Cost-Effective Engagement for Young Scientists

There’s many benefits that come out of keeping your students engaged, such as an increase in attention and focus, higher motivation to practice critical thinking skills, and encourages a significant learning experience. However, keeping your students engaged doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg– I’m here to give you 5 ways to engage your students in a cost-effective way!

5 Ways to Engage in a Cost-Effective Way

1. Demonstrations

Demos are important for teachers to do in their classrooms because it’s able to provide students with experiences of real events, phenomenas and processes, which in turn, will help them to learn. The best part about demos is that they don’t have to be expensive! There are many affordable ways to be able to demo for your class. One website that I would highly recommend would be Science Bob. Science Bob provides many different experiments that can be done as demos, that are cost-effects, that for the most part, only require items that you already own!

The video above is on YouTube from Science Bob, on the “Soap-Powered Model Boat“– this video is an example of one demo that can be done that is cost-effective and with household items! There are many other videos and experiments on Science Bob like such.

2. Video Clips

There’s many ways that video clips are able to help students engagement, and of of the best parts is that it’s free! Some of the ways that is helps engage, according to BoClips, is that it:

  1. Reinforces teachings– by using video clips, you should expect better cognitive and affective learning from your students to help better reiterate your lessons.
  2. Improves the engagement of students– 92% of students say that video clips have a positive impact on their education (Kaltura 2018); students that are more engaged often retain more information.
  3. Develops a common base of classroom knowledge for discussion– video clips are good way to start a guided discussion, or a way to start group work on what the video pertains to.
  4. Enhances student comprehension– video clips give students the opportunity to take in and understand information through a medium tailored to the individual understanding.

3. Games

There’s many ways to use games in a cost-friendly way while still getting your students engaged. One source to give you some ideas is called The Sourcebook for Teaching Science. This website provides game ideas such as jeopardy, taboo, bingo, pictionary, 20 questions, and some others! Each one you would be able to tailor to your class or make it on your own. Games can be extremely engaging to students, as it provides sensory experience. It’s also a great way to actively engage students and grab their attention quick!

4. Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are a great way to start your class to get the minds of your students warmed up and thinking! Some of the benefits of doing brain teasers would be that overall, it boosts brain activity, increases memory power, and it also reduces the risk of, and slows the decline of dementia. Brain teasers are good for your students because it exercises their minds to be alert and active. In addition, it improves concentration, sharpen’s the brain processing power, and lowers stress. Braingle is a website the provides many science brain teasers, along with other subjects too!

Science requires an engagement with the world, a live encounter between the knower and the known.

-Parker J. Palmer

5. Readings

Some ideas with readings that will help keep students engaged is before reading, during reading, and after reading. Here is how each of these are helpful when getting your students engaged:

  • Before reading– helps activate students’ prior knowledge, teachers are able to ask what they may already know, which will help prepare them for what they’re about to learn. However, the biggest idea from “before reading” is to help students use what they know already.
  • During reading– the key idea is to have students reflect and keep track of their own comprehension. Reading slowly and re-reading can be extremely beneficial. “During reading” can also help clear up and answer questions and predictions made before reading.
  • After reading– when students follow through with what they’ve learned, it helps them to process what they’ve learned and their comprehension. “After reading” can also show how the students understandings have changed from the “before reading.” discussing in small groups or writing prompt will also help.
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A Note to the Teacher: Finding ENGAGING Resources on a BUDGET!

When you signed up to be a teacher, did anywhere on your contract state that you have to pay out of pocket for classroom materials? Probably-NOT! Yet, many teachers find themselves using their own money to buy simple things for their classrooms whether it be a box of tissues or materials for a lab experiment. This should not be the case… I am here to help you find engaging resources on a budget!

Image from https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/5-ways-find-teaching-resources-budget1704.html

Did someone say free?

Below you will find activities that will engage your students for free and are applicable to any subject of study at the high school level.

  • Brain-busters/riddles or daily jokes

These can vary on how they look and are presented. Brain-busters/riddles get students’ brains turning and ready to learn. You can find a lot more at https://justriddlesandmore.com/Brainbusters/brain%20buster%20archives1.html. Daily jokes can wake students up and (hopefully) get a laugh or two. An example of a brain-buster is seen below. Feel free to ask for volunteers!

