Junk Drawer Science is a new science curriculum company started by teachers with great resources for teachers.
Welcome to Junk Drawer Science: a result of years of frustration with the out-of-touch, and often-out-of date resources that have been available to us as teachers. We believe that it is time for a revolution in science education. The textbook should be relegated to its proper place. It should be a resource and no longer the focal point of our science classes!
Our mission is to provide engaging materials that stimulate learning in your students. We believe that science should not be expensive, and that the simplest lessons are often the most profound.
At the moment, they have three products available for purchase: a book full of great activities for middle and high school life science classes, a guide to using interactive notebooks in science class, and the game they created called “The Game of Evolution”.
I happen to teach with the Junk Drawer Science owners and can guarantee that their products are worth every penny. They have worked hard to develop curriculum and lesson tools that are effective in the classroom as well as easy to implement on a low (to non-existent) budget.
I guess that makes this a shameless plug: all in the name of providing the world with great teaching resources!
Unfortunately, they will not be at the NSTA conference in San Francisco, so for now, you will have to check them out online.
Wiki-Teacher is a fabulous resource for all teachers, regardless of content area. It was actually started by my district, but has more users from outside of Nevada than not!
One of the great things about Wiki-Teacher is that it has lesson plans and ideas as well as videos to give you some ideas of how to implement certain strategies.
There’s not much else I can say since even just a little time exploring will get you hooked!
from a lecture given by Amanda Gunning.
Why a virtual lab?
- Online or downloaded – I recommend the downloaded version if possible since you won’t have to worry about faulty internet.
- “Hands On” – student should still be manipulating variables, making observations, and drawing conclusions.
- Fulfills lab requirements.
- Provides variety to curriculum.
- Easy way to incorporate technology and use school resources.
- Explores complex and difficult to observe concepts in a simpler way.
- Great way to give students lab activities when they are home-bound due to illness or are chronically absent.
Challenges to using virtual labs:
- Availability of computers and internet access.
- Battery-life of laptops.
- Management issues – to get all the computers set up and ready for use cuts into class time. If you have an IT person who doesn’t come from an education background, get to know them and learn as much as you can so that you don’t rely on them in case of a technology issue in class when they aren’t available to help. Be sensitive that they don’t always understand the time constraints and pressures related with teaching.
- If students are sharing a computer, are they both involved or is one student taking control and the other off task?
- Students might want to listen to music while working on the computer – this is a policy that needs to be determined by the teacher if the administration hasn’t already written a policy on that.
Preparing for a Virtual Lab
- Plan for it! A virtual lab isn’t a free period: are you using the lab to introduce a topic, demonstrate a concept, or assess student understanding?
- Scaffold the virtual lab! Introduce using the virtual lab as another way to experiment, explain and model the features students will manipulate, and have an associated assignment or handout.
- Plan for discussion to make meaningful conclusions.
Great Virtual Lab Sites
It’s snowing today and I can’t help but think of all the marvelous Physics lessons I see all around me:
Driving In Snow
I was out driving today and the roads were barely snow-covered, but it made me think about occasions when I wasn’t so lucky. Most New England drivers have experienced their car fishtailing; some are even lucky enough to spin out and maintain control of the vehicle. I think it’s safe to say that most people aren’t calculating the equations involved in their sloshy adventure, but a little Physics might help them get home safer. Snow and rain are a great opportunity to talk to students about safe driving techniques and discussing the mechanisms built into vehicles to prevent accidents. As I always warn my husband when driving in slick conditions, “Be careful, your coefficient of friction is constantly changing.”
Now that I think about it, there could be a pretty cool lab activity simulating conditions on slippery roads – anyone have anything already?
Seeing Your Breath In The Cold
When I am visiting my parents and in-laws I like to listen to the local Country radio station. This morning, the announcers were discussing shoveling snow. One of them said he liked shoveling because it’s out in the cold with all the snow where you can see the “smoke” coming out of your mouth. If I have learned anything throughout my two years in grad school, it’s been that teaching science within the context of students’ misconceptions is a great way to ensure student understanding. That why I got upset when I heard the radio announcer call their condensed breath “smoke”. It makes it so hard for teachers to teach correct and accurate information when public figures only perpetuate misconceptions? How can teachers correct psuedoscience in the classroom when nothing changes outside the classroom?
I worked with a few colleagues to develop at least an introductory unit on Heat based on correcting student misconceptions. The links to the concept map and lessons are found at the link above.
In the December 2009 edition of Physics Today, there was a great article titled, “The Surprising Science of Ski Moguls” by David B. Bahr, W. Tad Pfeffer, and Raymond C. Browning. All AAPT members get free access to this publication, but if you are not a member, I believe this article is free online anyways. I can’t wait to find an opportunity to share this with my class!
What kinds of science do you think of when it snows?
Found this really neat video on CNN.com this morning. It’s all about a man who has figured out a way to make his own gas for cooking. What a great discussion for class!
I can’t believe I haven’t posted on this topic yet!
Rhett, from Dot Physics has a great explanation and videos, so there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.
It’s super easy, so try it yourself!
Great idea (as always) from Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers for a lab where kids try to guess where a projectile will land.
Read it here.
Rhett at Dot Physics has a very similar post which includes some great diagrams.