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Find more Classroom Connections
As technology grows more prevalent in the classroom, the question becomes how to coalesce digital and print resources into core content areas. In an innovative science curriculum, educators can not only incorporate hands-on science such as labs but also Web sites and supplementary print titles, which provide valuable opportunities for enhancing learning.
The National Academy of Science’s National Science Education Standards broadly define scientific literacy to include “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” Specifically, scientific literacy encompasses a hands-on approach, which includes being able to understand scientific articles as well as identify scientific issues and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. To help develop scientific literacy, educators can utilize Web sites that offer interactive features, such as a video demonstration of the circulatory system, the chance to predict weather patterns, or the opportunity to assess one’s carbon footprint.
With so many science-related Web sites in existence, finding the best ones can be onerous for a busy educator. The same problem exists in terms of culling through hundreds of available children’s books that tie into the science curriculum. This article matches up supplemental science titles and Web sites that educators can use in the classroom as part of a laptop program or with a whiteboard, or have students investigate on their own.
One good place to start online is the Learning Science Web site, created by Dr. George Mehler, K–12 Science Advisor for the Central Bucks School District in Pennsylvania. This Web site takes the National Science Education Standards and couples them with Web sites that educators can use to enhance scientific concepts. Each segment of a standard is broken out into grade ranges, with each level providing a juried selection of Web sites that can help flesh out a particular science unit.
Science as Inquiry
The science as inquiry standards include basic skills for “understanding the nature of science.” MedMyst: Medical Mysteries on the Web, sponsored by Rice University’s Center for Teaching in Technology and Learning, turns the process of scientific inquiry into the practical application of the investigation of infectious diseases. To accompany the site, the series 24/7: Science behind the Scenes: Medical Files looks at infectious diseases, food-borne illnesses, and more. In Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster, award-winning science writer Albert Marrin tells how Jenner, an English country surgeon, using a combination of observation and experimentation, developed what we now call the smallpox vaccine.
These standards incorporate the elements of light, heat, motion, and the transfer of energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Web site Energy Kids uses clear language to explain concepts of energy to K–4 students and also includes games and activities and a History of Energy time line. A book that pairs well with this site is Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen’s The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip. Students can take a ride with Ms. Frizzle as they visit a power plant to see how transformers work and find out how electricity makes light.
At NASA’s Beginner’s Guide to Rockets, interested middle-school students can learn “basic math and physics that govern the design and flight of rockets.” Ruth Ashby’s biography Rocket Man lends a historical perspective to the story of outer-space exploration through John Glenn’s achievement as the first American to orbit Earth.
A site that explores glaciers is the University of Vermont’s Glaciers and the Glacial Ages, which includes a page that demonstrates the movement of glaciers across Earth’s surface. For further explanation of glaciers, James M. Deem’s Bodies from the Ice begins with trekkers discovering a frozen body that turns out to be more than 5,000 years old.
The life cycles and characteristics of organisms are covered in life science standards. Exploring the impact we have on each other, EcoKids: Earth Day Canada’s Chain Reaction page features a game inviting younger students to construct a simple northern climate or forest food chain. The Follow That Food Chain series, by Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn, is organized like a nonfiction choose-your-own-adventure game and explores food chains in a variety of climate zones.
For older students, the structure and function of living organisms is the focus of the BBC’s Science and Nature: Human Body and Mind, which includes interactive games involving the senses, muscles, organs, and body functions. For an in-depth look at our circulatory system, PBS hosts Red Gold: The Epic Story of Blood, which examines the journey of blood through the human body as well as the medical history of blood, with feature articles and time lines. One book to pair with these sites is David Macaulay’s The Way We Work, which illuminates the complex workings of the human body.
Earth and Space Science
Ample resources exist in print and online about weather. National Geographic’s Forces of Nature and EdHeads, a nonprofit educational group, are two Web sites that will appeal to both younger and older age groups. On the Forces of Nature site, beautiful photographs and simple explanations help students create their own hurricanes and tornadoes, offering much learning excitement. On EdHeads’ Weather section, students can predict and report the weather across the United States. Books on this topic include Catherine O’Neill Grace’s picturesque Forces of Nature, which focuses on weather phenomena and the scientists who study them. For classroom weather activities, Mary Kay Carson’s Weather Projects for Young Scientists provides more than 40 experiments.
Outer space is another digital- and print-rich subject. Older students can investigate Mars on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission and also get the latest news on the solar system through the Hubble Telescope at the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Hubble Telescope site. For more detailed information on the Hubble Telescope and its history, check out Robin Kerrod and Carole Stott’s adult book Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe, which provides an overview of the telescope’s accomplishments with stunning photographs and images. Seymour Simon’s Destination Mars includes information from the Mars Orbiter Camera, Hubble Telescope, and Pathfinder Lander, while Alexandra Siy’s Cars on Mars describes the rovers’ explorations on Mars.
To see how residing in outer space impacts humans, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers Living in Space, where students can design a space station as well as peruse a field guide to the universe. For more on space station living, David Baker and Heather Kissock’s International Space Station outlines the history and what life is like on board.
Science and Technology
These standards explore our understanding of technological design and its relationship to science. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation hosts Invention Playhouse, which invites children to tinker and problem solve through a variety of games and scenarios, encouraging creative play and invention. For a fascinating look at the connections between natural and human design, Phil Gates’ Nature Got There First: Inventions Inspired by Nature examines the similarities between the workings of I beams and the make-up of dinosaur vertebrae, among other things.