  • Demonstrations

You do not need to spend money on demonstrations! Simply reuse materials found around your house or at school. Demonstrations engage students and should be related to the content which they are studying. Below is a short video of a demonstration used for a lesson on density.

Cartesian Diver
  • Music or art

Tapping into the opposite side of the brain that your class does not typically focus on can engage students at a deeper level. Using music or art will allow students to use the right side of their brain in a typical left-brained classroom.

  • Bell-ringers

Bell-ringers are questions/tasks that are asked or written on the board at the beginning of the class. Their purpose is to highlight the day’s lesson or review the previous day’s lesson. You can decide whether to have an open discussion about it or have students write their responses on a scrap sheet of paper to turn into you. For example, if you finished your lesson on the water cycle yesterday, ask your students to draw the water cycle from memory.

  • Short article readings

Now this one may sound like a doozy, but believe me, they work! Have students read a short article prior to beginning the lesson. You can assign these or let students have free choice. I would recommend creating a list of acceptable articles and allowing students to pick from them so that they can find one that best interests them! Below is a link to a few articles:

https://www.popsci.com/tags/short-science-articles/

Check out the ideas below on how to get funding for your classroom:

  • Try crowdfunding such as DonorsChose.org! These types of websites can help get the resources you need in your classroom.
  • Enter in different contests…there are tons out there, you just have to look.
  • Apply for different grants and see what happens!
  • Utilize TeachersPayTeachers.com for different resources.

Other awesome blogs/pages to follow:

  • Twitter: @support_a_teach, @NicholasFerroni
  • Instagram: @dollartreeclassrooms, @targetteachers
  • Blogs: https://laurarandazzo.com/, http://everybodyisageniusblog.blogspot.com/

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Balling on a Budget: Engaging your Students without Breaking the Bank

Getting students engaged and interested in what you’re teaching can be tough, especially when you’re working with a teacher’s budget, so here are some cost-efficient and fun ways to get your class started!

1) Brain Busters

Brain busters come in all shapes and sizes and are a fantastic way to start your class by getting your students’ minds working. They don’t even have to directly relate to your content area, they just need to stimulate the minds of your students and cause them to try to think “outside the box”

Image result for brain busters
For example, you can try and have your students decipher these to figure out what they mean

2) _____ of the day

Something of the day can get your students interested and is a good way to start every day. This can be an element of the day, an organism of the day, or even make it longer term, like scientist of the month. You can really make this your own and even ask the students to come up with ideas or present their own!

3) Demos

Demos are a great way to show a phenomenon that you’re going to be talking about and get your students excited to figure out what’s going on fundamentally. You can find tons of demos all over the internet, many of which are cheap and easy. One of my favorites is fire soap bubbles because it’s quite the show and great for leading into combustion! More information can be found at https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/fire-bubbles/

5) Readings

Many students see what they’re learning in school as strictly meant for school and it doesn’t affect their lives outside of it when, in reality, students are surrounded by science everywhere they go. A great way to show them this is by showing them articles that integrate what they’re learning and the world around them. Tons of these articles can be found at https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters.html

4) Simulations and Animations

Simulations and animations can really help your students get more hands-on experience with some of the concepts that they may not be able to in person. Good animations can be great for showing molecular level interactions and one http://vischem.com.au/ has plenty of these. https://phet.colorado.edu/ has tons of simulations available for free for all sorts of topics.

Image result for phet chemistry
This is an example of a PhET simulation about solubility
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Increasing Engagement While Minimizing Cost in a Science Classroom

If you are a teacher that is concerned with providing the best possible lessons for your students but do not have the government funding nor the paycheck to spend on, that sentiment is completely understandable and valid. The cost of education has always been a factor of concern in minds of many, whether you are a teacher or a student. But I would like to promise you this: you can still be a transformative teacher that provides engaging content without spending a lot of money.

If we take Glasser’s profound words to heart, we will see that we can still provide high-quality education to our students without the need for expensive lab equipment or costly materials.

