There are many resources that teachers can use to ENGAGE their students in scientific thinking. In this post I will discuss five affordable resources that are guaranteed to spark curiosity and wonder in your science classrooms!
1. Brain Busters:
Brain Busters are a classroom tool that gets our students’ brains working. They are great to use in the beginning of class to engage our students in a new phenomenon. Brain Busters and other various types of activities such as puzzles and riddles are beneficial in school settings. They help promote divergent thinking and cooperative learning among students. This is because they utilize students’ cognitive skills and help improve their ability to learn, problem solve and overall memory. We as educators are always looking for new engaging ways to encourage our students to think critically and brain busters are an amazing option!
2. PhET Simulations:
If you haven’t heard of PhET simulations then you’re missing out! These are fun, free, interactive, research based math and science simulations. They were developed by the University of Colorado Boulder and there are a large variety of simulations available for free. PhET provides students with an effective educational tool that allows them to interact with and manipulate scientific variables within an online simulation to try and make sense of a new phenomenon! Check out the three links below and engage in science!
- Gene Expression Essentials: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/gene-expression-essentials
- Natural Selection: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/natural-selection
- Balloons & Static Electricity: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/balloons-and-static-electricity
Youtube and other websites that utilize video clips are a great source to incorporate into class instruction. There are so many fun and engaging educational videos at our fingertips. Did I mention FOR FREE! Showing video clips at the beginning of a lesson is a great way to spark interest and questions from students as well as increasing their curiosity about interesting science topics! There are a plethora of educational videos on the internet that can help our students master their understanding of educational topics within the classroom.
4. Virtual Field Trips:
Virtual field trips are a great way to encourage student learning through many means. They may include virtual tours of facilities, live webcams at zoos and aquariums, and a variety of interactive ideas. Students may become particularly engaged through these virtual field trips because they learn about and see places they’ve never been before. If it’s not an option to physically go on a field trip due to lack of funding or another reason, virtual field trips are free and a great way for students to engage with new phenomena! Listed below are a few of many virtual adventures your students wouldn’t want to miss out on!
- Georgia Aquarium live webcam: https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/
- The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/panda-cam
- Solar System Scope: https://www.solarsystemscope.com
Icebreakers are always a fun and engaging way to kick off any class! They are easy to plan, very affordable if not free, and adaptable for all grade levels. There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating an icebreaker that sparks interest and curiosity among students. Some of these possibilities are provided below:
- Fun fact Friday – Did you know that some animals use Earth’s magnetic field for orientation and navigation? How about a cloud that can weigh around a million pounds? Starting the day off by sharing a fun, interesting, whacky, hard to believe fact that encourages class discussion and fosters curiosity about a scientific topic.
- Wisecrack Wednesday – Start the day off with a science related trivia question! Trivia questions are free of charge and are unexpected, quick, engaging ways to kick off class! The trivia question you choose can be related to the phenomena you are going to investigate that day. Trivia is an easy way to spark curiosity among students and provide opportunity for follow up questions after they answer the initial one. For example, a teacher starting a unit on the science of color could begin class by asking students, what color reflects light, and what color absorbs light. If students come up with a correct answer then the teacher can push further by asking more complex questions about the science of color. If students don’t know the answer, they could make predictions based on prior knowledge and by the end of the lesson or unit hopefully they will have uncovered the answer to the initial question among other questions. There are endless ways educators can incorporate science trivia in their classroom.
I absolutely loved your post! The colors and titles made it easy to see the different sections. I love the idea of virtual field trips and now that there are so many free opportunities online they are so easy to find. Are there any specific activities you could recommend to go along with a virtual field trip or simulation?
I think many activities can go along with a virtual field trip. One example could be using a virtual field trip as an introduction into a new class concept (ENGAGE from 5E Learning Cycle). In this case, students could watch a live webcam of animals in a zoo habitat, write down what they notice and other observations. They can then use these observations and prior knowledge to formulate questions they want to use in order to investigate more about what they are watching. This would lead into the next stage of the learning cycle.
Hi Hannah, you always have really aesthetically pleasing posts, I love the colors and fonts you choose, and how you emphasize certain phrases/words. Of course, the content is great as always too, I love that you included phet simulations as a category here, I remember doing these in physics and they were always super helpful in visualizing a concept. I think icebreakers are also a really fun way to engage students, do you have any other examples of some good science-related icebreakers?
There are so many icebreakers that teachers can incorporate into their classrooms. I think doing a stem challenge such as the egg drop or the classic spaghetti and marshmallow tower are great options for science classrooms!
Hi Hannah, I really liked this post and found it informative and interesting! I haven’t heard of PhET simulations before, but I will definitely check them out! I think ice breakers and brain busters are really great ways to transition the class into “science time”, so I think I will use them in my future classroom! What are some strategies you would suggest to keep students engaged during virtual field trips or simulations?
I think a great way to keep students engaged during virtual field trips or simulations is to make sure they have a task that goes along with the video. An example of this could be asking students to record their observations throughout and to construct questions they could pose to find out more about what they are watching/doing.