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5 Websites to Help You Enhance Your Science Curriculum

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 25, 2014 11:05:07 AM


There’s no doubt about it, the Web is brimming with resources to help teachers enhance their science curriculum. But sorting through the clutter and finding the best websites, can be tedious and time consuming. That’s why I’d like to share five science websites that I personally check on a regular basis.

Some of these sites tackle the “serious” side of science; others may push students to rethink their presuppositions about technology, or simply answer wild and wacky questions they have about science.

5 Websites to Help You Enhance Your Science Curriculum

science curriculumI’d probably file How Stuff Works under the wild-and-wacky umbrella. Ever wonder why octopus blood is blue, how NASCAR got its start, or why men have nipples? No problem, the writers, editors, podcasters, and video hosts of How Stuff Works have the answers.

science curriculumLow-Tech Magazine is a website run by Kris De Decker and Deva Lee, a creative duo who write about often-forgotten knowledge and technologies with the idea that not every problem necessitates a high-tech solution.

On Low-Tech, students will find thought-provoking articles about sustainable energy solutions: How to generate power directly from the water tap; why it makes more sense to heat your clothes and not your home; how to heat cities without fossil fuels; and countless other articles that will pique your students’ interest and enhance your science curriculum.
science curriculum
Science Friday began over two decades ago as a radio show, but since then, they’ve developed into a heck of a lot more. Here, you’ll find award-winning videos and articles covering everything from octopus camouflage to cooking on Mars.

science curriculumNova is the highest rated science series on television; it’s also the most watched documentary series on public television. To supplement their television programming, Nova created a website to host their ever-expanding library of science shows, articles and videos that cover anything from Tsunamis and Sasquatch, to planet hunting and stabilizing vaccines with silk.

science curriculumInstructables is a one-stop shop for any do-it-yourself project you can—and can’t—think of. All of the tutorials on the site are user-created, which gives students the opportunity to not only try building other users’ projects, but also take a shot at helping others build their projects.

Photo credit: Amy Loves Yah / Foter / CC BY


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Tags: STEM careers, STEM curriculum, science teachers, science curriculum, science and engineering education

STEM of the Living Dead: 4 Zombie-Inspired Lesson Plans

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 11, 2014 10:00:00 AM

STEM-1This morning, I came across a collection of four zombie-themed lesson plans that are perfect for living-dead lovers and STEM teachers.

These lessons, which you’ll find on the PBS website, ask students to compare the “normal” brain to a “zombie” brain. While you could use these lessons as “stand-alones,” each one follows an accompanying plot line where the world is fighting a zombie apocalypse and the best and the brightest young people are being trained as neuroscientists. The hope is that, with the proper training, students will be able to cure the zombie epidemic and save the world.

To browse these four lesson plans, click here.




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Tags: STEM, science teachers, science curriculum, science and engineering education, zombie lesson plans

5 Ways Students Can Celebrate Earth Day

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 12, 2014 6:00:00 AM

earth dayOn April 22, communities across the world will celebrate Earth Day. Students can seize this opportunity to raise awareness and educate their parents and friends about the importance of caring not only for the planet, but their local community as well. Here are some high-impact ideas for students to make a difference this Earth Day:

Plant a tree
Leaves trap and filter pollutants; they also provide cooling shade in hot urban environments. Here’s another fun fact: An acre of mature trees can potentially absorb the CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles!

Do you know a neighborhood in need of trees? If you live in the Detroit area like we do, you can help “green” your community by applying for The Greening of Detroit’s Community Tree Planting Program. If you live in another part of the country, visit sites like Arbor Day Now, Trees for the Future, or ForestNation for more information about planting a tree.  

Promote environmental responsibility through your student organization
Your student groups may not yet be environmentally conscious, but we’ve got a simple way to change that:

Encourage your student organizations to hold a tree kit fundraiser! Selling tree planting kits raises awareness, supports environmental efforts at home and around the globe, and raises money for school organizations at the same time. For every tree kit planted, another tree is planted elsewhere. This is made possible through a partnership between The Earth Day Network and ForestNation.