Here are 5 engaging resources that could be an effective start to your learning cycles:

1. ) Demos Obtained From the Internet

With recent technological advancements, we have the ability to obtain and share informational content in a quick and effective manner. A quick Google search can lead to a plethora of interactive and cost-efficient science experiments. Here is an example of a fun and educational physics experiment that you can do with materials already present in a traditional classroom:

Source: http://www.scifun.org/homeexpts/homeexperiments.pdf

2. ) Simulations

Resources like PhET are a great way to get students to interact with math and science concepts without needing to pay for any extra materials. Students are also given the freedom to manipulate variables and better learn concepts through simulations that would otherwise be very costly to replicate in real life (I’m sure many students cannot afford a cannon or a trebuchet, let alone justify the purchase).

Link: https://phet.colorado.edu/

3. ) Brain Busters

Activities like brain busters would be a great way to get your students to be engaged with concepts of science before the lesson even starts. These types of activities promote asking questions, collaborating with your classmates, critical-reasoning, and deduction skills.

Image result for brain buster questions
Answer: 1995 and 1953 are room numbers at a hospital!

4. ) Movies

Movies are a dynamic form of media that may choose to retain the natural laws of physics, biology, etc. or make up its own. Teachers can prompt student thinking and discussion by introducing popular pop culture references and ask them to discuss the realism of science that is at play here. Here’s an example of a good scene to talk about with your students:

This movie alone could spark many interesting discussions on the plausibility of the movie’s events

5. ) Video Games

Interest in video games by both children and adults like have significantly increased over the years. They are an important part of our pop culture and integrating lessons with clips from your students’ favorite video games would be a great way to show them that you can integrate their interests with school. Similar to movies, you can create discussions regarding the realism of science that is shown in video games.

This game in particular does a very good job promoting creativity of play around its physics engine.
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A Science Teacher’s Guide to: FUND your “Fun :)”

Listen, I’m sure we all agree that if we could, we would drop money left and right to provide our students with engaging lessons, activities, experiments, and the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, we know that is not a sustainable practice for our own wallets… but the desire is still there- to TRULY engage our students and position them for an enriching experience. We can still fulfill our teacher fantasies, but just doing so on a BUDGET! Yes you heard me! You can set your wallet down AND still have students that look like this in your classroom:

Tips For finding engaging resources on a budget

The first piece of advice is to literally look to your right and left. Turn to your neighbors! Look and and see what sort of companies, hospitals, local colleges, etc. around you would be willing to donate used materials and equipment that are still in good condition that would serve a great purpose in classroom labs, activities, etc. I’m sure it would surprise you how often people are upgrading their equipment, and would be more than happy to open up student accessibility to some of these materials that they don’t need anymore. Some possible ideas to start might be:

  • Local Deli/ groceries many times have large plastic containers or tubs that they are looking to get rid of and that could be used for so many different science activities such as planting various plants!
  • Local hospitals or colleges might be a great place to look to for all sorts of equipment from goggles to beakers to scales to recycled materials that could be repurposed…you never know unless you ask!
  • Look from within your school. What sorts of things does your school do/ or already have that can be used in replace of something else… get creative here! Maybe you want to do a project that requires all students to have a jug or bottle, talk with people in your school’s cafeteria about setting those things aside for your classroom!

Check out this Pinterest Resource that I tweeted about below to see this AMAZING Pin on recycled STEM ideas! Not only does this pinned blog contain ideas that are eco-friendly, they are very cost-effective and provide a springboard to get creative and come up with more recycled STEM project ideas 🙂 Some of them are geared toward the younger kiddos, but others can certainly be used for our secondary students and often enhanced by adding critical thinking components or other thought-provoking aspects to the project.

Ideas for Engaging Students from the Start

  1. Quote / Picture – Teachers can start with a meaningful quote, or power image to get the wheels turning for students. Depending on what you go with, and what context you provide around it, this can connect to students lives, the course content of the day, or some significance you see fit. Here is an idea:

Start with an image like this. This could go in so many directions from learning about students prior lived experiences with being to this landmark maybe a student has visited, this could connect to a lesson on how certain factors like wind, pressure, time, and much more shape and have in impact on earths surface. Students could leverage their prediction skills to try and explain how a structure such as this might have been formed?

2. Music – Music is something I might be impartial to, but most people find music to be uplifting, calming, and just overall bring happiness. Teachers can leverage music to engage students prior to a lesson. Maybe a good idea might be to take topic that is a little bit more difficult to get creative with and kick off student engagement with some beats…this will be sure to get some smiles! Check out this example I found get student engagement…this video about bees could work cross multiple contexts and areas of study.

