post would not be complete without including my favorite hands-on science lesson, Squishy CircuitsSquishy Circuits is a project developed at the University of St. Thomas for the purpose of creating tools that students can use to create circuits and explore electronics. Squishy Circuits uses Playdough-like to enable hands-on learning about conducting and insulating currents as well as creating circuits. The Squishy Circuits website provides directions for creating the dough and offers ideas for lessons using the dough. Watch the TED Talk below for an explanation and demonstration of Squishy Circuits.

Chalkup - Distribute & Grade Assignments in Google Drive Without Using Scripts

Chalkup is a neat service that combines the concepts of Google Drive and Edmodo into one slick package. In Chalkup you can create classes to which you distribute announcements and assignments in the message board style that you find in Edmodo. Your students can sign-in to see what you post, reply to your posts, and submit assignments. The best aspect of Chalkup is found in its Google Drive integration.

Through Chalkup you can distribute Google Drive files to your students and they can submit Google Drive files to you. Rather than running a script like Doctopus when you want to distribute an assignment template to your students, you can simply select a file from your Google Drive account and share it through Chalkup. When students submit assignments to you in Chalkup you can comment and draw on their Google Documents as well as give them a numeric grade for their assignments. Watch the video below to see how easy it is to distribute and grade assignments in Chalkup.

The Berlin Airlift, The Marshall Plan, and the Cold War Explained In 25 Miutes

We're getting to the time of the school year in which most high school U.S. History courses and World History courses are studying the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War. (This is also when we start to panic about how much we still have to cover before final exams). If you're at this point in your curriculum, Keith Hughes has a couple of new videos that might want to share with your students. The Berlin Airlift Explained and The Marshall Plan Explained provide five minute overviews of each topic. Both videos are embedded below.

To continue the progression into the Cold War, take a look at Crash Course: Cold War which covers all of the Cold War in thirteen minutes.

None of these videos will replace your actual lessons, but they are good review material to embed into your classroom blog or website.

How the Sun Works

This week I'm heading back to Phoenix to work with Tony Vincent at Grand Canyon University. It is sure to be much warmer there than it is here in Woodstock, Maine. Thinking about the heat of the desert reminded me of a Minute Physics video that provides a short explanation of how the sun works and why it isn't burning out. The video is embedded below.

If the Minute Physics video isn't adequate for your students, take a look at Where Does the Sun Get Its Energy? produced by Veritasium. This video uses a "man on the street" approach to teaching people how the sun works through the use of props. The lesson in this video could easily be reproduced in your classroom.

Applications for Education
Either of these videos could be useful in a flipper classroom setting. If you are thinking about trying the flipped classroom model, consider using one of these tools that allow you to build assessments into your flipped lessons.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Build an Audience for Your Students' Blogs Through QuadBlogging

One of my favorite uses of the Internet in school is blogging. Blogging allows students and teachers to share their ideas with an audience that reaches beyond their local settings. Students get excited when they start to see comments appearing on classroom blogs. The challenge teachers face when starting new blogs is getting enough comments on students' posts to keep them excited about writing blog posts. QuadBlogging can help teachers tackle that challenge.

QuadBlogging is a free service that matches four classrooms together to follow and comment on blog posts. Register your class for QuadBlogging and you will be matched with three other similar classrooms. After being matched, it is up to you and other teachers in your quad to continue the blogging relationship for as long as you would like. Learn more about the QuadBlogging concept in the video below.