New Science Kit Series for Educators

Carolina Biological introduced a new Next Generation Science Standards® (NGSS)-aligned science kit series for educators of elementary students in both formal and informal education settings. Carolina launched Phenomenal Explorations™ kits for grades 3 to 5, which each explore an interesting focus question about a phenomenon that can be completed in two weeks or less. Carolina’s new three-dimensional science kit series turns students into inquiring scientists during short investigations that easily fit into the busy elementary school day or informal settings, such as science clubs, afterschool sessions, or summer camps. The lessons are designed to complement any core science curriculum that teachers are using with concise, high-interest topics to help them explain the most difficult concepts that are challenging to present in an interesting way to students. Each lesson is broken into four student-driven investigations.

Available now, Phenomenal Explorations kit topics cover life science, Earth science, physical science and engineering. Designed for flexibility, educators can use the kits in many ways, such as for a two-week change of pace, after testing, before vacations or afterschool programs, museum programs, kids groups, or even camps to build their students’ hands-on experience, engagement, and excitement. The kit topics include: Why Can a Sloth’s Fur Be a Habitat?; How Can We Keep Pets Cool During Hot Weather?; What Can Fossils Tell Us About Past Environments?; How Do Airplanes Fly?; and How Does Matter Change When an Object Dries? These new kits provide supplemental science resources with hands-on materials and digital components that support teachers who need to fit science lessons into smaller 30-minute time slots and create high-interest engagement for their students. By giving students direct experience with phenomena, the kits help them learn about and make sense of the real world.

The kits support teachers as they teach science to strengthen NGSS three-dimensional connections. Each one emphasizes science and engineering skills within flexible 3D activities. They explore bite-sized topics using a combination of hands-on, print, and digital resources. The investigations challenge students to solve real-world problems and use claims, evidence, and reasoning to support their own explanations of phenomena.

Carolina looked at hard-to-teach topics and chose ideas that are more abstract and difficult for students to understand. Developers found engaging phenomena that students could relate to and get interested in. Using scenarios that are new to students, but based on familiar and age-appropriate examples, the kits inspire students’ natural curiosity and capture their interest. Students drive their own investigations of science phenomena and learn through hands-on investigations.

“Educators of elementary students need creative resources to help connect science phenomena to real-world curiosities that students care about. Carolina’s new Phenomenal Explorations™ provides hands-on curriculum kits that educators can use to engage students, while addressing the new NGSS standards,”” said David Heller, Director of Curriculum Products and Development, at Carolina Biological Supply Company. “Each kit enables educators to guide one rigorous lesson using short, student-driven science investigations with a ready-to-teach set of hands-on materials.”

Features

Carolina’s Phenomenal Explorations hands-on single lesson kits for students in grades 3 to 5 support NGSS innovations of phenomena and three-dimensional learning by integrating literacy and science investigation. The kits include everything needed for 32 students to engage in every lesson with hands-on materials, print, and digital components.

Each kit can begin with an optional pre-assessment activity for teachers to identify what students already know, or they can skip it and go straight to the first activity. Students will engage with a problem or phenomena through literacy and images. Then explore the problem through the engineering process, identifying criteria and constraints along the way to designing a solution, or attempt to make sense of the phenomena by planning and carrying out an investigation. They will develop explanations based on evidence gathered or models designed, developed, and tested. Finally, students make claims based on evidence and reasoning or evaluate design solutions of the class to determine the best designs to solve the problem.

Phenomenal Explorations kits are available in five topics. In How Can We Keep Pets Cool During Hot Weather? Fido is panting and students are challenged to find ways to keep him cool. Students identify the potential problems outdoor pets face during a heatwave and design an outdoor habitat to keep pets cool during hot weather.

Students consider phenomena related to wet objects drying overnight in How Does Matter Change When an Object Dries? They develop initial models and then gather evidence to evaluate the flow of matter under different conditions. Students analyze their data and use the evidence to revise their models.

Students investigate the phenomena of one organism being a habitat for another in Why Can a Sloth’s Fur Be a Habitat? Students develop a model to describe relationships among animals, plants and the environment. They plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence for the needs of organisms. Students apply what they learn and use evidence to develop a claim to explain why a sloth’s fur can be a habitat.

Teachers help students spread their wings in How Do Airplanes Fly? Students learn the structures of an airplane and then work in pairs to construct a model glider. Pairs test their glider under different conditions and observe how these conditions affect motion during flight.