EdHeads breaks down how Simple Machines work with activities in which students analyze the mechanics behind machines found in a house or tool shed. Teachers can use Deborah Hodge’s Simple Machines to encourage further experiments.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
These standards encompass personal health, population growth, and changes in the environment. The Web site Breathing Earth, created by David Bleja, uses a world map to pinpoint population growth as well as how much carbon dioxide humans are producing, all in real-time simulation. It also includes a link to the Global Footprint Network’s Footprint Calculator, where students can figure out their ecological footprint. Adapted by Sibert-winning science writer Sally M. Walker, We Are the Weather Makers is the youth edition of Tim Flannery’s adult title The Weather Makers (2005) and speaks straight to “the generation who will act on global warming” about the realities of climate change. Middle-grade readers will enjoy Planet Earth, by Kathleen M. Reilly, in the Projects You Can Build Yourself series, which combines explanations of science concepts and environmental issues with hands-on projects.
London’s Science Museum offers Making the Modern World, which looks at the inventions of modern life and the people who created them as well as the impact of those innovations on society. Marshall Cavendish’s new series How Are They Made? takes the most mundane items—helmets, sweaters, guitars—and gives the full story on their production, starting with the raw materials.
History and Nature of Science
These standards present a chance to learn about those who devoted their lives to science and exploration. The American Museum of Natural History’s site Ology investigates archeology, anthropology, astronomy, and biodiversity and features games, animated stories, investigations, field work, and “Make It” projects. Judith St. George’s So You Want to Be an Inventor? is a rollicking read and sheds light on an array of inventors and their inventions. For older students, Peter Jedicke’s Great Inventions of the Twentieth Century and Clive Gifford’s 10 Inventors Who Changed the World give a more detailed look at famous inventors.
Because science is a discipline that encompasses such a wide range of skills, providing an integrated curriculum through a variety of reading materials, both print and digital, will improve students’ likelihood for success. Incorporating Web sites into this content area adds a tactile dimension that also aids the teaching of individual standards, and supplemental books increase knowledge with in-depth information. By pairing these resources, educators can increase students’ mastery of science and enhance their overall learning experience.
10 Inventors Who Changed the World. By Clive Gifford. Illus. by David Cousens. 2009. 64p. Kingfisher, $14.99 (9780753462591). 900. Gr. 4–6.
Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past. By James M. Deem. illus. 2008. 64p. Houghton, $17 (9780618800452). 599.9. Gr. 4–7.
Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet. By Alexandra Siy. illus. 2009. 64p. Charlesbridge, $18.95 (9781570914621). Gr. 4–8. 919.9.
Destination Mars. By Seymour Simon. illus. 1987; reissued 2000. 32p. HarperCollins, $15.99 (9780688157708); paper, $6.99 (9780060546380). 523.43. Gr. 3–5.
Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: The Search for the Smallpox Vaccine. By Albert Marrin. 2002. 96p. Dutton, $17.99 (9780525469223). 614.5. Gr. 4–8.
Forces of Nature: The Awesome Power of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Tornadoes. By Catherine O’Neill Grace. illus. 2004. 64p. National Geographic, $17.95 (9780792263289). 551.2. Gr. 4–6.
Great Inventions of the Twentieth Century. By Peter Jedicke. illus. 2007. 72p. Chelsea House, lib. ed., $30 (9780791090480). 609. Gr. 5–8.
Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe. By Robin Kerrod and Carole Stott. illus. 2007. 192p. Firefly, $35 (9781554073160). 522.
International Space Station. By David Baker and Heather Kissock. illus. 2009. 32p. Weigl, $26 (9781590367759); paper, $9.95 (9781605960241); lib. ed., $17.16 (9781605960234). 629.44. Gr. 4–6.
The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip. By Joanna Cole. Illus. by Bruce Degen. 1997. 56p. Scholastic, $15.95 (9780590446822); paper, $6.99 (9780590446839). 621.3. Gr. 2–4.
Nature Got There First: Inventions Inspired by Nature. By Phil Gates. illus. 2010. 64p. Kingfisher, $16.99 (9780753464106). 508. Gr. 3–6.
Planet Earth: 25 Environmental Projects You Can Build Yourself. By Kathleen M. Reilly. illus. 2008. 128p. Nomad, $21.95 (9781934670057); paper, $14.95 (9781934670040). 507.8. Gr. 4–7.
Rocket Man: The Mercury Adventure of John Glenn. By Ruth Ashby. Illus. by Robert Hunt. 2004. 144p. Peachtree, $12.95 (9781561453238). Gr. 4–6.
Simple Machines. By Deborah Hodge. Illus. by Ray Boudreau. 1998. 32p. Kids Can, paper, $6.95 (9781550743999). 621.8. Gr. 1–4.
So You Want to Be an Inventor? By Judith St. George. Illus. by David Small. 2002. 56p. Philomel, $16.99 (9780399235931); Puffin, paper, $7.99 (9780142404607). 608. Gr. 4–8.
The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body. By David Macaulay. Illus. by the author. 2008. 336p. Houghton, $35 (9780618233786). 610. Gr. 7–12.
We Are the Weather Makers: The History of Climate Change. By Tim Flannery and Sally M. Walker. illus. 2009. 320p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763636562). 363.73874. Gr. 7–12.
Weather Projects for Young Scientists. By Mary Kay Carson. illus. 2007. 144p. Chicago Review, paper, $16.95 (9781556526299). 551.5078. Gr. 4–7.
24/7: Science behind the Scenes: Medical Files series. Scholastic. illus. Individual books, 64p., lib. ed., $26; paper, $7.95. Gr. 5–7.
Follow That Food Chain series. By Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn. Lerner. illus. Individual titles, 64p., lib. ed., $30.60. Gr. 3–5.
How Are They Made? series. Marshall Cavendish. illus. Individual books, 32p. lib. ed., $12.99. Gr. 4–6.
Rebecca A. Hill is a librarian and freelance writer in Zionsville, Indiana.
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