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Pros: Engaging models help connect science and math content in meaningful ways with realistic scenarios.
Cons: Some simulations lack enough help for students, and the inability to monitor progress and scan through a segment is frustrating.
Bottom Line: Definitely one for your “love it” list, the site helps kids simulate science and engineering career activities while covering related content.
Teachers will love that Edheads activities require very little in the way of pre-activity instructions, and typically take about 30 minutes to complete. Activities for younger kids work best individually or in pairs, while those that are more advanced may require small groups. The Edheads teacher guides provide tips on setup and logistics.
Chemistry teachers could have students apply their knowledge in “Nanoparticles,” while simultaneously pulling kids for one-on-one conferences. Just be sure that segments are completed before pausing, since progress can’t be adjusted within a section. If you're teaching health units on substance abuse, you may find a connection with the “Crash Scene” and “Trauma” simulations. In anatomy class, students in small groups could work on separate virtual surgeries and report to the class. MS teachers will enjoy “Simple Machines” as a learning activity. While some students work online, others could build examples at stations. “Compound Machines” is a great extension, but be aware that young students perusing the entire site may find some more mature content.
Edheads offers online simulations containing content from middle school to advanced levels. Users begin by choosing from 17 activities in a drop-down menu. There's a significant audio component, though captions are provided. It's recommended that kids have access to headphones. All simulations have coordinating worksheets and assessments; some are optional, while others are more necessary. There are teacher guides with helpful information.
Activities vary in design and length, but each starts with an introduction and is chunked into segments. The scenarios place kids in content-related professional roles, such as surgeons or engineers. A few topics are geared toward younger students (machines and weather), but most are for advanced high school students, especially in the life and medical sciences. Teachers should know that some of the content here (surgeries, car crashes, etc.) could make kids squeamish or upset.
Edheads has done an exceptional job of simulating real-world contexts for kids' learning, and created exciting, content-based activities. For instance, kids might be asked to design labs for doctors’ offices. In another example, middle school kids pretend to be a weather intern while reading meteorological maps and predicting the weather. High school students may help an engineer chemically create and then test nanoparticles to treat brain tumors. Elsewhere, kids get into the forensics of a car crash by interviewing witnesses and calculating speeds. Thankfully, the teacher guides provide worksheets, implementation tips, discussion ideas, and even extensions.
Overall, placing learners into the active role of a professional helps build engagement in a way that makes content meaningful. There are a few caveats, of course. Teachers should realize that any user (kids, too!) can access the answer keys, and that most simulations don’t provide reports on students' in-activity responses. But overall, this dive into real-world science is likely worth it.