Summer Learning – Part 3

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I want my science classes to be hands-on, and so I am always looking for new ideas that enable students to build and use critical thinking skills. I came across Engineering is Elementary from the Museum of Science in Boston. There are many downloadable free units, but you have to provide some basic information (name, organization, contact information). There are three main areas to explore, The EiE Curriculum (grades 1-5), Engineering Adventures (grades 3-5), and Engineering Everywhere (grades 6-8). Clicking on any one of the banner titles will take you to its related page. The free downloadable units are not visible on each of the three main pages, but clicking on “Curriculum Units” on the top banner will lead you to the unit downloads. Each unit comes with an educator’s guide, a student notebook, and a related video. There are 40 units to explore throughout these three areas of the website, and it looks as if they are developing preschool materials, as well.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the summer.

Summer Learning – Part 1

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I want to spice up my science classes, and so I have been looking for short one-off activities that will inspire creative and critical thinking skills. Today I came across the ‘Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes’. Their mandate is to encourage evolutionary thinking within modern scientific thinking (as paraphrased from their website). What led me there was a portion of a website called ‘Nature of Science Lessons’. On this page you can find activities that will encourage students to think critically while having fun. Full lesson plans are provided along with student handouts. There are quite a few lessons that I am excited to try. If you find any similar resource sites, please send them my way!


Videos in the Classroom…Part 1

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Today I would like to highlight some science YouTube channels that can be incorporated into the classroom.

First, let’s discuss Crash Course. Brothers John and Hank Green began this channel to provide a variety of educational content, with Hank providing most of the science content. You can find playlists for history, geography, literature, and many science topics. I have only watched the science videos. They are not fancy and are mostly comprised of Hank talking for 10-15 minutes, and talking quickly. However, there is something in his mannerism that appeals greatly to me, and I find the content within the videos informative and succinct.

I first came across ASAP Science when I was looking for fun content for teaching the Periodic Table. And it was fun I found. The best thing that I probably did during that unit was introduce The Periodic Table Song, written and sung by one of the channel creators, Mitchell Moffit (the other guru behind this channel is Gregory Brown, and both are Canadian). Although there were many other fun task incorporated into the unit, my students loved the song and most had the first few verses memorized within days, generating excitement for the coming activities within the unit. Their videos are colourful and entertaining. Just be aware that there are some racy topics covered, so you may not want to randomly search through their playlist with students watching.

Next up, Minute Physics by Henry Reich. Don’t let the name fool you, the videos last longer than a minute. Look here for short tutorials on things physics related, as well as other science content. Vidoes are created on a whiteboard, and I always find it mesmerizing to watch content unfold as it is being drawn.

Finally, Veritasium offers videos on science and engineering, showing experiments, demonstrations, and interviews created by Derek Muller. For a neat sample of what he offers, check out the Stringless Yo-Yo! video.

Stay tuned….

Biodiversity and Ecosystems

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I recently came across some interesting biodiversity and ecosystem sites. The first site is called Phylo and it would be interesting to incorporate into a biodiversity unit. The website introduces a crowd sourced biodiversity card game (originally proposed as an alternate to Pokeman), and provides various decks for the same game format. Each deck focuses on different living creatures. You really need to explore it for yourself, I cannot do it justice. 

The second is a site called Wildscreen Arkive, and it would complement either biodiversity or ecosystem units. It appears that the main goal of the site is to archive the diverse life on our planet, and animal searches can be conducted based on conservation status. The education section of this website is also worthwhile, and lessons are organized into different age groups. Lessons are well developed, with presentation notes, teacher notes, and student handouts. 

Happy summer, everyone!

American Chemical Society

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I have been searching for resources  for next year and I came across the American Chemical Society.  I think that I have run across it before, but I never explored it in depth. Well, today I did, and there are some wonderful resources on the education portion of their site.  There you can find goodies for student in elementary and beyond, including science experiments, lesson plans, interactive activities, animations, and everyday applications of chemistry.  There is also a section to explore chemistry, which includes an informative periodic table, chemistry landmarks and history, and links to explanations of the science in movies and the chemistry in everyday products.

Have a great day.


Interesting Resources

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This week I came across two interesting educational resources, the National Stem Centre in the UK and surprisingly, the National Security Agency (who knew?).

I was searching for solubility animations when I came across the National Stem Centre. According to their website, they house  “the UK’s largest collection of STEM and teaching resources”. The e-library is definitely the place to be on that website, where you can search their vast resources by topic, age range, type/format, publisher, or year. If interested, here is the resource I found for solubility (which is actually only a small part of this resource).

