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Reminder: Virtual Field Trip to China with NatureWorks Everywhere

The Virtual Field Trip to China is This Week!!

Please don't let this amazing opportunity slip by.  Recently I wrote a detailed blog post about a fun and educational opportunity for your science students. Taking your students on a virtual field trip is the perfect idea for this time of year.  Students are hyper about the holidays, the weather is probably not the best right now, and students will benefit from a fun diversion.

It is not too late to sign up.  Click this link to go to the main sign up page. Registering is quick and easy and FREE!

If you need some help with lesson planning, The Nature Conservancy and NatureWorks Everywhere have everything you need.  Use this link for the Lesson Plan Standards.

Prepare your students! Help your students get the most from this unique experience. In the days before the virtual field trip, use these free resources to teach your students the concepts of deforestation and reforestation, the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases, and climate change. Don't worry!  All of this has been prepared for you.  This video, "Reforestation: Impact on Climate Change" has everything you need to ensure that your students master the concepts.  Be sure to download the free materials and lesson guides you can use along with the video.

This virtual field trip is sure to be a hit with both teachers and students.  I hope to see you there!

Using Poinsettia Leaves as an Acid / Base pH Indicator

Click image to view this resource in my TpT store.

I LOVE this fun holiday activity!

We science teachers know that many plants contain pigments that can be used as pH indicators.  I think we have all created a stink in our homes or labs by boiling red cabbage to use the "juice" as an acid/base indicator!

Did you know that you can do the same with the pigments found in red Poinsettia leaves?

These plants contain anthocyanins, which are water soluble pigments.  These pigments are responsible for the the red, purple, and blue colors seen in flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Anthocyanins respond to changes in pH.  I absolutely love lab activities that use items like this in the lab.  My students are often surprised and excited to discover that household items, such as the Poinsettia or red cabbage, can be used for scientific purposes.  Using the Poinsettia leaves as an acid/base indicator makes for a super fun lab activity around the holidays.

In this lab, the students will use a pigment solution extracted from the leaves of the poinsettia to establish a known pH baseline.  Students will then use this baseline to predict the pH of common household items.

The images below will give you a great idea of all that is involved with this lab. Click on any image below to view this resource in my TpT store.

I hope you find this useful in your science classes.  Enjoy the holiday season!

5 Ways to Encourage Awareness of Global Science Issues in Your Classroom

It's easy and it doesn't take
 much time!

It's time for the Secondary Smorgasbord Blog Hop event for November.  I was super excited when I discovered that the theme for this month is "Creating a Global Classroom."  I have been involved with a few things just this month that are perfect for encouraging a sense of global awareness in the science students we teach.

Is it really so important that we encourage and teach global awareness in our science class?  I think the answer to that is an emphatic YES!  Making students aware of world issues and teaching them to get involved is important, but it doesn't fall naturally into our curriculum, and we have to really make special efforts in our planning to work it into our teaching.  I am just like every other high school science teacher ..... I fell pressure to teach, teach, teach concepts and details because it might be on the end of course test or on the AP exam.  I always feel like I can't spare a minute of teaching time on something that might not be on a standardized test!  (We will save the discussion of standardized testing for another day!)  The bottom line is that we will have to make adjustments and do some creative planning to incorporate other concepts and ideas that fall outside of our curriculum.

So without further ado, here are 5 things you can do in your classroom to increase global awareness.

1.  Start at home.  Students need to get involved with service projects within their own communities.  Nothing brings a deeper awareness and empathy for others than being involved with it on a personal basis.  Here is one activity (free download) that I do during the holiday season.  My "Dichotomous Key to Holiday Giving" is a fun science activity that involves a dichotomous classification key.  The students get a refresher in the concepts of classification, and our local food bank gets stockings filled with treats that they can dispense with their other food items.  Check this blog post for more details.

2.  Start your preparations for Earth Day now!
What??  It's only November and Earth Day is in April!  I know, I know!  But you can't incorporate effective Earth Day activities if you don't start now. The perfect time to begin your teaching and lessons on Earth Day is when you return to the classroom in early January.  Use this free Earth Day PowerPoint to tell your students about Earth Day and why it is important.  Then brainstorm ideas with your class about what you can do.  You might plan to plant some trees, clean up an area of neglected highway, or help your community with some new landscaping at the local park.