What Can Fossils Tell Us About Past Environments? has students explore fossil formation and analyze fossil location data through an analysis of fossil shark teeth. Students observe different environments and identify adaptations that sharks have. Students apply what they have learned about sharks and fossils to explain what a past environment may have looked like.

Online for all of the kits at CarolinaScienceOnline.com, educators can access digital resources to facilitate instruction. This includes the Teacher Guide for each lesson in eBook format, printable student investigation sheets, and ready-to-present editable slideshows to use in class to explain each investigation and give students instructions. Educators can show students the slideshows by projecting them to a screen or students can assess these themselves on devices to highlight, circle and make notes. Printable PDF versions of student investigation sheets and teacher sheets are also available.

Assessment

The Teacher’s Guide includes a pre-assessment, post-assessment, and a scenario-based assessment. At the end of each activity, there are two or three activities for students to make a claim for what they have done. A detailed grading rubric is included to help teachers determine students’ level of understanding. Scenario-based assessments blend science and reading comprehension and relate to the fundamental scientific concepts from the lesson. Students apply their knowledge to answer questions based on a lesson-specific scenario.

Availability

Phenomenal Explorations hands-on investigation kits with digital resources are available now, for each grade 3 through 5. Each of the five kits includes a print-format Teacher Guide, a class kit of hands-on materials to supply up to 32 students, and digital access to the Teachers Guide in eBook format, editable instructional slideshow, student assessment rubric and student worksheet PDFs for teachers. Prices start at $94.95 for one kit through Carolina. For information, visit Carolina’s website or https://www.carolina.com/phenomenal-explorations/32002.ct, call (800) 334-5551, or e-mail curriculum@carolina.com.

Carolina Biological Supply Company

From its beginnings in 1927, Carolina (www.carolina.com) has grown to become the leading supplier of biological and other science teaching materials in the world. Headquartered in Burlington, NC, Carolina serves customers worldwide, including teachers, students, and professionals in science and health-related fields. The company is still privately owned by descendants of the founder, geology and biology professor Dr. Thomas E. Powell Jr.

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STEM @ Home

Pitsco Education is offering five STEM/STEAM activities perfect for K-5 learning at home. Using a few readily available household items and some creativity your students can learn while making 5 projects.

For older students, Pitsco Education has made its SySTEM Alert! publication available which includes STEM fast facts, trends, related topics, and much more.  A quiz and answer key is available for each as well.

For more information and many more resources visit Pitsco Education’s STEM @ Home website.

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Five ways to support the shift to distance learning

As districts have moved to distance learning amid fears of the spread of COVID-19, it has been a learning experience for all — even in schools like ours that have had a 1:1 computer initiative for years.

Jersey Community High School is located in a small rural district in southwest Illinois, about 45 miles from St. Louis. We’re the only high school in the county and serve about 1,000 students in grades 8-12. When we launched a 1:1 initiative with Chromebooks several years ago, students quickly embraced the daily use of computers and educational technology.

Related content: How this district moved online with a moment’s notice

Now, as we complete our third week of remote learning, I have seen this experience bring both challenges and opportunities. Here are a few strategies we have implemented to make the shift to distance learning, along with a few lessons learned along the way.

Determine who has access to technology and plan accordingly.

In our district, we found out on a Friday that our schools would shut down the following Tuesday, which meant we had the weekend to prepare. More importantly, we had that Monday with students so we could gather information from them and tell them what to expect in the coming weeks. Having that one day with them was incredibly helpful.

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A Shark Tank state of mind: Empowering entrepreneurship

Be your own boss–an enticing dream that is achievable with honed business know-how. It’s a career journey that can actually start in school through programs that prepare learners for future entrepreneurship in a continually evolving workforce.

In the edWebinar “A Shark Tank State of Mind: Empowering an Entrepreneurial Mindset,” educators shared strategies for developing the capabilities and mindset students should embrace to become entrepreneurs.

Shaping and promoting entrepreneurship

A steadily changing job landscape is expanding the entrepreneurial pool, presenting unique career options for young people, noted Erica Hart, an EVERFI Community Engagement Manager. Learning business basics, management psychology, and entrepreneurial principles equips them with evergreen business competencies.

There are a host of tools and strategies that teachers can use to do this work. EVERFI’s web-based Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition is a good starting point. It teaches students how to build start-up capital, generate business ideas, conduct market research, pitch a product or service, and finance, market, and grow a business.

