5 Tips to Simplify Your Science Instruction
Teaching science can sometimes feel like such a daunting task, especially if you feel like science isn’t “your thing”! In honor of Earth Day, here are some tips to simplify your science instruction that may be helpful as you finish the school year strong.
1. Use materials you have on hand.
I often find myself running to the store to purchase every item required for a fun lab activity. But over time, that really starts to add up! Using materials that are already on my school campus, or purchasing items that can be used repeatedly each year can be very helpful. One of my favorite simple demonstrations is the burning money demo. It requires a beaker, water, rubbing alcohol, tongs, and a bill (I usually use whatever is in my wallet at the time). The only thing I have to purchase year over year is the rubbing alcohol. Steve Spangler has a great video for you to watch this demo before you try it in front of students (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJxQgHCjCSg). And, if you are unable to physically perform the demonstration in class, online videos such as this are a nice substitution.
2. Prepare ahead of time.
It is important to prepare for your experiment or science activity ahead of time by gathering all of the necessary materials, prepping any activity sheets or recording logs, and putting everything together in a specific spot in your classroom on the day of the experiment. Although you have to spend time on the front end to get prepared, you won’t be scrambling around the classroom wasting time during your science lesson, which will allow your students maximum time to learn and explore.
3. Tie projects/experiments to the seasons or holidays.
Connecting experiments to the holidays makes it memorable for students! For example, instead of simply having students explore the rates at which sugar will dissolve in water when the solvent is heated or stirred, use some of that leftover Halloween candy instead. Or in spring, pick up some boxes of Peeps instead. For some excitement with chemical reactions, a fun option is to carve a pumpkin and combine vinegar, baking soda, soap, and water with some food coloring. You can find the steps for this experiment and get a preview of what happens when those items are combined here: https://thestemlaboratory.com/pumpkin-volcano/
4. Pick a phenomenon of the week.
Why do letters appear backwards when you look at them through a glass of water? Why do Mentos make soda explode out of a 2-liter bottle? Strange science phenomena are everywhere. The website Phenomena for NGSS (http://www.ngssphenomena.com) shows images or brief videos of phenomena in the world around us that are all based on science. One of my favorites is the Cheerios Effect. I brought a few different sized bowls from home and students were able to make observations regarding how the cheerios clustered together in milk in variously shaped and sized bowls. Although vary basic, it was a fun lesson that led to discussions about molecules, surface tension, density, and forces of attraction.
5. Create interactive notebooks.
Have students keep all their materials for the year in their interactive notebooks—from labs to prototypes for structures, and notes from class activities. Having all their science material in one spot keeps the kids organized and teaches them practices that scientists truly use!