3. Games – Another way to spark engagement is to play fun, educational games where students utilize their critical thinking skills. There are many, many games to play from solving mystery situations, mini-escape rooms, team-challenges, and more. One team challenge that would be engaging would be to solve a mystery case of some sort and students work in teams to solve the case.

4. Brain Buster / “Science-y” Joke – A brain buster or some sort of joke that has a punchline is a great way to get the whole class in the same mental space. Everyone’s brain is tuned in to figuring this one thing out and students have to rely on communication and listening to keep building off one another.

This website contains great brainteasers as well!

5. Videos / Audiovisuals – Most of us like our fair share of Netflix shows or youtube videos, so leveraging that common interest into the classroom already adds a layer of engagement. Bonus points if that video is super thought-provoking as well. Here is a video I found on youtube that would be a great way to start a physics or physical science class by getting students excited about various phenomena in our world: (What I really like about this video is the phenomena aren’t explained, which leaves the door open for students to be curious and really wonder about how to account for these things).

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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:
https://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/

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: https://www.keslerscience.com/a-science-demo-day-that-students-will-never-forget/

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: https://www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/

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: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm

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: https://phet.colorado.edu/

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:
SciShow: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZYTClx2T1of7BRZ86-8fow
The Action Lab: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1VLQPn9cYSqx8plbk9RxxQASAP Science: https://www.youtube.com/user/AsapSCIENCE

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: https://www.nsta.org/resources/freebies-science-teachers-february-2-2021
  • 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:  https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/classroom-resources/
  • 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. https://www.businessinsider.com/gofundme-clearthelists-campaign-helps-teachers-pay-for-school-supplies-2019-8#:~:text=Around%2094%25%20of%20public%2Dschool,according%20to%20the%20DOE%20survey


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Making Student Engagement Accessible

With limited funding and small budgets it can be a challenge for teachers to find meaningful ways to engage their students within their lesson plans. Starting lesson plans off in a creative way to grab students interests and get class started in an upbeat, inspirational manner is no easy feat. Luckily, there are some solutions!

Below you will find 5 inventive and frugal ideas and resources to help with student engagement!

Source: https://jucutanjordan.weebly.com/classroom-management.html

1. Youtube or Netflix

Video Clips are an excellent way to engage students. Youtube boasts free usage and a catalog of millions of videos to choose from, you will be able to show students demos that may be out of your price point or peak student interest with a fun science story.

Source: https://youtu.be/KXqLr6TwPVA
Allow Bill Nye to remind students of previous information.
Source: https://youtu.be/TOyDzOc2AaI
Show demos that may be outside of the classroom budget!

Netflix, on the other hand, is a membership-based platform. With a monthly fee, you can have access to hundreds of different videos and documentaries that would engage your students with real-world applications and fact-checked stories.

Source: https://letslassothemoon.com/documentaries-for-kids/
Bring the “real-world” into your classroom, giving students a connection and engaging students through real-life science application.

2. Demonstrations

Although demos can be expensive – requiring the purchase of different chemicals, appropriate personal protective equipment, and chemical handling tools – demonstrations do not have to break the bank! There are a variety of sites that give cost effective options for demonstrations that can use everyday items that you can be found within your home.

Source: https://coolscienceexperimentshq.com/simple-experiments-to-learn-about-density/

Some site you may want to consider:

3. Songs and Singing

Music can be a powerful tool to capture students’ attention, all the while still introducing them to a new topic or reiterating past information. Playing the music as the students enter the class, printing out lyrics, and singing along can be an interactive and effective way to engage with your students beyond the traditional worksheet!

Source: https://youtu.be/BD2miskgDK4

Listen to Elton John’s Rocket Man! Or…

Source: https://youtu.be/9_M3uw29U1U

Listen to David Bowie’s Space Oddity!

Popular music streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, both have free and annual memberships that you can take advantage of at any price point.

4. PhET Simulations

PhET is a free online science and mathematics service from the University of Colorado Boulder. This site provides 158 simulations in a wide variety of science and math concepts that can be utilized by students both virtually or within a classroom setting. This would be an excellent option for teachers to engage their students in a virtual setting, which is especially beneficial in these unpredictable times.

