7 Ways to Deliver Content in Science Class

There are as many ways to deliver content in science class as there are teachers, I’m sure, and I’ve tried them all. When you’re delivering content in middle school science, you have to balance efficiency with engagement and retention. Often, I find that delivering content in engaging ways takes more time but delivers higher retention. Conversely, if I need to cover something fast, students are less engaged and retain less.


lecture to deliver content in scienceLecture as a way to deliver content in science

In traditional lecture style content delivery, the teacher is the “sage on the stage.” The teacher states the important information and students write it down. Lecture style instruction is something I use rarely and never for more than a few minutes at a time.

Pros of lecturing:
  • Lecturing is great for clarifying common misunderstandings but students are less engaged and retain less information this way.
  • Lecturing is super efficient – you can cover a large amount of material in a relatively short amount of time.
  • You prevent confusion and students often have a clearer understanding of what’s important and what they need to know.
  • Lecturing also provides consistency – every student receives all of the same information.
  • Teachers have more control over the pace and focus of the content so tangential rabbit holes are avoided.
Cons of lecturing:
  • Students are passive learners in a lecturing style classroom, which limits their engagement and interaction with the material.
  • Students are less likely to remember what they learned in a lecture compared to other methods of content delivery.
  • Lectures require students to sustain attention for extended time which is challenging.
  • Lecturing large quantities of information at once may be overwhelming for students who may feel overwhelmed.

discussion as a way to deliver content in science Discussions, Debates and Socratic Seminars to deliver content in science

In a teacher led discussions, debates, or Socratic seminars, students actively share what they’ve learned, collaborate with other students, and critically think about the content. Discussions, debates, and Socratic seminars differ in formality. Discussions are informal conversations, usually teacher led, about a topic that students have some prior knowledge about.

In a discussion, students benefit from interacting with other students and sharing their opinions and hearing others’ opinions.

A Socratic seminar is a very structured discussion in which students explore different angles of a topic and think critically about it without necessarily taking sides. The goal of a Socratic seminar is to explore and deepen understanding through collaborative inquiry. Socratic seminars are open ended dialogues with students asking each other for clarification or opinions.

A debate is a far more structured conversation with students either taking a side or being assigned a side about a topic. The goal in a debate is to persuade and convince the audience that a particular viewpoint is correct. I use debates in topics such as genetically modified organisms, climate change, nuclear energy, and hybrid and electric vehicles.

Pros of discussions, Socratic seminars and debates in science
  • Students are actively engaged in the content which promotes motivation, understanding and retention.
  • Discussions, Socratic seminars and debates encourage critical thinking on a higher level than most other methods of delivering instruction.
  • Students practice collaboration, communication skills, and teamwork skills while engaging in discussions, Socratic seminars, and debates.
  • Discussions, Socratic seminars, and debates allow for students to share their diverse perspectives and experiences related to scientific concepts which enriches the learning environment.
Cons of discussions, Socratic seminars and debates in science
  • Some students may be hesitant to participate in discussions, and others may dominate discussions, leading to uneven participation.
  • In an open discussion, there is a risk that students might reinforce misconceptions by sharing inaccurate information or by misunderstanding and not getting corrected.
  • Unstructured discussions can sometimes lead to tangential or off-topic conversations, diverting from the core scientific concepts that need to be covered.
  • Without clear guidance or structure, discussions may lack a sense of direction, making it difficult for students to extract key concepts or information from the conversation.
  • Without proper structure or guidance, discussions may veer off into unrelated or non-academic topics, leading to wasted instructional time.


hands on activities to deliver instruction in science Demonstrations and Hands on Activities to deliver content in science

Demonstrations and hands on activities are powerful instructional tools in science.  In a demonstration, a teacher performs an experiment in front of the class. Often, this is preferred over students performing the experiment if it is dangerous or if the materials are limited in quantity. Hands on activities are great ways for students to learn about the content.

Pros of demonstrations and hands on activities in science
  • Students are more engaged in demonstrations and hands on activities than any other instructional technique.
  • Students have the opportunity to observe phenomena and engage with real life science.
  • Increased engagement often correlates to increased understanding and increased retention of the content.
  • Students have the opportunity to collaborate, cooperate and communicate.
  • Demonstrations and hands on activities provide ways for students to practice skills such as measurement, data collection, and data analysis.
  • Demonstrations and hands on activities help students make connections between abstract science concepts and real world science.
Cons of demonstrations and hands on activities in science
  • Demonstrations and hands on activities require far more teacher prep time than any other instructional technique.
  • A teacher’s classroom budget may preclude purchasing the required materials, apparatus, and supplies.
  • Hands-on activities and demonstrations can be time-consuming, and fitting them into a limited class period may be challenging. Teachers may need to carefully plan and manage time to ensure that activities align with curriculum goals.
  • Some hands-on activities involve potentially hazardous materials or procedures. Ensuring the safety of students during experiments is a priority, and teachers must take precautions to minimize risks.
  • Setting up and organizing hands-on activities can be logistically challenging, particularly for large classes. Teachers need to consider space constraints, availability of equipment, and the practicality of the activity.
  • If not properly guided, hands-on activities may lead to misconceptions if students misinterpret results or draw incorrect conclusions. Teachers need to provide adequate guidance and debriefing to address any misunderstandings.