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4 tips to deliver distance learning effectively and efficiently

When everyone in our district received the message that school would be closing, many people’s first reaction was to think we simply had a long spring break. But not us educators – teachers across our district immediately got to work, learning new technologies and adjusting curriculum for our new reality: distance learning.

At the end of the day, we know it’s about the students and their learning comes first – no matter the shape or form it may take.

Related content: Bringing calm to distance learning during a pandemic

While these are certainly unprecedented times and there is no one-size fits all approach to distance learning, I’d like to share my tips for educators and districts when delivering distance learning:

Meet faculty and students where they are

Our district is approaching distance learning technology with educators the same way we look at ensuring students are prepared – the content needs to be relevant for students, and the same is said for our adult learners.

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Teaching critical thinking skills in the online classroom

As educators, we often hear about the importance of teaching critical thinking skills to our students. What we hear about less, however, are the most effective techniques for teaching those skills and how teachers can implement them in the classroom—especially now that schools are forced to provide virtual instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Laurel Springs School, an online K-12 education provider, we have mastered the art of teaching in an online classroom. With a competency-based model and asynchronous instruction, students at Laurel Springs must be able to think critically about their lessons and assignments, and the demonstration of concept and skill mastery is crucial to their success at our school.

Related content: 8 learning apps for students with special needs

In an online academic environment, the focus on critical thinking skills is amplified. Our learning model fosters independence and self-advocacy with applications in all areas of a student’s life. The earlier students develop these skills, the more well-equipped they are to grow as learners, expanding their knowledge base and making connections both across core content areas and in the world around them.

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How to boost student resilience during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and the turn to emergency remote learning pose numerous issues with respect to the health and well-being of students.

Research suggests that prolonged isolation and environmental stress factors could lead to significantly heightened depression and physiological problems.

Related content: In a time of crisis, a reading tournament scores big

These risks, nevertheless, can be mitigated through shared experiences and the maintenance of interpersonal communication. As it relates to children, through the integration of collaborative assignments as part of a pandemic pedagogy, schools can play an important role in supporting student resilience.

In this vein, as a high school social studies educator, I have devised strategies to ensure that collaboration is incorporated into the classroom with an emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, and inquiry.

Collaborative song writing and art

At the end of a unit on environmental issues in my freshman Global Studies course, students are typically tasked with writing and performing rap lyrics from the vantage point of teenagers from the future (e.g. 2100) suffering from the effects of climate change and communicating their feelings in a letter to previous generations.

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10 team-building activities for distance learning

As a teacher, team building is something that comes naturally. We do it to break the ice at the beginning of the year, to build a community in our classroom, and as a brain break when our kids (or the teachers) need a break.

Now that we are all learning and teaching from home, building a community and connecting with our kids is a little harder with distance learning factored in.

Related content: Student mental health goes virtual during a pandemic

Here are 10 excellent team-building strategies to keep the kids engaged and having fun all while learning a little more about their classmates and building a better community.

1. ​Name Game: Every member of the group chooses an adjective that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name. They put that adjective in front of their first name, and they have their new name. So for example: Joyful Jill. For an added challenge, you can see if people can remember everyone’s names throughout the conversation.  

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Beanstack Distance Learning Reading Challenge

Grades 2-5

Zoobean’s new Beanstack Distance Learning Reading Challenge, sponsored by  Lerner Publishing Group, promotes independent student reading through the use of best-in-class digital learning resources with free access to the Lerner™ Sports Database, featuring athlete biographies using digital literacy tools that correlate with curriculum standards.

Zoobean and Lerner invite all interested school districts to participate, even if they are not current customers of either organization; free product licenses will be provided for those that need them. In addition, Lerner pledges to donate new books to the winning institutions upon completion of the challenge.

https://landing.beanstack.com/lerner-sports-challenge

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For students with special needs, class is still in session–online

For the past 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to help students with special needs receive the high-quality education they deserve. During this time, I’ve guided them and their families as they navigate the common misconception that online learning can’t work for them. It can and it has.

But for those who are new to the online learning environment, making the switch during such a tumultuous time in our nation can be overwhelming to say the least.

Related content: COVID-19’s impact on academic gains

While the online classroom isn’t for everyone, the vast majority of the families I serve are happy with the supportive state-licensed teachers, interactive and engaging classes, and flexibility that online school offers them.

As more and more traditional brick-and-mortar schools turn to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve received an increasing number of inquiries about how online school serves students of varying abilities.

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