3.  Take a virtual field trip with The Nature Conservancy.  Several times a year, you and your science class can go on a live, virtual field trip to an amazing ecological location.  The next one is coming up soon, and you can get the details from a blog post I have just written.  Each field trip includes outstanding video footage and free downloadable lesson plans.  If you can't participate in the live event, all of the field trips have been archived so that you can use them at your convenience.  Check out this link to NatureWorks Everywhere for all the possibilities.
4.  Use a curriculum that teaches about a global science issue.  "Keep Wild Animals Wild" is a program that I have recently thoroughly investigated.  The curriculum is free and is for grades K-8.  The materials are specialized for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8.  Use this link for a detailed description.  Students will learn of the problems facing Earth's fragile ecosystems, habitat destruction, climate change, and the illegal wildlife trade.  These are certainly global issues that students need to be made aware of.

5.  Make use of the many, many online resources that are available that teach about global science issues. Try to devote the first few minutes of your class for a current event article, or show a short video to raise awareness.  Here are links to some of my favorite sites:

Smithsonian Science Education,   PBS Science and Nature,   National Geographic,   Science Illustrated,   Discover Magazine,   BBC Earth, and Scientific American.    

Keep Wild Animals Wild!

Fantastic curricula for multiple grade levels!

We, as science teachers, must do more than just teach science.  We absolutely should teach the important concepts that are appropriate to our subject areas and grade levels.  But doesn't our responsibility go further than that?  Shouldn't we also be charged with giving our students a global awareness of societal and ecological issues?  The students we teach today will be the decision makers of tomorrow.  Let's make sure they have a solid foundation in the ecological and environmental issues that we are currently facing.

Click image to view curriculum.
To that end, I am proud to tell you about an exciting curriculum called "Keep Wild Animals Wild."

The International Fund for Animal Welfare and We Are Teachers have teamed up together to bring lesson plans, printables, teaching guides, and lesson plans that teach our students the importance of preserving wildlife.  The materials have been developed with different age groups in mind.  Teaching lessons are available for grades K- 2,
3 - 5, and 6 - 8.  Each curriculum contains a student magazine, a teaching guide, lesson plans, and an age appropriate video.  I will be focusing on the  grade 6-8 curriculum, but you will find a consolidated list of links to all components of each grade level at the end of this post.

The threats to wildlife and Earth's fragile ecosystems are real.  Many of these threats, if not most, are from human causes.  The "Keep Wild Animals Wild" curriculum focuses on the important ecological concepts of habitat destruction, climate change, the commercial wildlife trade, poaching, and how the extinction of one species can affect the entire ecosystem.

As stated above, each curriculum has several components:  A teaching video, a student magazine, a teaching guide, and lesson plans.  Let's take a look at each component.

First, the teaching video.  This is a 26-minute video, which is the perfect length for middle school students.  The video is packed with fantastic footage of wild animals in their natural habitats.  Students from around the world are included which gives a rich cultural flavor to the video.

Highlights and concepts covered in the video include:

  • Differences between wild and domesticated animals.
  • What happens when wild animals are kept in captivity.
  • The illegal wildlife trade.
  • The effects of logging and habitat destruction.
  • The role of animals in the ecosystem.
  • How the loss of biodiversity effects all populations in an ecosystem.
  • What we can do to protect the animals on Earth.
When this teaching video is used in combination with the printable student magazine, these wildlife and environmental lessons will really come to life!

Click image to download student magazine for grades 6 - 8.

The student magazine is 20 pages in length.  I read it from top to bottom and found it to be entertaining, engaging, colorful, and extremely informative. The magazine is packed with great photos, animal facts, age appropriate vocabulary terms and interesting infographics.  If you are required to demonstrate the teaching of common core standards, this magazine is a great source for informational text readings.  Your students are going to love both the video and the magazine!

And what has been included for the teacher?  Just everything to make your lesson planning stress free!  There are two separate documents to be used by teachers:  A Teaching Guide/Program Overview and a Lesson Plan Guide.

The 18-page Teaching Guide/Program Overview provides just what you need to put together a fantastic unit for your students.

Click image to download Teaching Guide.

Highlights include:

  • An introduction to the curriculum.
  • Rationale for the "Keep Wild Animals Wild" program.
  • Objectives.
  • An overview of the curriculum components for the three different age groups.
  • How to teach sensitive issues.
  • Activities.
  • Pre- and Post-assessments.
  • Worksheets.
  • Answer Keys.

And, finally, this brings us to the Lesson Planning Guide.  This 22-page guide brings you instructional goals, lesson objectives, essential questions, discussion, activities, reflections, and extensions.  Lesson plans are included for 9 separate lessons.