Case studies as a way to deliver content in science

Science teachers use case studies as a teaching method to deliver content in a more contextual and applied manner. Middle school students can get involved in case studies such as exploring ways to help endangered animals or pollution in a waterway. Case studies involve the exploration and analysis of real-world scenarios or situations, allowing students to apply scientific concepts to practical problems. In order to use a case study, a teacher provides background information and details about a real world situation, the individuals involved, and any relevant scientific principles. Often, the information is revealed in layers rather than all at once. Then, the students work to identify the scientific problems or questions presented in the case study by analyzing the situation, identifying variables, formulating hypotheses, and collecting additional information to evaluate different courses of action.

Pros of using case studies to deliver content in science
  • Students are often highly engaged which leads to stronger connections to the content and stronger retention.
  • Science teachers use case studies as a teaching method to deliver content in a more contextual and applied manner. Case studies involve the exploration and analysis of real-world scenarios or situations, allowing students to apply scientific concepts to practical problems.
  • Science teachers use case studies as a teaching method to deliver content in a more contextual and applied manner. Case studies involve the exploration and analysis of real-world scenarios or situations, allowing students to apply scientific concepts to practical problems.
  • Case studies allow students to practice the skill of collaboration, communication and critical thinking.
  • Case studies allow students to integrate knowledge from different areas of science, promoting a holistic understanding of scientific concepts and their interconnectedness.
  • Case studies are more easily differentiated for students of different interests and abilities.
Cons of using case studies to deliver content in science
  • Case studies require a large amount of preparation on the part of the teacher.
  • Using case studies in middle school is very time consuming and may require multiple class sessions.
  • Case studies can lack standardization, leading to variations in the learning experience from one class to another. This may pose challenges in terms of assessment and evaluation.

project based learning in middle school scienceProject based learning as a way to deliver content in science

Middle school science students can engage in a variety of group projects such as creating models of volcanoes, designing weather stations, comparing energy sources for a community, conducting water quality tests, investigating a local ecosystem and creating reports to share their findings.

Pros of group projects to deliver content in science
  • Group projects promote collaboration and teamwork, allowing students to work together to achieve common goals and share responsibilities.
  • Collaborative projects mirror real-world situations where scientists often work in teams. Students gain experience in a setting that reflects scientific research practices.
  • Group projects can enhance student engagement by making learning more interactive and allowing students to take ownership of their work.
  • Project based learning is more easily differentiated for students of different interests and abilities.
Cons of group projects to deliver content in science
  • Group projects take more time than other methods of instruction.
  • Some students may contribute more than others, leading to an imbalance in workload and potential frustration among group members.
  • Group projects can sometimes be affected by social dynamics, and issues such as cliques or conflicts among students may arise.
  • Weaker students may rely too heavily on the efforts of stronger group members, limiting their individual learning and development.
  • Some students may engage in off-task behavior during group work, reducing overall productivity and the quality of the final project.

Endangered Animals PBLNewton's Laws PBL

peer teaching in middle school science Peer teaching as a way to deliver content in science

Peer teaching is a valuable strategy that allows middle school science students to actively engage with the material, reinforce their own understanding, and develop communication skills. I’ve used peer teaching to explain the cycles in nature, the rock cycle, and human body systems – each group “teaches” a different cycle, rock type, or body system to the rest of the class.  Peer teaching is also useful for small discrete units of information – specific human mutations, for example, or types of symbiosis.

Pros of peer teaching in middle school science
  • Peer teaching encourages active learning which enhances engagement, understanding and retention.
  • Teaching a concept to peers requires students to articulate their understanding clearly. This process reinforces their own comprehension and helps solidify the information in their minds.
  • Peer teaching develops communication skills as students need to express ideas, explain concepts, and respond to questions from their classmates.
  • Collaborative learning is fostered through peer teaching, encouraging students to work together, share knowledge, and support each other’s learning.
Cons of peer teaching in middle school science
  • In some groups, not all students may actively participate in the peer teaching process. This can result in an uneven distribution of effort and learning.
  • If a student has a misconception, there is a risk that this misconception may be reinforced when they attempt to teach the concept to their peers.
  • If the teaching is not clear or well-organized, there is a risk that students may become confused or misinterpret the information being presented.
  • Peer teaching sessions may sometimes lack the depth of explanation that a teacher might provide. Some students may present information at a surface level, missing key details.
  • Peer teaching may take more time compared to traditional instruction methods, and teachers need to carefully manage time to cover the necessary content.

flipped classroom in middle school scienceFlipped Classroom to deliver content in science

In a flipped classroom model students engage with instructional content such as video lectures or readings, and practicing skills outside of class. In-class time is then used for hands-on activities, discussions, and collaborative learning. Class time is focused on applying knowledge through hands-on experiences rather than delivering content.