Buy in bulk—or better yet, skip the packaging altogether
Instead of purchasing individual packages, try to buy in bulk. Better yet, support a local organic garden and buy food without packaging. Purchasing fresh food not only decreases packaging, it keeps you healthy and reduces waste. Urban farms reduce carbon emissions by reducing the number of miles food must travel to make it to a grocery store thereby decreasing fuel consumption in the shipping process.

Take part in community spring clean-up efforts
This one is easy, free, and requires little equipment beyond a good pair of gloves. Snow is melting, revealing our long winter’s dirty secrets - trash. It’s everywhere. Go pick it up, even if it’s not yours. Check your community newspaper to find clean-up initiatives in your area.

Take care of your local wildlife
Birds are perfectly capable of building their own nests, so why should we build homes for them? It’s unfortunate, but as a result of deforestation and human development, animals are increasingly losing their homes. Helping birds find a new home is easier than you might think. All you need are a few supplies, most of which you’ll probably have lying around the house. Below you’ll find instructions for building your own birdhouse.

What you’ll need

  • One empty half-gallon cardboard milk carton
  • Scissors
  • Approximately two feet of wire—light enough to bend, strong enough to hold the weight of the birdhouse
  • Two nails and a hammer
  • Dried grass
  • Waterproof packing tape

What you’ll do

  • First, completely open up the top of the carton and wash it with soap
  • Take the scissors and cut a hole about the size of a doorknob in one side of the milk carton, a few inches below the top folds. This is the “door.”
  • On the other side of the carton, make two holes—one above the other with a nail. The top hole should be about 1/3 of the way down from the top. The bottom hole should be 1/3 of the way up from the bottom
  • Now put the wire through the top nail hole, along the inside of the carton and out the bottom hole
  • Make a bed for the birds by putting dried grass inside
  • Close the top of the carton and seal it with tape
  • Find a pole or tree outside that’s not surrounded by other trees, poles, or buildings
  • Bang the nails in with the hammer, about a foot apart, one above the other
  • Hang the birdhouse on the nails by wrapping one end of the wire around one nail, and the other end around the other nail. Make sure it’s good and tight so the carton will stay up!

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Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tags: science teachers, student engagement, earth day

3 Ways Students Can Help Save the Earth

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 3, 2014 3:55:00 PM

Earth DayIn case you forgot, Earth Day is just around the corner! To help you celebrate, we’re sharing three activities from a book we’ve been reading called The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth.

Pack a no-garbage lunch
You may not know it, but lunch trash is the second-largest source of waste in American schools! Every year, Americans discard 380 billion plastic bags and nearly 2.7 billion juice boxes—and just think about all of the other items that we turn into trash every day!

To cut down on waste, try packing a no-garbage lunch. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use a brown paper bag. When you’re done with it, save and reuse for tomorrow’s lunch
  • Even better, pack your lunch in a lunchbox; you can reuse a lunchbox for years!
  • Carry a sandwich or other food in a reusable container
  • Save your zip-lock bags; these can be rinsed and reused
  • Buy snacks in large packages instead of individual ones. Not only do you get more food, you also get less packaging
  • Bring more natural snacks. When you eat apples and bananas, your “packaging” is always biodegradable
  • Bring your milk or juice in a reusable thermos
  • Instead of using paper napkins, bring a cloth napkin

Be a Water-Leak Detective
Even a tiny leak can waste a lot of water. For example, a leak that fills up a coffee cup in 10 minutes will waste 3,000 gallons of water in a year! Cutting down on water waste is not only good for the environment, but it can also be a useful learning activity at school.  

For example, students at the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air, Maryland investigated their school to find leaks; then they analyzed how much water was being wasted by leaky faucets in their school. After crunching some numbers, the students all wrote letters explaining the problem and sent them to the faculty to find solutions.

Here’s a simple way to check toilets for leaks:

  • Take the top off the toilet tank. Now put about 12 drops of red or blue food coloring in the tank
  • Wait about 15 minutes. Guard the toilet so no one uses it while you’re waiting
  • Now look in the toilet. If colored water shows up in the bowl, you’ve found a leak!