Source: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/filter?subjects=chemistry&type=html&sort=alpha&view=grid

You can find the PhET simulations at: https://phet.colorado.edu/

5. Phone-A-Friend

If you are able, connect with scientists and other members in the scientific community within your area. A fun way to engage students would be to virtually meet or have the scientist come into your classroom (Collins, 2020). The scientist could talk about the kind of research or activities they perform, or they could lead the class through a demonstration. This would be a unique way to engage your students with the outside world along with providing role models for your students to later look back on!

Collins, M. (2020, October 22). How to Make Virtual STEM Lessons More Engaging for Young Learners. Edtopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-make-virtual-stem-lessons-more-engaging-young-learners.

Source: https://www.caisbv.edu.hk/2020/12/11/what-life-lessons-can-we-learn-through-a-virtual-science-classroom/

Using These Resources to ENGAGE in Your Classroom…

Activity 1: The Big Bang Theory

An Ohio standard for Physical Science is student understanding of the history of the universe, PS.U.1: History of the universe. A fun way to introduce this topic could be listening to the full version of the theme song to the popular show, Big Bang Theory. 

  • You could have the song, Big Bang Theory Theme, written by the Barenaked Ladies, playing as the students walked into the classroom. 
  • Once seated you could hand out the song lyrics to the students. 
  • This could be followed by the students watching a video of the song, or having the students sing along.
Source: https://youtu.be/REw5-_rpFDE

Activity 2: Remembering Newton’s Laws

An Ohio standard for Physics is for a student to be able to apply Newton’s laws to complex problems, P.F.1: Newton’s laws applied to complex problems. A fun way to introduce the topic for your students, and to aid them in the recall of what they have previously learned about Newton’s laws would be to watch a video about them, by none other than, Bill Nye. Most students love Bill Nye and will be thrilled to recall the previously learned information when their old friend, Bill, is there to help them remember!

  • You could play snippets of the Bill Nye episodes, or you could stream the entire episode for your students. 
  • Students could take notes of the episode and share when they have completed the videos.
Source: https://youtu.be/X-czMvI65dY

Sometimes we will not be able to get around spending money, fortunately, below are some sites that offer discounted or affordable supplies.

Grants and funding are also available to teachers! All you have to do is apply! Below you will find the web address of the Department of Education site that is in regards to education funding.

https://www.ed.gov/programs-search/state-education-agencies

Some Other Blogs about Student Engagement…

Source: https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/what-is-a-blog-and-how-is-it-different-from-a-website-explained/


Check these blogs out and see what you think! They provide valuable information in regards to student engagement ideas!

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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! https://www.thoughtco.com/grow-a-borax-crystal-snowflake-602199
  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. https://www.thoughtco.com/hot-ice-or-sodium-acetate-607822
  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. https://www.thoughtco.com/make-invisible-ink-with-baking-soda-602224

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— https://www.sciencelessonsthatrock.com/blog
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Catching Students’ Curiosity

The first step to getting anyone to want to learn something is to capture their curiosity. No one is going to look at a diagram of forces acting on an object and be like “wow, someday I want to be a physicist!” S0, that means it’s our job as educators to capture the attention of our students. To present them with an odd phenomenon and force them to ask why is occurs and how we can explain. But how can we engage our students and do it on a budget?

Well, I think the easiest answer to that is the internet. The wealth of knowledge and resources are profound. For instance the website Teach Engineering is a database of STEM related curricula and activities for grade levels K-12. Due to the vast amount of activities on the website, there’s bound to be ones that fit all different budgets. I found one activity in which students build their own rollercoasters out of pipe insulation. This can be translated to a great demo where a teacher can build a rollercoaster and then send their students off to do just the same. Plus the whole website is based on NGSS standards, perfect!

https://www.teachengineering.org/curriculum/browse?subjectArea=Physics

Another great way to engage students on a budget is with movie clips! Everyone loves movies, and they are notoriously bad with keeping things scientifically accurate. So a great way to engage students is to show them a movie clip and then discuss how the clip doesn’t actually follow scientific laws. Another twist on that is students bring in their own clips from movies to share with the class, and then everyone can discuss whether they think the science is accurate or inaccurate.

Sorry Star Wars, I love you, but the sound this explosion makes is physically impossible!

