Science Teaching 2.0: Resources for Student Engagement on a Budget

Limited resources and budget cuts. The challenges of acquiring the materials needed for the classroom are known all too well by teachers.

“Paying for school supplies has become the norm for teachers in the US. Around 94% of public-school teachers report spending their own money on supplies, a 2018 Department of Education survey found. Teachers reported spending $479 of their own money on average each year, according to the DOE survey” (Akhtar, 2019).

So, what are some ways we can access our student’s prior knowledge, create interest in a topic, and get students excited about learning with limited financial support? In short, how do we ENGAGE our students on a BUDGET?

1. Games, brainbusters, puzzles, riddles, and more!

Engage your student with games, braintbusters, puzzles, riddles, and more to encourage critical-thinking, problem-solving, and observation skills while also learning new science content and vocabulary.

For example, the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) Science Games website has a variety of health and the environment educational games for students of all ages – check it out here:

2. Demonstrations

Demo’s can be done on a budget using household materials and items found at thrift stores, yard sales, etc. You can also go retro and repurpose old items into something new and interesting to your students!

Kesler Science has lots of budget-friendly and engaging demos – like a wine glass pendulum and making snow! Check out these and other demo’s here:

3. Virtual Field Trips and Home Safaris

Take virtual trips to national parks, museums, aquariums, farms, outer space, historical sites, and much more! These virtual experiences will get students excited and curious without having to leave the classroom. Check out a list of possible virtual field trips here:

Real-world applications:

1) Take your students to Yellowstone National Park, virtually! Using the virtual tour, “walk” to Canary Spring at Mammoth Hot Springs. Use this virtual trip to give your students a real-world example of how interactions between mantle convection, Earth’s layers, and water can produce hot springs. Access the virtual field trip here:

2) Take your students to the zoo! The Cincinnati Zoo Home Safaris are a great way to engage students in learning about different types of animals and biomes. Here is one featuring cougars!

4. Simulations and Animations

An excellent resource for free interactive math and science simulations is the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder. According to the website, “PhET sims are based on extensive education research and engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.” You can find over 150 simulations available here:

5. YouTube video clips

YouTube is one of the most readily available and easiest resources to use for finding videos on the topic of interest to engage your students. A few science related YouTube channels for students include:
The Action Lab: Science:

Resources for affordable supplies and activities:

  • Organizations for Teachers: NSTA, AACT/ACS, NESTA, NABT, AAPT, etc. These organization have numerous resources, supplies, and activities to engage your classroom. For example, the NSTA provides a list of freebies for science teachers, see here:
  • Science Organizations (National Geographic, Discovery, NASA, NOAA, USGS, National Park Service, Zoo’s, etc.). For example, check out the National Geographic Education’s Resource Library:
  • Teacher/Education Blogs: There’s lots of teacher and education related blogs that can provide more information on resources, supplies, and activities on a budget:

References: Akhtar, A. (2019). Teachers in the US are spending $500 of their own money on school supplies like crayons and chalk, and now they’re turning to a viral hashtag to ask strangers for help. Business Insider.,according%20to%20the%20DOE%20survey


  1. Hi Lauren! I really appreciated reading your post. I love the ideas of virtual field trips and think they would be such a fun way to engage students and begin a learning cycle. I never knew that Yellowstone provided virtual tours. I think that would be a great way to access a location that, normally, many students throughout the country would be able to experience. I also love the idea of doing brain busters and puzzles to engage students. One aspect that must be considered while presenting students with brain busters/puzzles is how you will present them to the class. Will you focus more on class, group, or individual participation in these activities?

    • Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for reading my post! In a time of school budget cuts and a global pandemic, virtual field trips can be a great way to get students “out of the classroom” in a safe and budget-friendly way. In response to your question on brain busters/puzzle, I envision these activities to be applied in the classroom in various ways. Some lend themselves toward being a team/group activity, while others may be more individual. I also think some can be applied to the class at large in an effort to support broader discussions. I think there should be variety in the ways these activities are implemented, but ultimately, it depends on the specific brain buster, puzzle, etc.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.