Raise awareness about endangered species
When students hear about “endangered species,” many of them think about animals that are thousands of miles and many continents away. Unfortunately, there are many endangered species in our home states. In Michigan, where we live, the northern long-eared bat, the Kirtland’s warbler,  the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and the piping plover are all on the endangered species list—and these are only a few of the species listed! So what can students do about this?

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Tags: science teachers, earth day

Frontiers Brings Professional Neuroscientists and Students Together

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 27, 2013 10:06:00 AM

frontiers for young mindsAs a fledgling student, I always took a shine to writing and science, but the closest I ever came to engaging with professional writers and scientists came through copies of my dad’s National Geographic magazines. The pictures were great, but the articles felt impenetrable.

The thought that I could somehow shape the articles I “read” and interact with the professionals behind them never crossed my mind. If only Frontiers in Neuroscience for Young Minds had been around in those days!

Frontiers is a scholarly, peer-reviewed science journal for kids. Not only have they partnered with some of the brightest neuroscientists in the world, they’ve found a way to bring students—some as young as five years old—into the peer review process.

frontiers for young minds 2

Here’s how it works: Established neuroscientists develop articles based on their research—but before publishing it to Frontiers, they invite criticism from young people so that the article can be made more digestible for a younger audience.

Neuroscientists mentor these Young Review Editors, help them review the manuscript and focus their queries to authors. Once the Young Review Editor offers his/her critique, the original author reworks the article and then passes it on to an Associate Editor at Frontiers for publication. How cool is that?

If your students are interested in becoming a Frontiers Young Minds Reviewer, all they have to do is contact the editorial office ( with a short biography and a letter.

Here are some of the topics Frontiers covers:

·  The Brain and Friends (social neuroscience)
·  The Brain and Fun (emotion)
·  The Brain and Magic (perception, sensation)
·  The Brain and Allowances (neuroeconomics)
·  The Brain and School (attention, decision making)
·  The Brain and Sports (motor control, action)
·  The Brain and Life (memory)
·  The Brain and Talking/Texting (language)
·  The Brain and Growing (neurodevelopment)

To read some of the published articles, click here.


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Tags: writing strategies, writing fluency, writing skills, science teachers, science standards, science curriculum, science and engineering education

STEM of the Living Dead: 3 zombie-themed lesson plans

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 21, 2013 6:00:00 AM

STEMEarlier this week, we shared a zombie-themed writing activity with you and we’re happy to say that there are more zombies where that came from. This morning we came across STEM Behind Hollywood, a cool new resource put together by Texas Instruments.

Here you’ll find three free, Hollywood-inspired math and science activities that model the transmission of a hypothetical zombie contagion.

These activities encourage students to engage with STEM concepts like the exponential growth of a zombie horde and how the growth turns into a characteristic “s” curve from limited resources as the infection begins to spread. Students will learn or review the basic functions of various parts of the human brain and discuss factors dealing with immunity and vaccines.

Unless you can recreate the activities on your own, you’ll need to download the TI-Nspire trial software; the good news is that it’s compatible with iPads and other Texas Instrument hardware like the TI-Nspire.

If you want to take a look at the lesson plan before going through the effort of downloading the software, click here.


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Tags: STEM, STEM careers, science teachers, science standards, math teachers, mathematical concepts, zombie lesson plans, mathematics

Make science experiments hands-on and safe for primary students!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 11, 2012 4:01:00 PM

Marygrove MAT details safe science experiments for teachersActive learning in science labs makes the content come to life! A highly effective science teacher understands that planning hands-on learning experiences for students is a critical part of applying science ideas and building understanding. However, teachers must thoroughly and carefully prepare safe science experiments, to ensure the safety of their students. Establishing classroom safety standards is important at all grade levels but in the primary grades it requires additional consideration. Reviewing guidelines with students and posting them in a visible place in the classroom should be your first order of business.