Another great way to engage your students is with the help of fellow teachers from across the world. Educational blogs are great places to pick up ideas. Whether you copy the idea exactly or put your own spin on it, there are some great options out there. Here’s one with ten great (and cheap) demos that can jumpstart any unit in your science classroom. My personal favorite is an experiment where a bicycle wheel is strung up to the ceiling by its axle. Then by spinning the wheel, you can cause the axle to start rotating using concepts like torque and momentum.

http://blog.theexpertta.com/10-ideas-for-physics-demonstrations

This next method is more for getting students engaged on a daily basis rather than engaged for the upcoming unit. “Brainbusters” to begin class are a great way for everyone to warm up their science brains and hopefully focus in. There are websites cataloging brainbusters for all subject areas, however, I found one with a ton of physics related ones. It’s categorized by unit and some of the questions had me stopping to think as well, so it’ll be perfect for students in a classroom.

“Two objects are thrown vertically upward, one a short time before the other. Is it possible for them to both reach the same maximum height at the same instant? Explain your answer.”

A great brainbuster from: http://cosweb1.fau.edu/~jordanrg/phy2048/brain_busters.htm

Another fun way to get students engaged is with games! Board games specifically. Having students engage with a game is a great way to get them excited while still having them begin to learn at the same time. For instance one game on this website is called Antimatter Matters, Although it’s unlikely that I’ll be going in depth on antimatter in my classroom just exposing students to the concept can peak their curiosity. Plus, by using board games it can almost force students to pay attention as they work together to understand how to play the game and then play it.

I found this collection of science themed games on https://edudingo.com/physics-board-games-for-families-and-schools/

Trying to get students to engage in science can seem like a very daunting task. People may tell you that “some kids just don’t like science.” I don’t believe that is true. Everyone can learn to love some aspect of science. Students that say they don’t like science simply haven’t been exposed to the part they like yet. Hopefully the resources I’ve provided in this post will help give you some ideas to reach those students’ hearts and help them learn to love science.

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Encouraging Minorities in STEM

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to National Science Teachers Association, STEM is an “interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to complete in the new economy.”

The STEM Global Movement Westlab

What are the statistics of women and minorities in STEM?

Women in STEM

One of the biggest reason why some women don’t work in STEM is because of gender discrimination; many women that are in STEM have experienced this. Often because of gender discrimination, a concern that women typically have is in regards to unequal treatment– such as pay gaps.

Four-in-ten (44%) of women say that they believe that there isn’t many women in STEM jobs os because of the lack of encouragement that girls receive at early ages. Half (50%) of women that are in STEM say that they’ve received some type of discrimination in the workplace, which is 19% higher than women that work at a non-STEM workplace (41%). Among many types of discrimination, the most common is earning less than a man doing the same job (29%), being treated as incompetent because of their gender (29%), those being tied for the top two reasons of discrimination.

Along with all of that, here are some statistics of sexual harassment that occurs in STEM and non-STEM workplace; which a fifth of working women have experienced.

Minorities in STEM

In STEM, most often Blacks and Hispanics are very underrepresented. While they’re being underrepresented, Whites and Asians are being overrepresented. With the majority of STEM workers being Whites (69%), followed by Asians at (13%), Blacks (9%) and then Hispanics (7%). However, over the past 25 years, these percentages (of the minorities) have all increased.

However, a one-quarter of workers in STEM say that they have experiences some form of discrimination due to their race or ethnicity. In the graph below is the statistics of of how Blacks specifically have been discriminated based off of their race and ethnicity.

How should we encourage women and minorities in STEM?

  • Fight the stereotypes against gender, race, and ethnicity
  • Teach a growth mindset
  • Teach the value of failure
  • teach about successful women and minorities
  • Provide succeeding opportunities
  • Fight false stereotypes about STEM
  • Help your students relate to people in stem
  • Create a science-promoting environment
Flu Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups | CDC

The Future of STEM Depends on Diversity

In the TED Talk below, Scientist Nicole Cabrera Salazar, speaks on diversity in STEM, also from her perspective, and reasons why we should be actively engage underrepresented groups that are a part of STEM! Salazar was born in Chile and raised in Miami, FL– she is a first generation college students, having received her Bachelors in degree in Physics and is currently a PhD student!

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