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California Academy of Sciences
Pros: Students and teachers have access to extensive virtual specimens and labs, lesson plans, and rich materials to augment classroom learning.
Cons: The website's organization makes finding some of the best classroom resources a challenge.
Bottom Line: A perfect companion to (or substitute for) the Academy, this site delivers highly interactive resources and research with a lot of depth.
With the help of the California Academy of Sciences, teachers can design Life Science, Earth Science, Astronomy, or Physical Science lessons around current research and experiments, or use one of the site's free K-12 lesson plans or unit studies in an even wider variety of subjects. Take your time exploring the website. Many of their resources are difficult to locate through browsing but can be found through the excellent search options instead. Or, try bookmarking the more robust areas, such as lesson plans and topic videos.
Consider viewing one of the museum's webcams with your class at various times throughout the year. Use the Science Notebooking lessons at the beginning of the school year to get students excited about keeping a science journal. Try one of the included scavenger hunts to get students out of their seats and interacting with the world. Or, if you're local and can arrange a field trip, comb the site for ways to prepare for your visit.
Standout lessons and videos:
- Exploring Energy: Designing a Better Future: This is a Flipside Science unit including videos and activities that cover the current state and future of energy.
- Farallones Webcam: Study the Farallon Islands through a live camera feed and you might just see whales, seals, and exotic birds.
- Gene Therapy for Color Blindness: View a video clip showing how gene therapy has cured color blindness in squirrel monkeys.
The California Academy of Sciences site brings the resources and experience of San Francisco's museum into the classroom. Its Explore Science section delves thoroughly into science topics such as animals, plants, the Earth, ecosystems, and more. It highlights scientists as well as important current issues and science news. Visitors can access multimedia collections, lectures, and Academy research, as well as fascinating curriculum with a lot of depth. The Science Heroes section highlights men and women who work for the Academy, and Citizen Science allows kids in California to participate in actual research by collecting specimens and data.
The Educator section of the site includes hundreds of lesson plans and unit lessons for science and science-adjacent topics, virtual specimens to examine, activities, readings, webcams, games and simulations, videos, and project ideas. Lesson plans are broken down by grade level, and the museum provides most of the (printable) resources that will be needed. Local teachers can borrow classroom kits from the museum for a modest lending fee as long as they attend a training session at the California Academy of Sciences; prices for training sessions vary but are affordable.
Students and teachers who use the California Academy of Sciences site will find no end to the informative learning experiences. There are plenty of resources to which teachers can point students while they work independently, but the biggest strength is in the unit studies and many, many lesson plans from which teachers can plan large chunks of their curriculum. Kids get hands-on experiences through these lessons, benefiting from the museum's deep collections while engaging in the material in their own classrooms.
Students can choose from a few highly engaging learning tools, including live webcams from which to observe sharks, penguins, whales, seals, and exotic birds in their natural habitats. Also, the video gallery has a broad variety of resources, from quick clips to full-length Academy lectures. In addition, the site's up-to-date news on science and scientists helps students learn what's going on right now in the world. This is particularly powerful, and a key strength is that the featured scientists include men and women of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, encouraging kids to participate in areas of science themselves.