Emphasizing science in the early grades

One of the hallmarks of the NGSS is the integration of science lessons into the early grades, which can be a challenge for many schools.

Some elementary school teachers don’t think of themselves as subject-matter experts in science, while others feel so much pressure to make sure their students are proficient in the high-stakes subjects of reading and math that science can take a back seat to these topics.

To address these challenges, a number of NSTA conference exhibitors showed products aimed at making it easy to integrate science into the elementary grades.

Carolina Biological Supply Company demonstrated a product called Tigtag, a collection of more than 600 short science videos for young students. Teachers can use the videos for whole class or individual instruction, and students can watch the videos from home as well, said Bruce Wilcox, director of educational technology for the company.

The videos include lesson plans and ideas for extending these concepts with fun, practical classroom activities. They’re simple to integrate into teaching, and a yearly license costs $30 for individual teachers or $195 for a whole building. A similar product, Twig, includes more than 1,000 videos and lessons for teaching middle school science.

Ward’s Science highlighted a new line of durable, easy-to-use elementary science probes that can send data wirelessly to students’ digital devices or a machine connected to a projector—making it simple for young students to collect data like real scientists.

A base unit comes with a built-in temperature sensor for $176. Teachers can choose from as many as nine additional sensors, measuring characteristics such as light, sound, voltage, pressure, and motion; each additional sensor costs $100 and plugs into the top of the base unit. Wireless connectivity is available through an optional, $157 Wi-Fi module that plugs into the bottom—and free, standards-aligned activities are included with every sensor.

Engaging kids in science

Getting students interested in science was another key theme among conference exhibitors—and toward that end, Texas Instruments highlighted its “STEM Behind Hollywood” curriculum.

Created with input from scientists and movie producers, these free activities for the TI-Nspire platform ask students to apply science and math to solve problems based on popular movie themes—such as saving the Earth from an approaching meteor or using clues from a decomposing body to identify a murder victim.

Laser Quest, a Canadian company that makes laser tag equipment, discussed its educational programs about lasers, light, and optics. Students play laser tag games and then discuss how concepts such as light reflection and refraction influenced their strategy or the outcome of the games.

And during a live demonstration that generated quite a buzz, Wildlife Acoustics launched an iOS-powered “bat detector” app.

About the size of a key fob, the company’s Echo Meter Touch is an ultrasonic module that plugs into an iPhone or iPad. When used with the free Echo Meter Touch app, it creates a fully functional spectrogram viewer, allowing students to listen to and record bats in real time.

“Echo Meter Touch has student discovery stamped all over it,” said product manager Sherwood Snyder in a press release. “It’s an innovative way for teachers in one-to-one and flipped learning classroom environments to get students excited about biology.”

The app identifies a bat’s species by capturing ultrasonic sounds, giving students an opportunity to learn more about the bats they’re monitoring. A GPS tracking feature automatically tags all recordings with location information.

(Next page: Nurturing and showcasing top STEM talent—and other new science curriculum products)

Dennis Pierce

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