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Pros: Intriguing and thoughtful podcasts, stories, and lessons help build curiosity.
Cons: There's a lack of support for struggling learners.
Bottom Line: For a weekly rejuvenation of scientific learning, Science Friday is a source of inspiration for both teachers and students.
Use Science Friday with teams of teachers at all levels. There are lesson ideas and content for younger elementary school all the way to upper high school students. One of the toughest transitions to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has been the fact that students should be doing science rather than just passively knowing it or trying to understand it. Often, teachers, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, don't feel like they have the content experience to create these types of lessons in their classrooms. Science Friday can be used to conceptualize what doing science might look like through the study of everyday phenomena.
The lessons are laid out perfectly for a teacher who's planning, giving teachers everything that's required, including a list of supplies needed to execute the investigations. Use the lessons and hands-on activities to engage students and inspire curiosity every step of the way. Science Friday would also be a great bell-ringer for any classroom where students were about to dive in and start asking their own questions.
Science Friday is a website and weekly radio show highlighting the latest in science and technology. The site is organized into four different tabs: Listen, Explore, Educate, and Events. The Listen tab taps into the actual NPR program where the hosts talk about everyday scientific phenomena. They've hosted shows on alien life, antibiotics within the context of the food market, taste buds needing a tune-up as we get older, and lots of other topics. The Explore tab lets teachers dig deeper into various topics that Science Friday has featured; curious students or teachers can search by topic and type for articles, audio, and video. The Educate tab poses engaging questions and provides lesson plans and investigations that look more closely at the world around us. Finally, Events connects users to different activities that Science Friday is taking part in. Teachers can, if they are interested, contribute to the ideas and lessons included on the site.
Sci Fri Spoonfuls are also featured on the landing page. These "spoonfuls" are compact activities that are classroom- and student-ready; they often include an audio or video clip, transcript where necessary, engaging questions, and a short activity for the classroom. One recent spoonful asks the question, "How do you detect a neutrino smashing into a nucleus?"
Teachers know that learning happens when students are engaged. Engagement occurs when kids are interested and curious about the world around them and when they are being invited to ask questions and seek answers. It's in this spirit that the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) was created; it's also in this spirit that Science Friday, both the NPR program and the website, were conceived. By supporting curiosity, students will enjoy exploring the world and the phenomena around them. Science Friday brings so many resources together in one place and makes it easy for teams of teachers to sift through and look for content that supports NGSS application in their classrooms.
Science Friday lacks some options to help struggling readers, and could be improved by offering different levels of text complexity; some ELLs or struggling readers might have a hard time comprehending the text as written. That being said, the content is always current and keeps teachers and students asking the right questions. Science Friday would be a great tool to use to help students build background knowledge and context before they dive into some of the deeper projects of the year.