The second site was found as I was exploring creative ideas for teaching slope. One of the documents that came up in my search was a pdf from NSA website. I was surprised at the source, and so I went to their main site to see what other type of resources were available. Finding the education section was a bit tricky and wasn’t easily accessible from their main page, but I managed to find the right area. The section is titled “Concept Development Units”, and the right side bar allows you to choose elementary, middle school, or high school. Once on the correct school section, there are a variety of math topics with lesson and unit plans to explore. Here is the resource that I found which uses Geometer’s Sketchpad to help teach slope concepts.

Have a great week.


Rube Goldberg-esque

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Cookie or Cream?

That is the question that Oreo is currently posing to the public. As part of their most recent marketing campaign, they have enlisted engineers, “tinkerers” and roboticists from around the world to design and build machines that separate the cookie part of the oreo from the cream. They are sharing these machines in a series of four episodes. The machines are not quite as extravagant as full Rube Goldberg machines, but I think that the very nature of a machine built to pull apart two sides of a cookie must classify as, at the very least, Rube Goldberg-esque.

Check them out for yourselves.

Episode one

Episode two

Episode three

Episode four

Have a great week.

App Review – The Periodic Table Project

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Most science geeks like me are quite familiar with the iPad app, The Elements: A Visual Exploration. It is a stunning app, and I have not found another Periodic Table app that visually compares. However, I recently came across a Periodic Table app that peeked my interest.

The Periodic Table Project is an app that was developed by the University of Waterloo for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011.  It was a joint project between the Department of Chemistry and the Faculty of Science, where the call went out to chemistry educators worldwide to artistically interpret an element. Each piece of art was accompanied by a description from the artist, which explained its significance. As well, specific data can be found for each element in relation to high school curriculum.

It is a free app, so there is no cost to take a look. Alternately, you can check out the interactive version on the University of Waterloo website.

Have a great week.

The Escalator

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I came across a neat resource from the University of Toronto. As an educator who lives in Toronto and a University of Toronto alumnus, I am surprised that I had never heard of it before. The resource is called The Escalator. It is an outreach site from the University of Toronto, with an emphasis on math and science.

Under the Math tab at the top there are two options: Mathematics and Fields. Click on the Mathematics link and you are taken to the University’s Department of Mathematics page. Here you can find links to math competitions, teacher resources, and other tidbits.

There are two links under the Physics tab. The Physics link takes you to information for the Physics Outreach program and the Physics Olympiad Preparation program for high school students, complete with practice problem sets. The Candac link takes you to the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change, which has a variety of links and information, as well as a teacher resource page. The Chemistry tab also takes you to an access page for the Canadian Chemistry Olympiad for high school students, again complete with practice problem sets. The Engineering tab takes you to a list of robotics competitions and a variety of summer programs for students in grade 5 and up.

Click on Universe under the Astronomy tab, and you are directed to University of Toronto’s public portal. Here you can video chat with astronomers and send them questions, or book a planetarium visit or speaker. There is also a link here to the Transit of Venus. On June 5, 2012 Venus will pass across the sun. This has not happened since 2004 and will not happen again until 2117.  (Alternately, you can read about the Transit of Venus here.)

The resources tab has a few areas to explore, including a link to the teachers’ resource page of the Canadian Mathematical Society, which has its own database of resources to search through. The curriculum link is still being developed, so check back to see its full potential. Currently you can find the link to the Science Rendezvous for Educators site. The Science Rendezvous is what first led me to The Escalator website. It is a one-day science festival, hosted on university campuses, research institutions and community sites across Canada on Saturday, May 12, 2012. The database on the educator page is not yet built, but again, I am curious to see what will be included there.

Have a great week.

Science Interactives

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Interactive sites allow students to practice learned concepts in a fun and engaging way, especially with the increased use of interactive whiteboards and iPads. This week I have chosen to share some of my favourite interactive science websites. If you have a website that I should add to my list, please send it along.

Have a great week.

Phet Interactives

Nova Interactives from PBS

Utah Education Network Interactives

Foss Interactives

Sheppart Software

NASA For Students

Sumanas Inc

Science NetLinks

Jefferson Lab

Cool School

SEED Laboratory

BBC Schools Primary

BBC Schools Secondary


WISC Online Learning Objects

Study Jams

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