I’m hoping that secondary teachers will take a look at the articles that describe authentic investigations conducted by young scientists in their communities: Creative Soil Conservation and Boulder Creek Study. The latter has examples of student work as they studied the water quality in their communities, using various indicators, including the presence of aquatic invertebrates. The authors noted that their students did not have much background in the topic of a “watershed.” If your students need this information also, use the keyword watershed in SciLinks. SciLinks also has websites with information and activities on topics related to soil for grades K-4 and 5-8 (e.g. types of soil, soil erosion, microorganisms in soil).
From hurricanes to earthquakes, forest fires mudslides, and record-setting snowstorms and rainfall, children often ask “Can it happen here?” Three articles are related to this topic. Along with Can We Protect Our Communities From Natural Disasters?, check out the SciLinks keyword disasters for grades 5-8. Even if you’re not in an earthquake zone, activities such as those in Shake It Up and The Built Environment tap into the creativity of future engineers. SciLinks has lists of related websites on the topic of earthquake resistant structures and the science of bridges. One of my favorites is Building Big: All About Bridges from PBS.
If you like the ideas in the article How It’s Made, SciLinks has more information on pencils (5–8). Action Figures describes how to hook students into a study of the skeletal system. Even though my curriculum did not include human anatomy, I learned that a brief review of the human skeleton helped students to connect to the skeletons of other vertebrates. In SciLinks, search for bones (5–8) or skeletal system (5–8), which includes other systems of the body. Three examples include Bird Skull Collection, the Mr. Bones interactive puzzle, and Virtual Body, which is also available in Spanish
To extend your activities on growing seeds, check out From Mystery Seed to Mangrove Island (I wonder what other variations on the mystery materials teachers who do not live in Florida can come up with!) and The Farmer in the Lab, which makes the investigation more complex and challenging for older students.
Many teachers are looking for ideas to integrate science with other content areas. It’s challenging to keep the project focused on a theme or essential question, rather than merely putting together a collection of “activities.” Living Off the Land dispels some of the misconceptions children have about Native American cultures as they focus on the relationships between people and natural resources. Outdoor Classrooms has suggestions and resources to use a corner of the schoolyard, a window box, or an outdoor center. And check with a local rescue or rehabilitation center if you have students similar to the Turtle Girls and want to give them ownership of their project.
I’m going to reread Using Learning Progressions to Monitor Progress Across Grades. I wonder how this way of assessing students in science processes is interpreted in schools where science takes a back seat to test prep in reading and math? I’m also curious as to how students beyond grade 4 would “score” on this. This article has related resources in the Connections for this issue, along with ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, for several of the other articles.