Sample guidelines for any grade level may include:

  1. Listen to instructions carefully.
  2. Read any written directions twice before beginning.
  3. Use only the materials needed for this experiment.
  4. Follow the directions one step at a time.
  5. Ask for help if you are confused or don't understand.
  6. Tell your teacher immediately if there is a problem or accident.
  7. Clean your work space carefully when you're finished.

Obviously these are general guidelines that may work in a variety of classrooms. Effective science teachers will modify any safety standards to fit classroom needs for primary grades. Modifications may include pictures or symbols for non-readers, role playing to understand guidelines, or safety contracts sent home to be signed by both students and parents.

In addition to guidelines expressly designed for students’ use at all grade levels, it is important for a teacher to follow additional guiding principles for planning safe science experiments in the primary classroom:

  • Choose your materials wisely. Avoiding glass, flames, and possible chemical reactions is crucial.  Primary students are still learning how the world works and may have low impulse control.  Eliminate potentially hazardous materials for optimum safety in the K-5 classroom.
  • Have an emergency plan. No science teacher wants an experiment to end up as a dangerous situation, so planning ahead for all possible scenarios is incredibly important. Practicing and thinking through every possible outcome to ensure an appropriate response will provide peace of mind and increase safety. Role-play some of these possible scenarios with students.
  • Understand student needs. Students come to school with a variety of needs including mobility issues, allergies, and behavioral challenges. Investigating how these needs may affect safe science experiments will impact not only an individual's participation but the safety of the class as a whole.  
  • Increase supervision. Many science experiments could benefit from an extra set of hands to help students. Teachers may also want to find ways to beef up supervision during experiments in the primary classroom. Enlist the help of parent volunteers, older students, or other staff members!

Safety guidelines have been developed by different organizations that promote science education. You can access a variety of these online:
Safety in the Science Classroom (National Science Teachers Association)
Science and Safety: It's Elementary (Council of State Science Supervisors)
Safe Science Series (National Science Education Leadership Association)

Join us for a preview discussion about the Next Generation Science Standards, a FREE webinar for K-12 teachers. Be prepared for what’s to come! Register now!


Tags: safe science experiments, webinar, science teachers, science standards

K-12 science teachers are resourceful, by design.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 26, 2012 10:41:00 AM

Marygrove MAT says K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful.One of the biggest take-aways from our Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) webinar The New Science Teacher” on June 14 was for teachers to be organized and skilled at classroom management. But one of the shrewdest lessons that kept coming through rather steadily was that K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful—and oh-so-clever about getting what they need, when they need it. 

“Nobody is going to tell you that teaching science really is rocket science, basically,” muses Dr. Charles Pearson, Coordinator of the MAT Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program. Teaching the subject of science is complex and challenging. Half the battle is won by taking it upon yourself to get what you need to teach effectively, so that your students will get what they need to learn. Be assertive!

When his urban middle school classroom had no sink for necessary lab work, Dr. Pearson details how he made one out of a couple of five-gallon restaurant buckets that smelled like pickles! It got the job done. One bucket was for waste, and one was for clean water supply. He appointed student helpers to empty and fill the buckets in the custodial closet, and they were no worse for the lack of plumbing.

For low budget ways to complement a lesson, enlist the help of family and friends who are in the know about a related science field to help in the classroom, write a letter to the class, or record a video like this one on acid rain from the UK. The video is low budget, but its educational value is off the charts.

It’s these kinds of things that really separate the newbies from the pros!

If you are doing an earth science unit and there’s no budget for soils and rocks, head to the nearest parking lot. Don’t be shy—just grab what you need. Lumber yards and landscaping supply outlets may give teachers a price break, or even offer free materials, if you ask nicely!

Don’t forget that many expensive chemicals can be purchased as their household equivalents at a fraction of the cost at the drug store. Magnesium sulfate? Try Epsom salts. Oxalic acid? Use a non-chlorine bleach cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend.

