Just in time for back-to-school: New distance learning resources are available on Wide Open School.
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.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Earth’s Place in the Universe
Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.
Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.
Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.
Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Matter and Its Interactions
Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion.
Define a simple design problem that can be solved by applying scientific ideas about magnets.