One of my most popular labs is my virtual density lab. I’ve always loved this one as a quick way to help students understand the abstract idea of density.
If you’re a science teacher and you’re not acquainted with the PhET Simulations, then boy do I have news for you! There’s tons of simple sims that students can use to explore a variety of science and math concepts. The site also includes some resources for teachers if you’re looking to start from scratch.
If you’re looking for something ready made, the worksheet I’ve made to go along with this sim is one of my best sellers.
Check out what this teacher said:
This lab is great! It was perfect for introducing our Density discussion and allowed students to discovery density at their own pace prior to a class discussion. Highly recommend!
A great activity for the first day of school or any day that you need a fun hands on pick me up. Have your students compete to see who can build the tallest tower with a supply of random materials. Traditionally, I always saw this activity done with spaghetti, tape, and marshmallows, but I’ve since switched to using aluminum foil.
Unfortunately, in all the years I’ve been teaching photosynthesis and respiration, I’ve never had a group of students come to me with much of a background in chemistry.
I’ve approached this problem a lot of different ways, including teaching a 2 week crash course in chemistry. What we really need is for the students to have an understanding of the Law of Conservation of Mass as well as the concept that molecules exist and molecules are made of atoms and those atoms can be rearranged. Simple, right? Not so much.
This lab has been my latest solution to this unique situation. How do you teach photosynthesis? Do your students come to you with or without chemistry backgrounds? What do you do if they don’t?
Welcome to my middle school Biosphere Project! I designed this project with an ecology and interconnectedness focus, but I’ve had ideas of adding in some sociology and government facets.
Take a look at the work some of my 7th graders submitted this year!
I allowed some of my students, with permission, to make their biospheres in a digital format. I’ve never seen this program before, but these boys did a great job! They even included an art gallery that features exhibits from the former Earth.
These boys were really creative with their research center and neighborhood!
This group of boys really made me laugh by creating their biosphere ON THE SUN!!!
A great Neptune biosphere by this group of girls.
These girls made the cutest mini domes featuring all their biomes and farming regions.
Another great one featuring a very detailed human area, with a pet dog!
These girls invented their own planet and made it fully unicorn themed! I love their enchanted forest and their farm domes!
Another great one. These girls included a hub in the middle to represent the machinery keeping their biosphere going.
Wonderful job by this team of girls! Their biosphere even has a clear dome skylight with a working fan! I love their human area!
This biosphere has such great detail! I loved this little robot work station!
This group even included a generator! I love the creativity!
Here’s a few links that’ll get you started if you’re interested in doing this project with your own students!
Start with a free introductory reading about Biosphere 2 in Phoenix available here.
Optionally, in the end, I’ve grouped students and assigned one practice per group. From there, the students were in charge of unpacking substandard and rewording them in “middle school friendly” language.
Here’s an example of a poster made by one of those groups:
At our school we designed the Invention Convention to give the kids a way to really practice the engineering skills they had spent so much time learning. Students are encouraged to choose a problem in their everyday lives and then create a solution through new technology.
To walk them through the phases of the project, students are given a booklet where they brainstorm, sketch, and report on their efforts during each day of the project. The booklet also has a checklist where students can keep track of their requirements.
In the end students create a poster with a summary of their project including a title and a description of the problem they are solving.
Ah yes! The classic cell model project. No doubt a quick Google search will bring up thousands of student examples. I can still remember making my own cell in middle school. I chose to make my cytoplasm out of Jello, but I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have access to a refrigerator at school. I submitted a project that more closely resembled a soup than a cell. Cue traumatic memories.
Here’s some things I suggest you consider before beginning your own project:
1. Will you allow projects made of food? If yes, what will those students do during allotted class work time?
2. Will you allow groups?
3. How prepared are you for the mess? Scroll to the end of this post to see what we were dealing with this year in my classroom.
A variation I’ve done in the past was make cell metaphor projects. Check out this cell school made by a few of my students: