Updated May 2014

ExploreLearning Gizmos: Science Grades 6-8

Fun experiments let kids choose variables and explore

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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These Gizmos can be used with a broad range of students, even those in high school. However, not everything here will be appropriate for middle schoolers -– you may need to adapt some activities to meet their needs. Once you've found the right Gizmos for your class, devise a way to individualize students' inquiries. Since most of the Gizmos here have multiple variables to manipulate, every student in a class can design his or her own investigation. In "Rabbit Population by Season," one student could examine how land area impacts a population; another might choose to look at the impact of a harsh winter. This experiment would be impossible given the traditional constraints of most classrooms, but ExploreLearning removes these barriers with an innovative way for kids to experiment.

The science Gizmos also provide scaffolding to help kids learn how to interpret data. The Photosynthesis Lab could seem overwhelming at first, but it can work well if you begin by assigning each pair of students a different set of variables to explore. Since the Gizmo produces a graph for them, students can simply focus on figuring out what their data means. Each pair could then share their results with the class. This gives everyone a chance to build understanding about photosynthesis together, modeling collaboration within the scientific community.

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Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Donna M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, United States
Engaging Middle School Science Labs Without Science Equipment!
I like ExploreLearning Gizmos as a learning tool. Compared to other simulations, they are easy to figure out from the guidance provided in the student worksheet. The simulations are colorful and provide many opportunities for students to manipulate variables and be in control of their learning. Their guided inquiry approach keeps students engaged and contributes to learning. The website has correlated the Gizmos to the major textbook publishers, so teachers can easily find an applicable Gizmo for their unit of study. They are great supplements to the hands-on activities that are done in class. Internet bandwith can be an issue. If the whole class is using Gizmos in a 1-1 situation, without adequate bandwidth, the simulations slow down or freeze. I generally have students work in pairs to avoid this, plus it encourages collaboration. The collaboration is also helpful because there is not much support for low readers or second language learners. The student sheets always have an extension for advanced students, but it is up to the teacher to support low readers or English Language Learners. ExploreLearning has divided the Gizmos into gradebands (grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). It seems like several in the middle level band include concepts that are beyond most middle school students, so teachers definitely need to preview each one for appropriateness. Although the Gizmos are free to try for 30 days, the free trial does not give teachers access to the answer key, or to teacher-developed supplemental materials that are on the site, so that involves some additional work. When the 30-day subscription expires, teachers can sign up for another one, simply by using a different email address.The paid subscription is based on a per/pupil cost and is rather expensive. However, for the quality of materials and the variety of subject matter that is addressed, ExploreLearning Gizmos are worth it!
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