Click image to download the Lesson Plan guide.

Folks, to put it simply ..... These are quality materials.  Your students are going to benefit from these lessons, and you are helping to develop well-rounded science students who will possess the knowledge and skills needed to make important decisions about the environment when they are older.  It's win-win all the way around.

Remember, the links above are for the grade 6-8 materials.  Here are links to all grade levels:

Students ages 5 to 7 (grade K-2) are introduced to the concepts of what makes an animal wild and how people can observe and appreciate wildlife responsibly.
o   Lesson plans
o   Student magazine
o   K-2 Video

Students ages 8 to 10 (grade 3-5) learn about wildlife trade, how it is relevant to them, and how they can take action to help protect wild animals from wildlife trade.
o   Lesson plans
o   Student magazine
o   3-5 video 

Students ages and 11 to 14 (grade 6-8) also learn about wildlife trade and its relevance to their world.
o   Lesson plans
o   Student magazine
o   Classroom poster
o   6-8 video   

Get your students excited about the curriculum by using this great classroom poster.

Click image to download poster.

Many thanks to We Are Teachers and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for providing these valuable resources to our students.  Enjoy!

Let's Take a Virtual Field Trip to China!

Want to hang out in China with The Nature Conservancy and NatureWorks Everywhere?

Then this virtual field trip is for you!  Few things excite me more as a science teacher than teaching my students about how to protect and conserve our natural world.  Education is the key, and it is our responsibility as science teachers to make sure that our students are well educated about ecology and the environment.

I am extremely proud to be teaming up with The Nature Conversancy and NatureWorks Everywhere to bring you news of the 4th upcoming virtual field trip.  I have watched each of the first three virtual field trips and they are truly wonderful experiences that need to be shared in your classrooms.

Students love a field trip!  This special treat is usually reserved for the end of the school year.  But this December 4th, you can give them a live, virtual field trip experience that they will enjoy and remember!

Click image to go to the sign up page.
"Join our expert scientist Yue Wang, a conservation planning officer for The Nature Conservancy, on a virtual field trip across the world to two stunning provinces in China—Sichuan and Yunnan—where we will explore majestic forests, towering mountains, and other iconic landscapes. While examining the role these vital natural areas play in the carbon cycle and climate change, as well as the benefits of reforestation, we will learn about the magnificent creatures who call these habitats home: giant pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys, and the elusive and odd-looking takin.
Exploring these critical areas will help students understand how important all habitats are for both people and animals—no matter where you are in the world. Our journey will demonstrate how scientists work with local communities to protect nature and create new wilderness."
The content of this virtual field trip is aligned with the  Next Generation Science Standards and the National Geography Standards. 

Ready to take the plunge and take your students on this amazing virtual field trip?  

This is what you need to do:

Step 1:  Sign Up!  Click this link to jump to the sign up page.  Sign up is quick, easy, and FREE!

Step 2:  Remember this is a live event!  Put the time and date on your planning calendar and start getting your students prepared for great lessons about our fragile environment.

Step 3:  Prepare yourself!  To aid in your preparation, download a copy of the standards that are being met.  This virtual field trip is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and National Geography Standards.  The downloadable standards page will help in your lesson planning.  Click here to download:  China Virtual Field Trip Standards.

Click to view video.
Step 4:  Prepare your students! Help your students get the most from this unique experience. In the days before the virtual field trip, use these free resources to teach your students the concepts of deforestation and reforestation, the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases, and climate change. Don't worry!  All of this has been prepared for you.  This video, "Reforestation: Impact on Climate Change" has everything you need to ensure that your students master the concepts.

While you are visiting this video link, be sure to download the FREE Climate Change Lesson Plans. The 17-page lesson plan includes lesson overviews, time frames, vocabulary, background for the teacher, activities, self-assessments, extensions, infographics, and evaluations.  This is truly a teacher treasure trove of great lesson plans in an easy-to-use format.  What a gift for the busy teacher!

Step 5:  You should be all ready now!!   Let your students know that on December 4th they are going on a field trip!

PSSSSSSST:  Want to get an idea of the treat you are in for?  Take a look at the 3rd virtual field trip that occurred last May:  The Coral Reefs of Palau: Nature's Amazing Underwater Cities.

Disclosure:  This post has been sponsored through a partnership with WeAreTeachers and NatureWorks Everywhere.

Science Fun this Thanksgiving!

This science-y activity is a perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving in your science classroom.

