Incorporating Engaging Resources into the Science Classroom

How do you get a classroom of students engaged and curious about the world of science when your school has limited funds that may not allow for field trips, high tech scientific instruments, or an abundance of student geared resources?

In a science classroom, this task can be particularly daunting since so much of modern science is done with expensive equipment and an abundance of supplies. The bad news is that there will probably never be enough money in the budget to purchase a classroom science lab like the one pictured below…The good news is that there are so many inexpensive yet engaging resources to be used by teachers to get students involved, curious, and ready to learn in the science classroom.

5 Engaging Resources for Engage Portion of the Learning Cycle

  1. Classroom Plants and Terrariums- Creating a classroom collection of local plants, soil samples, and insects can assist teachers in the engage portion of the learning cycle for a myriad of scientific concepts. Students can get hands-on experience with life sciences to begin to understand concepts such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration, anatomy of plants and animals, the food chain, the nitrogen cycle, the water cycle, and more! Classroom plants and terrariums may also be useful at the explore and elaborate portions of the learning cycle.
  2. Borax Snowflakes- This would be a great chemistry activity for the holidays in which students can inexpensively grow their own crystals using just borax, water, pipe cleaners, and glass jars! The concepts of crystallization and dissolving can be explained using this simple experiment and students can get creative with their snowflakes!
  3. Burning Rainbows– Using basic household supplies including table salt, potassium chloride, borax, bleach powder, and rubbing alcohol, flames of different colors can be ignited for a mesmerizing and inexpensive display. This would be great as a teacher-led demo for the engage portion of the cycle because the result is beautiful, but requires close attention to safety since open flames are being created.
  4. Hot Ice– This inexpensive experiment makes use of just baking soda and vinegar and can serve as the engage portion to introduce the concepts of supercooling, crystallization, and exothermic/endothermic reaction chemistry.
  5. Invisible Ink- What could be more engaging than having students write secret messages to their friends using invisible ink? Invisible ink can be made with a baking soda solution and messages can be revealed by applying a heat source. This would make a great introduction to solution chemistry properties.

Other Ways to Get your Class Started and Ready to Learn

  1. Science joke of the day- Begin each day with a short joke that pertains to the current unit of study. An example for a unit on light could be “A photon checks into a hotel and is asked if he needs help with his luggage. The photon politely refuses, why? The photon responds ‘I’m travelling light!'”
  2. Speed Science– A jeopardy like warmup to class in which the content from the previous classes is reviewed by a series of quick questions answered by students using buzzers! The first to buzz and get the answer
  3. Element of the Day- Everyday a new element is introduced at the beginning of a chemistry lecture. The students will lead this daily discussion on the uses, practicality, and importance of the element and the teacher will summarize with interesting facts about the element and its importance for daily life.
  4. Ideas from other blogs—


  1. Emilia,
    I loved your idea about classroom plants and terrariums. I think doing something like this creates a sense of engagement from day one. I also like your idea for hot ice! This uses baking soda and vinegar (like in my demo with the fizz inflator), because this demo uses acids and bases, it is really pertinent to real-world applications such as household cleaners, coffee, fertilizers, and so much more. This would give you many options to work with when completing the stages of the learning cycle.

  2. Hi Emilia,
    The specific examples you provided give a real sense of how inexpensive, everyday items can be used to make science interesting for students. The classroom plants/terrariums are a great idea since they can be considered in minilaboratory for students to discover what is happening with the plant/terrarium each day. If teachers wanted to get plants or create a terrarium in their classroom, where might they find supplies on a budget?

  3. Hi Emilia! Did you hear that oxygen and magnesium got together? OMG!

    In all seriousness, I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I think you put forth many different ways that you can engage future students on a budget. I particularly enjoyed your idea of using classroom plants and animals as an engagement activity for your students. Not only would these beings be good to engagement of a lesson plan, but they could also help with engagement of the classroom altogether! Something interesting you could do with the plants for example would be to run tests about sun light exposure, for example, then move into a lesson or unit on photosynthesis. Overall, great ideas and post!

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