ENGAGE Students in Science – On a Budget

Maxwell Wissman

As a prospective science teacher, one of the most important considerations to make when lesson planning is how to get your students excited about content that they may not be naturally interested in. In the 5 E’s Learning Cycle, this is known as the Engage phase. It is crucial to give students background knowledge, spark interest, and create rapport between you and your class. The difficulty with this engagement phase is that it can be pricey, and for many teachers, the cost may be out of their own pocket. To help combat this issue, here are some affordable resources that science teachers may be able to use to begin their classes in an effective manner!

  1. Science Demos Using At Home Material

This website contains instructions for a multitude of science demonstrations that could be applied to a variety of science learning standards. Each demonstration uses common household items that the teacher may already have on hand or could pick up for relatively inexpensive costs at a grocery store. It is important to note that some of the demonstrations may have to be modified to make them relevant for older students, as many are designed for young children.

2. Science Specific Brain Teasers

The link above contains science riddles that can easily be related to certain content standards. This is a quick and free way to engage students in a concept by challenging them to think in a new way. Note that many of the riddles may not be suitable for certain classes due to the level of rigor or focus on the English language as opposed to the actual science content.

3. American Lab Trading

Endocrine News Best Lab Buys 

10 Best Lab Equipment Sources for Teachers 

The above resources are all about finding affordable equipment for student use in the laboratory. The first link is to American Laboratory Trading, which offers many commonly used lab items for up to 50% or even 80% off of standard retail prices if shopping in the used section. The other two links are articles which point out some different resources teachers can use to find affordable lab equipment from both conventional and nonconventional sources.

4. Wing Clips: Science Movie Clips 

This link provides (VERY) short movie clips related to science standards for free. While the length of the clips leaves a bit to be desired, there are a ton of options for content that teachers can explore to pick the most engaging movies and most relevant clips to what they are teaching. This could be a great free way to spark interest in a concept.

5. Phet Simulations

A classic free resource for science teachers, Phet simulations allow students to engage with small molecules, freezing temperatures, and extreme pressure all online and all for no cost. These simulations are colorful and engaging, yet also very educational with many functions that allow many standards to be taught from them. They can be applied to many grade levels and are a must have for science teachers. 

Hopefully some of these resources can be helpful in your own classroom when attempting to get students engaged in science content in an affordable manner. Here are some additional links to social media to give you inspiration!

PBS Video On Budget Science Teaching –

NSTA Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NSTA.FB/


  1. HI Max! I really enjoyed reading your blog post, it is very well organized and the images used are very interesting. We had some similar ideas throughout our posts except for discounted lab equipment. I was not aware of this resource, how did you find it?

  2. Hi Max. I love the resources you posted to help with purchasing equipment. I did not know that any of this existed, but am super stoked to know that resources like this exist. I wonder if you see any ways that resources like this could be better spread to more teachers so that they can take advantage.

    • Melinda, great question. I think by posting resources like these on blogs and social media, as well as including them in publications could be effective ways to get the news out there about these resources. Hopefully this will help a lot of teachers save some money while still being able to run effective labs for their students.

  3. Hi Max! I really liked your Wing Clips resource! I think movies are something students can easily connect on and engage with, so having an affordable and academic related way to use them is great. Do you see yourself using any of these resources in the future?

    • Jack, I can definitely see myself using the wing clips resource. I think connecting science standards to pop culture can be a great way to get students interested in topics they may otherwise find dull. Perhaps I can even incorporate movie questions into assignments for a bit more engagement.

  4. Hey Max! Awesome post. I really was interested in the Phet simulations that you mentioned and totally agree that this online resource would be a great way to get students involved in different science phenomena or concepts. It was fun getting to use these last semester during our field experience as well. We were able to see firsthand how students liked to interact with these simulations, especially to help better their understanding. Are there any specific Phet simulations that you plan on using?

    • Maddie, thanks for the response. One Phet that I really like is actually the one that Mr. Reeve had us work with the students on at the end of field last semester. I thought it did a good job of modeling the atom in an engaging manner that was not too difficult for most students.

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