Back-to-school season is upon us and if it's not at the time you're reading this it is never too early (...or too late) to start thinking about engaging activities for your science students for the next year. In fact, some of these activities that I'm going to mention here can be implemented at any time as revision activities or even end-of-term class activities.
1. LAB SAFETY
Lab safety is one of the most important topics we can teach in any introductory science class and is crucial for protecting students, preventing accidents, promoting responsible behaviour, developing scientific skills and instilling a culture of safety.
Additionally, as educators, we have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure the safety of our students. By teaching lab safety, and teaching it properly, we fulfil this obligation and protect ourselves from potential liabilities.
But the topic itself can be quite boring, in my post 3 Non-Boring Activities for teaching lab safety (your students will love) I discuss three game-based activities you can easily implement in your classroom when introducing this topic. These include:
Each of these activities is geared towards getting students acquainted with the lab safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets eye wash stations as well as the lab safety symbols they will encounter especially if you plan on doing any experiments this school year.
You can also assign your students these STOP! Safety First task cards to review lab safety rules and procedures.
2. LABORATORY APPARATUS
Students need to know about the different apparatus used in the science lab for a few reasons:
Knowledge of lab apparatus is essential for ensuring safety in the laboratory. Understanding the purpose, handling and appropriate use of each apparatus helps students minimize the risk of accidents, mishandling of equipment and exposure to hazardous substances.
2. Experiment Design
Different experiments require specific apparatus to carry out procedures and measurements accurately. Students need to know the functions and capabilities of various lab apparatus to design experiments effectively and select the appropriate tools for specific tasks.
3. Proper Technique
Each lab apparatus has its own set of techniques to ensure accurate measurements, precise manipulations and consistent results. knowledge of apparatus-specific techniques such as using a pipette or a burette, ensures students can perform experiments correctly and obtain reliable results.
The best way to get students to learn about the different lab tools is to have them use the tools by completing simple practical activities. You can carry the different apparatus to class or have students visit the school laboratory to get a feel for the different apparatus. If this is not possible, having pictures of the equipment could also work although nothing beats the actual thing.
If you are looking for a fun activity to review the laboratory apparatus in your classroom try out the Lab Apparatus BINGO!
3. MAKING MEASUREMENTS
Not only should students know how to identify the different apparatus used in science, but they should also be able to use the different measuring instruments correctly and safely.
This is important for several reasons which should be stressed during your lessons:
1. Accurate Data Collection
Measuring instruments are designed to provide precise and accurate readings. Teaching students how to use these instruments correctly ensures that they can collect reliable data during scientific experiments.
2. Developing Scientific Skills
Using measuring instruments is an essential part of scientific practice. By learning how to operate various instruments such as rulers, thermometers, graduated cylinders, balances and pH meters, students develop essential scientific skills, including observation, data collection and analysis.
3. Practical Applications
The ability to use measuring instruments has practical applications in everyday life. Students can apply these skills in various situations such as cooking, construction, home improvement, and DIY projects, where accurate measurements are essential for successful outcomes.
In addition to my students using the different instruments to take various measurements such as mass, volume, temperature, and length I also allow them to practice reading the scales on these instruments with worksheets.
There are many worksheets available on the internet, but I use these:
4. THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
The scientific method is at the core of scientific inquiry and helps students understand the nature of science as a dynamic and iterative process.
They learn that science is not just a collection of facts but a methodical approach to understanding the natural world. This understanding encourages curiosity and exploration as well as a deeper appreciation for the process of scientific discovery.
When learning about the scientific method, it is important that students get some hands-on experience. It is also important that students began to think about the scientific process in order to develop a deeper appreciation for the process of scientific discovery.
Two such activities that I use to get my students thinking like scientists are :
Students develop a number of misconceptions about science due to erroneous information in the media, their own stereotypes, and even the misuse of technical scientific vocabulary. And these ideas sometimes persist throughout their lives.
Using Concept Cartoons to Address Misconceptions in Science
Concept cartoons are cartoon-style drawings that propose alternative ideas about a particular scientific concept (including the scientifically accepted account) as a way of generating student discussion and revealing students' misconceptions.
According to the research concept cartoons:
present problems in a form that is easily accessible to students across all age ranges and at different levels of understanding
are effective at both revealing and challenging learners' ideas thereby enabling students to contextualize those ideas both in writing and verbally.
supports student collaboration and social construction of understanding by having students consider each other's and evaluate their own ideas regarding different concepts
In my classroom, I allow students to work on these in groups, where they will select a cartoon character ( the STEAM KIDS) they agree with, and then explain why they agree. This is also a way of introducing some metacognitive strategies to my lessons.
Evaluating Scientific Discoveries to understand the scientific process
I have always maintained that it is better to have students focus on scientific skills rather than a scientific method and I speak about this in the post 4 Mistakes we Make when teaching the Scientific Method.
One activity I have found useful for introducing the skills used by scientists and getting students to have a better grasp of the scientific process is to have them evaluate the "scientific method" of other scientists.
Many scientists praised for their groundbreaking discoveries did not follow a cut-and-dry formulaic method but rather a highly iterative process that involved creativity, intuition, and plain old luck.
I use the discovery of penicillin as well as the development of the smallpox vaccine to get this point across.
As we move more toward STEAM Education it becomes more important to allow our students to practice creativity and flexibility when approaching science and science investigations.
Are there any other concepts that I missed? Do you agree or disagree with my top four? Let me know in the comments.