In the fall of 1621, the members of the Plymouth Colony, along with their Wampanoag friends, celebrated with a feast of Thanksgiving.  For three days all of the participants feasted, played games, sang, danced, and gave thanks for their blessings.  The menu for this first Thanksgiving feast included deer, corn, shellfish, vegetables and roasted meats.  Although the menu has changed a bit over time, we Americans still celebrate a time of Thanksgiving with a very large meal!

Are you looking for an activity to do in your science classes as the holidays approach?  I have just written a new activity that uses a dichotomous classification key to identify the scientific names of the foods that were eaten at the first Thanksgiving celebration.  Students will use their critical thinking and problem solving skills to make observations about the different foods while they navigate the dichotomous key to the correct scientific name.

This is a perfect way to combine science with the observance of a wonderful holiday tradition.  These images will give you a better idea of what is involved in the activity.

You can find this activity in my TpT store by clicking this link:  Dichotomous Key to Thanksgiving Dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Student Lab Cleanup: How to Improve It!

Students will help...
... IF they know what to do!

All science teachers know the struggles we face when we take the students to the lab.  There are many!  But the one I want to address here is lab cleanup.  We have precious few minutes between one class leaving the lab and the next class entering the lab.  It is imperative that our students in one class leave a clean and orderly lab station for the students in the next class. 
Click image to view in my TpT store.

My personal experience is that students do not “see” the mess they leave behind.  My students, for the most part, are good citizens, and they will try to carry out my instructions.  As the class nears the end of the period, they hear me say, “We are almost out of time…. Start cleaning up your lab area.”  But if I am not more specific in my directions, this lab class will not end well.

In the frenzy of the last few minutes before the bell, my students make an honest attempt at cleaning their lab station, but their idea of clean, and my idea of clean are not the same!  I want all of the paper towels in the garbage.  I want the lab station clean and dry.  I want the supplies to be in a certain order.  Etc!!

What I have discovered in my many years of teaching is that students need very specific instructions.  When I tell my class that “it is time to clean up”, the instruction is too vague.  The student wonders, “What does she want me to do?”  They look at their lab station and they think it looks fine. This is the nature of the teen age brain.  They have the wonderful ability to see only what they want to see!

My solution is The Student Cleanup Checklist.  I have made a set of task cards that have a specific instruction on each.  For each lab, I select the cards that are applicable for the particular lab.  The cards go on a ring, and a set of cleanup instructions is left at every lab station.  As the class period ends, I have trained my students to flip through the cards on the ring, and carry out all instructions.  This has been a lifesaver for me.  These are still kids, and they are still going to miss a piece of paper on the floor, but with my specific instruction cards, life around my lab is much improved.  The students do a much better job cleaning their area, and I have less stress as the next class is entering the room.

A few tips:
  • Make sure that you laminate the instruction cards.  The lab is a wet place, and the cards will not last long if they are not laminated.
  • Once laminated, the cards will last for years.
  • Punch a hole in the corner of each card and place the cards on a ring.  I purchase packages of rings at my local Office Depot.
  • Select cards that are appropriate for the lab of the day, then place the cards at each lab station.
  • You can also post the appropriate cleanup cards on the board or other prominent spot in the lab.  Always post them in the same spot so that students will learn the procedure.

I hope the Student Cleanup Checklist will help improve your life in the lab.  Have fun teaching!

Mole Day Festivities!

Let's give a round of applause for Amedeo Avogadro!! Without him, we wouldn't have a reason to celebrate in our chemistry classes on October 23!!  (Oh, and we can also be thankful that he gave us a pretty nifty tool to use in our chemistry calculations.)

What are my plans for Mole Day?

I have a lab that I love, and I always do this lab on Mole Day.  It is very simple to set up, and doesn't require anything too fancy.  Students often have trouble visualizing a mole.  This lab will provide a hands-on activity that will allow our students to "see" how big a mole really is.  In one part of the lab, students are asked to write their name on the chalkboard.  They then have to determine how many moles of chalk they used in the writing of their name.  Kids love this!

So happy Mole Day to you.  I hope you have a wonderful time with your students on Mole Day.

Graphing, Scientific Method, and Data Analysis Practice

Click image to download this free product.

Great review for a vital skill.
And it's free.

Critical thinking, problem solving, and data analysis.  These are terms we hear all the time as teachers of science.  Let's get right to the point: We cannot stress these skills enough in our classes.  We must teach our science students to be great thinkers and problem solvers!  Activities that provide practice in the skills of science should be used often in our classes, and not just at the beginning of the school year.  Set aside some time in your class throughout the year to review, reinforce and practice important science skills.

