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Lawrence Hall of Science: 24/7 Science
Pros: Lab investigations and online simulations tackle topics not always covered, games and activities are easy to implement.
Cons: You can't search for activities by topic or ability level, games are in Flash and some no longer work, and the site is in need of an update.
Bottom Line: Many of these interesting and highly educational activities, though a bit disorganized, still challenge and engage kids in important ways.
Lawrence Hall of Science's site for kids offers enough variety for teachers to be able to include short games, activities, and experiments in their lesson plans. They are best used to supplement existing lesson plans on scientific topics, or you can construct lesson plans around them. Experiments are best done as a whole class or in smaller groups. You can also set up computer stations for students to play the games independently. The Mateo y Cientina comics can be used to get families involved in their kids' education as well. The Professional Development portion of the website offers some videos that can help you get organized, but many of them are missing.
Since the site is free, it's worth diving in to see what offerings can benefit your classroom, but you'll need devices that can run Flash games to get the most out of it.
- Bridge Builders -- Create different bridge structures and test their effectiveness.
- Bird Beaks -- Use different household items as "bird beaks" and see which are best for eating certain foods. Compare data with other students' data online.
- Save Ratty -- Design nanotechnology capsules to deliver new cells that make insulin.
Scientific experimentation and investigation is the focus of Lawrence Hall of Science: 24/7 Science, the kids' section of a science website created by the University of California, Berkeley. Young learners will find instructions on experiments they can conduct offline as well as games that teach scientific fundamentals, like measurement and comparing the properties of different substances. All activities illustrate basic principles of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and other scientific fields. Many of the games and experiments are based around real-world issues, such as how cigarette smoking damages the lungs or how to spot potential household hazards.
Rather than simple cookbook labs, kids get options. In Sticky Situations, kids get basic directions but can choose the materials they want to use. Once they've ranked those materials' "stickiness" online, they can submit their recipe. Some investigations are relatively simple, like How Old Is Your Penny? where kids just enter the years of pennies they've collected. Kids learn about bar graphs, but the power of the activity is that kids' data is shared and compared with others instantly.
While there's educational value, and fun to be had, the site hasn't been updated in quite a while. The Cat Quiz, for example, has low-res images of cats with very basic cat questions that most students will need to guess at. Also, some of the games don't work correctly, and, since they're in Flash, don't work at all on certain devices. The experiments and class activity options can still be accessed, however. Users will need to look past the clunky functionality and lack of site organization to get the most out of this resource.
Lawrence Hall of Science's activities, when implemented well in the classroom, do a good job of encouraging curious kids to interact with the world around them and record their observations. Experiments feature common household items and are easy to conduct, with very clear instructions. Students get choices about how to design their investigations. When conducting experiments, they can collect and share their data online, which helps them study their findings in a larger context.
Games and simulations are accurate, colorful, and creative, but are in need of an update for style and functionality. The NanoZone games seem to be newer and are lots of fun, giving students real-world design challenges to solve using nanotechnology. Some of the Earth and space simulations like "Seasons" aren't that engaging; kids simply move a slider. However, these activities still provide an opportunity for kids to look at data and form conclusions about it.