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Lesson Ideas

Original Hands-On Lessons & Activities

This collection features ten original hands-on lesson plans that are unique to our organization and designed specifically for our adapted research articles – by real classroom teachers! They can be used to help elementary school, middle school, and high school students conduct experiments and interpret data using real scientific research. They feature educational games or guide students to replicate the original experiment inside the classroom. Students are sure to enjoy each of these lessons!

1. Experiment: Animal Cognition and Object Permanence

How can we test animals’ intelligence?

Students will role-play as scientist or animal and use four (of eight) experiments to observe how animals can learn.

2. Data-Informed Solutions: Air Pollution and Transportation

How do transportation choices affect air pollution?

Students will use an online data tool to observe changes in smog levels across the globe during the pandemic. Using their findings as well as the guided reading, they will then examine local transportation practices, options, challenges, and solutions that might help improve pollution.

3. Experiment: Osmosis and Renewable Energy

How can hydrogen solve the problem of renewable energy storage?

Students will experiment with plastic cups of water, thumb tacks, and different “add-ins” like baking soda and lemon juice to test how splitting water can be used to generate electricity. They will then apply this information to think about how we create hydrogen fuel cells.

4. Simulation: Natural Selection and Evolution

How do organisms adjust to a changing climate?

Students will simulate birds in a competitive resource environment, using various tools as “beaks” to eat “food” from the table. In subsequent experimental iterations, students will limit or vary the types of beaks, food, and survival available in the game to make observations about genetic variation, natural selection, and resource partitioning.

5. Classifying Evidence: Evolution and Flying Reptiles

Evolution: Where did flying reptiles come from?

Students will manipulate images of dinosaur bones and attempt to correctly sort them by bone type and to correctly assign them to their animal of origin: lagerpetid or pterosaur. An extension activity guides students through eight stations with different methods of learning or thinking about evolution.

6. Claims-Evidence-Reasoning Activity: Genetics and Material Culture

Where did the first people in the Caribbean come from?

Students will manipulate DNA sequences and material samples, placing them on a map of the Americas to trace the evidence of migration patterns in the Caribbean. They will engage in discussions of genetics, archaeology, and culture, with extensions that can introduce them to Taino origin stories.

7. Role-Play: Beavers and Ecosystem Management

Beavers: a town-hall role-play activity

Students will role-play citizens in a town hall discussion to generate solutions to beaver activity impacting the local waterways. They will then vote on the best solution using a ballot system.

8. Survey and Experiment: Gratitude and Emotional Well-being

How can gratitude help emotional well-being?

Students will complete a science-based emotional well-being survey, discuss interventions that might improve their results, and then re-test in a week to see if there is a difference in their scores.

9. Applying Evidence: Habitat Development and Conservation

What kinds of landscapes keep bees healthy?

Students will draw or build a bumblebee habitat and discuss their ideas with other groups in the class.

10. Policy Research: Human-Wildlife Conflict Resolution

How can we resolve human-wildlife conflicts?

Students will research real-life conflicts between humans and wildlife, then present their findings about the animals’ perspective, the humans’ perspective, and possible ideas to mediate between them.

That’s Not All!

  • Check out other types of lessons, labs, and activities for your students in the “Lesson plan ideas” section on each article page.
  • Take a look at our Lesson Ideas section in the Menu featuring lessons to go along with some of our most popular articles. 
  • Remember, you can also search our articles for different types of scientific methodologies and figures if you’re looking for something specific.

Photo credit: Pexels by Vanessa Loring

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