Bueller? Anyone?
December 17, 2011 5:48 AM   Subscribe

The great news is I got a teaching job high school. The not-so-great news is that I'm biology and physical science, subjects I can barely fake my way through (I got hired because I have a background in special education and working with this population). What are some great books and online resources that will help me with super-interesting lessons? Bonus points for online games and experiments that don't involve flames or heat.

...long story short, I finally got a job an all-girl residential high school for girls with severe emotional issues. I teach three sections daily; 2 bio and one physical science. These are not motivated students, and I completely understand my goal is not to turn them all into Marie Curie but I want them to love science and get something from the class. Why not have them think science is awesome, right? But how?

All I've been given for curriculum are fairly decent textbooks, but that gets dull. To give you an idea, we've watched "Over the Hedge" and "March of the "Penguins" for a biodiversity unit, we've created a "forest" with wooden sticks and had it disappear by overforestation, and did an experiment showing population growth with yeast and molasses. They love doing things like that.

I'm desperate for ass-kicking online lesson treasure troves that I can look at, cool activities I can do with the girls, movies, tv series, experiments....really...anything that you've ever taught (or been taught) in science that made you sit up and think, "Cool!"
posted by kinetic to Education (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One of my favorite demonstrations: Nose Breaker
posted by Loto at 5:51 AM on December 17, 2011

Middle school science links

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

High school science links

1, 2, 3, 4

High school stuff seems harder to find for some reason (I run across alot of home school biblical science info - which may or may not be your thing).
posted by quodlibet at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2011

A tip when teaching. If someone asks a question that you do not know how to answer, tell them you'll get back to them, write the question down, do the research, and definitely get back to them with the answer. Don't BS an answer; you'll lose credibility.
posted by mbarryf at 6:05 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should mention that my budget for materials is $0, so free is good. Things I have to pay for, not good.
posted by kinetic at 6:10 AM on December 17, 2011

My other piece of advice would be to have some idea of a curriculum design. It seems that you have textbooks, you could get an idea of a curriculum from there. In teaching, it is called backwards design. You'll be more successful with the students' learning if you have a road map, so to say. Then the fun activities are meaningful for the students' learning. I recognize you have a hard placement but curriculums can be developed for all levels. Lots of states put their standards online - Georgia has some good ones, as does California. Thinking unit by unit, you can try to think of activities for each unit.
posted by quodlibet at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2011

A while ago I posted links to all of my collection of molecular movies here, I've found them invaluable in explaining biology to the uninitiated.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:25 AM on December 17, 2011

Flocabulary has online videos that the kids might be interested in. It's a site you have to pay for, but they have rotating free content that you might be able to use.

This site might be useful for experiment ideas.

Quia has a lot of online games that you can browse through. My students love playing Jeopardy and Rags to Riches online to review vocabulary words and concepts.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:28 AM on December 17, 2011

If you have an academic library nearby, the journal american biology teacher is chock-full of great, generally low-budget learning activities
posted by rockindata at 6:45 AM on December 17, 2011

My love of science and biology is due in part to a really awesome biologist turned teacher who got my middle school class involved in projects outside the classroom, like building a community garden (soil science), animal tracking in winter (mammals, and species identification), and wetland restoration with the local conservation authority. If you are interested in this kind of approach, your local conservation authority or nature group may be full of curriculum, activities, and advice for more ecology based biology.
posted by snowysoul at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend (who is also a teacher) also just recommended Scitable as a great resource
posted by snowysoul at 7:34 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A book that might help: Teaching What You Don't Know, by Therese Huston.
posted by bentley at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A small vermicomposting bin can be kept inside or outside as an ongoing biology project.

An easier demonstration is to buy some seeds (I used lettuce) and count every hour how many have germinated. When you graph the data it should look roughly like a logistic function (total seeds germinated) or a bell curve (seeds germinated each hour).

My favorite physical science project was to build a machine and analyze the amount of energy it used. I bought one of those cheap balsa wood airplanes and tested different rubber bands to store and release kinetic energy. I used a spring scale to measure the force of the propeller as I wound the rubber band, then calculated how many rubber bands it would take to (somehow!) power a light bulb. I love thinking about how the energy transformations involved: sunlight to sugar to the muscle contractions in my arm to the stretched rubber band to the propeller to the air, with energy lost as heat in every step.
posted by gray17 at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2011

Here's a really low budget way of doing gel electrophoresis to analyze food coloring. You probably have most of the components already.
posted by euphorb at 9:33 AM on December 17, 2011

Look up "STEM curriculum" online ---thereswithout A LOT out there.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:44 AM on December 17, 2011

There's a lot going on in the interest of improving science education, especially for girls, especially at the middle-school and high-school level. The magic acronym is STEM (science, technology, engineering, math.) There are lesson plans and classroom projects, white papers and reports on effective teaching methods and infrastructure models, regional networks of educators, announcements of grants and competitions, information on professional development opportunities for teachers, and science news to help get you more engaged in the subject. Here's a few links with a lot of content:

National Science Foundation: Classroom Resources
PBS Science & Tech Classroom Resources
National Science Teachers Association: High School Classroom
Successful STEM Education: Resources and Reports
Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network: workshops, resources, news.

Also check out your local universities, community colleges, science museums, library system, and any other major local organizations dedicated to education and community.

There may also be existing classroom enrichment projects/programs that your school would be able to join up with. If there are resources/programs that aren't free, ask your school if they can pick up the tab -- even if there is no money for classroom supplies, there may be funds set aside specifically for curriculum development or teachers' professional development, especially if it will benefit multiple teachers (and make the school more educationally effective.) If there really is no money, the organizations offering resources/programs may waive fees for your school because of the population it serves.
posted by desuetude at 12:16 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you familiar with Radiolab? I don't have much of a science background, but I love Radiolab and find it explains things in an interesting and accessible way. You could look through the podcast archives to see if they've covered anything you'll be teaching. Even though the shows are an hour long, they're broken up into smaller clips (10-20 minutes long) you could use to introduce the students to various concepts.

Other audio resources:

The Naked Scientists
Quirks and Quarks

And seconding mbarryf's point about saying you don't know but you'll look it up and get back to them. As a teacher myself, I've never regretted doing this--it's less stressful on you as the teacher, and it tells the students they can trust you to be honest with them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2011

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