Add this free activity on graphing and data analysis to your teaching arsenal. The activity covers many important skills:  Informational text reading, data tables, graphing data, the scientific method, and data analysis.  The students will graph the data that is given in the reading, and complete a page of thought provoking questions about the data.

This activity is timeless.  I love that I can use this activity at the beginning of the school year to teach scientific graphing, but I can also use it at the end of the year for preparation for end of course testing.

Human Body: Oh No! The Endocrine System!

Is there anything more FUN than teaching the endocrine system to high school students?

High school students and hormones?  Watch out! The endocrine system is definitely a challenge to teach, but it is a fascinating topic, and one that my students are intrigued by.  Well, perhaps I should say that they are intrigued by "parts" of it.  The class discussion on how hormones work, target cells, receptor sites, amino acid hormones and steroid hormones leaves them a little glassy-eyed! But start talking about endocrine disorders, and the class comes to life.  I do not mean to come across as insensitive, but the endocrine disorders are very interesting.  I think it is safe to say that students in a first year high school biology class are learning details about the endocrine system for the first time.  They are going to be highly interested in the pituitary disorders, acromegaly and goiters.  Then, there is diabetes. Almost every student these days has a family member or friend who suffers from diabetes.

How much detail and depth should we teach to our high school students? Every year and every class is different, but most of my students are novices when it comes to the endocrine system.  I think it is essential to teach what hormones are, how hormones work, and how the endocrine system maintains homeostasis in the body.  Students should be able to list the endocrine glands and have a basic understanding of what each gland does for the human body.  As for all of the hormones and their functions?  For me, it depends on the abilities of my current class.  I give them what they can handle.

Click image to view product.
I continue to use a system of warm ups and bellringers.  This is a topic that will definitely take some review and reinforcement each and every day.  I have my students use the first 5-10 minutes of class time to review the concepts we have previously covered.  The warm up pages that I have developed are also used as homework assignments, daily quizzes, and most importantly, test prep for the final unit exam.

This newest product in my TpT store includes 29 student pages that cover a range of concepts that are likely to be found in a typical high school biology textbook.  I have included a detailed 5-page teacher guide, and of course, a teacher answer key for each student page.

Here are the highlights:

Good luck with your teaching, and have a great school year!

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #5

What You Need to Know About Your Eyewash Fountain and Safety Shower

Required Reading for the Week:

When was the last time you tested your eye wash fountain and your lab safety shower?  Did you know that they are supposed to be flushed once a week according to ANSI standards?    I think it is safe to say that the plumbed emergency equipment in our science labs is often neglected.  We walk past the eyewash and the shower day after day after day, but rarely stop to inspect it.  Since I have never had to pull the handle (thankfully!) on either piece of equipment in an emergency, I rarely stop to think about the routine maintenance that is required.

But I am not the expert.  And while I hope this blog post puts a nagging reminder in your brain, use the links in this post to read what the experts have to say.  My go-to source of lab safety information is Flinn Scientific.  Read this article about the eyewash and safety shower.

Here are the basics about the lab eyewash fountain:

  • The eyewash must provide a flow of water to both eyes simultaneously.
  • The affected area must be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Keep both eyes open and rotate eyeballs in all directions.
  • Regulation of volume and pressure is required to maintain a soft flow of water to the eyes.
  • Location of the eyewash is important.  Travel time from a work station to the eyewash should be within 10 seconds.
  • Water temperature should be "tepid" which means lukewarm.  Acceptable temperature range is 78 - 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Weekly testing should occur to verify flow.  This also clears the water line to remove dirt from the pipes.

Here are the basics about the lab safety shower:
  • The shower should provide a deluge large enough to encompass the whole body.
  • Remove contaminated clothing.  Every second counts. Don't be modest.  It will only slow you down.  Remove contaminated clothing!
  • The shower should deliver a pattern of water that is 20 inches across.
  • Water flow should be 20 gallons per minutes at a velocity low enough to not injure the user.
  • The plumbed safety equipment should be clearly marked with signs and by painting the walls and floor surrounding the equipment a bright color.
For us middle or high school teachers,  words cannot begin to describe how busy we are during the school day.  If your safety equipment does not meet the standards, it is time to have a talk with your school administrator.  The safety of your students depends on it!

And please don't forget to take the time to inspect the equipment.  No eye wash fountain should ever look like this!