You’ve finished your curriculum and your kids are ready to go! How can you keep them busy and entertained and, if you’re lucky, teach them a little science? Here are my top 8 end of year activities for middle school science.
Virtual Field Trips
There are times when talking about something just isn’t good enough. Great examples are glaciers, deserts and canyons. There are plenty of places I want my students to “visit” that aren’t possible. An interactive virtual field trip allows students to learn about a remote location without leaving their desks. Incorporating videos and interesting articles to read along with some guided questions allows students to experience places they would ordinarily not be able to go. One of my favorite interactive virtual field trips is this trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Among its truly fantastic exhibits, this museum’s presentation of the evolution of life on earth is engaging and easy to follow. The National Aquarium‘s virtual tour is a fun way to see still images of their huge collection. They also offer live webcams of coral reef ecosystems and jellyfish. Monterey Bay Aquarium offers 10 live web cams of jellyfish, sharks, and penguins, among others. My students also loved visiting Death Valley and the Galapagos.
There are a lot of great ways you can challenge your kids and get them solving problems. A perennial favorite is the Insulation lab – Keep the ice cube, or ice cream, from melting in the sun. When I do this, I have students mass their ice cube before and after solar exposure and calculate percent loss. I also have them “purchase” insulating materials from a “budget” – maybe they’re allowed to “spend” $1.00 and I charge 50 cents per 12″ square of aluminum foil or handful of cotton balls. Another favorite is designing a container to hold a beanie baby safely while it descends on a zipline. Once, I used painters tape to tape various pieces of candy to the wall just above the reach of my tallest student and had them figure out how to get the candy down.
While I’m not keen on taking the kids outside to play kickball, I do indulge their summer minds with a little science of sports. Learn about the science of the summer sports. How do helmets help cyclists? How do a runner’s muscles work? How does swimming demonstrate Newton’s 3rd law?
My kids never, ever have enough escape rooms. They love solving puzzles and finding clues. The key is to make the escape room hard enough to be challenging but easy enough to be rewarding. Once you find that sweet spot, you could do a different escape room every day for those dog days of summer. Here’s a link to a blog post on how to create your own escape rooms.
Problem Based Learning
Once the state tests are over, let the kids stretch their minds and get creative with a problem based activity. Here is a museum exhibit PBL I use for simple machines but it could easily be adapted to demonstrate mastery of anything from ancient Egyptian culture to the development of the space program. You could have your students research an endangered animal and design a habitat for a zoo to protect the animal. Students can research alternative energy sources and choose one for the imaginary island they’ve just inherited.
File Folder Games
Let your students create review games. A simple game is a file folder game. Open a file folder and draw a game board on one side. Write the directions on the other side and staple in zipper baggies to hold game pieces of question cards. Read more here.
With no more state tests, your students can unleash their curiosity and work on their own passion project. Have students select a topic they’re curious about and create a podcast or TED talk, write a blog or pamphlet, create a poster, a cartoon, a game, or a 3D model, or build a website. Read more here.
Your middle schoolers can participate in real science collaboration by collecting data and contributing to citizen science. Participating in citizen science with middle schoolers gives them a sense of how big the scientific community is and how important making observations and reporting what you know is in the real world of science. The goals of citizen science includes engaging the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science understanding. Students as young as middle schoolers can participate in addressing real world problems. Most projects take 5-10 minutes and actually contribute data that real live scientists can use. Here are some citizen science projects suitable for your middle schoolers.
How are you spending these last few weeks of school?