Another resourceful science teacher, Haley E. Hart, from Southeastern High School in Detroit, recommends that teachers with limited budgets look into Donors Choose- an online philanthropic website where public school teachers submit proposals for things they need, and donors choose to fund them. For example, a third grade teacher from Toledo, OH is requesting three millipedes for students to learn about decomposition, and the life cycle. Three authentic millipedes for about 20 bucks can make all the difference in the world to her project, and to her students. It’s worth doing.

One last tip that really will separate you from the rest is how you handle guest teachers or substitutes. Subs are naturally hesitant to take on a big, messy lab experiment, and are ill-prepared to step in on an ongoing science project. Take the initiative (and the time) to leave explicit instructions for your guests. It helps if you have a bullet-proof procedure in place that all students are aware of when you are absent, so that they can continue to work seamlessly while you’re away. Even the youngest students can be prepared to help a substitute teacher with procedures and tasks. Students will enjoy the independence as you groom them to take ownership of their classroom and their work.

If you missed these helpful tips, download our webinar, The New Science Teacher here. Stay tuned for more information on our Cutting Edge Science webinar on July 18 that prepares teachers for the Next Generation Science Standards—there’s limited seating—hurry and reserve yours!

Tags: science teachers, new science teachers, science standards, on demand webinar

The New Science Teacher: How to Survive and Thrive!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 9, 2012 5:36:00 AM

The New Science Teacher webinar airs Thursday, June 14!Join us on Thursday, June 14 at 4 p.m. as we prepare you for the trenches in K-8 Science with Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching’s Charles Pearson, Ph.D.

If your new assignment for fall happens to be in science or you’re finding yourself lost in the ever-changing science education standards, this webinar is for you. We’ll give you some practical advice that can help you take a deep breath and dive into an area that is truly fascinating—and fun to teach. All it takes is a little organization and creativity.

It has been a known fact for quite some time that science teachers experience greater job dissatisfaction and are more likely to leave the teaching field compared to other subject area teachers. (Ingersoll, 2000) The reasons are also well known, but there has not been much change for the better in the last decade. New science teachers are still over-taxed and under-supported.  Studies show that when experienced or even retired teachers can mentor and guide new teachers, the results are positive.  

Dr. Charles (Chuck) Pearson is no stranger to the classroom. His 30-plus years in education include a nine-year stint as a principal, and almost two decades in the K-8 classroom. As a former middle school science teacher, Dr. Pearson knows all the angles to get students energized and interested in science studies.

He is joined by colleague Haley Hart, a second-year science teacher who established a successful extracurricular science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) club for students at Southeastern High School in Detroit.

Do you have the skill set to be an effective science teacher? Dr. Pearson says every teacher does, it’s just a matter of capitalizing on your strengths. He’ll walk you through some fundamental ways to ensure that you’re giving all you can to your students, and getting the support you need to deliver confident, competent science instruction.

We'll show you how:

  • Networking with colleagues is critical to your success
  • Setting up a management system for materials is imperative for organization and safety
  • Preparing a file for substitute teachers is important to keep quality science instruction in play

You'll learn how to be effective with the most limited resources:

  • Make your own "sink" if your classroom doesn't have one
  • Bring in authentic materials from your yard if budgets are tight

Register for our 30-minute Marygrove MAT webinar The New Science Teacher: Tips and Tricks to Thrive in the Classroom now! Seating is limited, so don’t miss out!

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Dr. Charles (Chuck) Pearson is the Coordinator for the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Program. Retired from K-12 in 2011, Dr. Pearson earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Cognate in K-12 Superintendency from Western Michigan University. He has several publications in K-12 science to his credit, including multiple presentations for the National Science Teachers Association Annual Conferences around the country. He is a Field Mentor to eight school leadership teams in urban K-12 schools in Michigan. 

Haley E. Hart is a second year chemistry teacher at Detroit Public Schools Southeastern High School.  She is a member of the teaching corps of Teach For America and is pursuing her State of Michigan Teacher Certification from the University of Michigan. She earned her B.A. in biology from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.



Tags: webinar, science teachers, new science teachers, science standards

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