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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.
Key Standards Supported
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.
Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.
Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text.
Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text’s explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9–10 texts and topics.
Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).
Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, defining the question the author seeks to address.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem.
Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.
By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11–12 texts and topics.
Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, identifying important issues that remain unresolved.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.
Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11–12 text complexity band independently and proficiently.