Pros of flipped classroom in middle school science
  • Students actively engage with the material both at home and in the classroom.
  • Students can receive the content at their own pace and on their own time, reviewing as needed.
  • In class activities promote a deeper understanding of scientific concepts.
  • Teachers have more opportunities to provide one-on-one support for struggling students.
  • Flipped learning can be easily differentiated for students of different interests and abilities.
Cons of flipped classroom in middle school science
  • Students need access to devices and the internet for reviewing instructional content.
  • Creating effective instructional materials requires careful planning and preparation.
  • Students need to be accountable for reviewing content outside of class and this may require parental support.


First, I’d love to know your favorite ways to deliver content in science – please comment below and let me know!

Each of the ways to deliver science content that we talked about here have their pros and cons. No one way is perfect – you either have to sacrifice time for engagement or engagement for time. For my money, the best teachers are the ones that switch it up.  Variety is, they say, the spice of life.


Interactive Notebooks in Middle School Science

What are Interactive Notebooks?

Interactive notebooks (INBs) are essentially a hybrid between a notebook and a scrapbook. Students use them to take notes, draw diagrams, create graphs, and paste in photos or other visuals to help them better understand the material. INBs are fantastic tools for teaching and learning in the classroom. They allow students to organize their notes and class materials in a creative and interactive way, making the learning process more engaging and enjoyable.

One of the great things about INBs is that they offer a way for students to personalize what they’re learning. Being creative and expressing themselves by using color to decorate their notebook helps students learn actively.

Another benefit of INBs is that they help students stay organized. Gone are the torn up folders with papers stuffed inside. Since the interactive notebook is a bound notebook, losing notes is a problem of the past. By having all of their class materials in one place, students can take control of their own learning.

How do you create an Interactive Notebook?

The first step in creating an interactive notebook is to choose a notebook that will work best for your students. I prefer hard covered bound composition notebooks – pages stay in place and nothing gets lost. Alternately, you can choose a spiral notebook or a binder with loose-leaf paper.

Students will want to design their cover. Let them be creative, use color, and glue pictures or stickers on the cover if they want. Give them a prompt like “Decorate your notebook with your favorite science topics” or “Make your notebook uniquely yours.” Some teachers prefer to provide students with a template to color and glue onto their composition notebook.

Be sure students write their names on the covers of the notebook. I also like to have students write their name on the top edge – it makes it easier to keep track when I’m grading.

I have students go through the entire notebook and number each page in the top right corner. Then, page 1 becomes the table of contents. As  new topics get added to their notebook, they should update the table of contents with the topic name and page number to make it easier to navigate.

If you’re going to collect and grade notebooks, another option is to have students glue the notebook rubric into the inside front cover of their INB. I grade notebooks at the end of every quarter. Students are expected to have notebooks that are neat, legible, well organized, and complete. All components must be correct. The rubric that I use to score INBs is here:

INB rubric




Decide how you want students to organize their notebooks. Some teachers have students use the right side of each page for teacher-directed activities such as notes and then use the left side for a student-directed response to the notes. Alternately, you can have students complete the activities in chronological order with each activity following the previous one.

Do you want to have students create a glossary? Some teachers have students set aside 8-10 pages at the end of the notebook for a glossary in which to list vocab terms and definitions as they are taught. Other teachers prefer to have a vocabulary page at the beginning or end of each unit.

Student directed pages in an INB

As a rule, I alternate between teacher directed and student directed activities in the INBs. For example, page 4 might be notes that students either write directly in the notebook or on a handout that students will tape/glue into their notebook. Then, page 5 is some kind of student directed activity that provides them with an opportunity to connect with the information. Here are some ideas for student input pages:

Tips and Tricks

  • Students will need glue sticks, tape, scissors, and colored pencils/crayons. Hang a pencil case with supplies from each desk, or place a bucket of supplies on each table.
  • I create a notebook along with my students. Not only does this help clarify expectations, but it also serves as an exemplar for absent students.
  • Use tabs to separate individual units.

Try out a free interactive notebook about minerals here.



Natural Selection Interactive Notebook Templates for Middle School

rock cycle interactive notebookSun, Earth and Moon Interactive Notebook Templates for Middle School

Your Telescope Buying Guide 2023


Embarking on the journey of purchasing a telescope is a thrilling endeavor that opens the vast wonders of the cosmos to curious minds. Whether you’re a budding astronomer eager to explore the intricacies of the night sky or a seasoned stargazer seeking an upgrade, this telescope buying guide is designed to be your celestial compass. In the pages ahead, we’ll demystify the key considerations for selecting the perfect telescope, from understanding different types and sizes to deciphering technical specifications. Whether you aim to observe the craters of the Moon, the rings of Saturn, or distant galaxies, this guide will illuminate the path toward choosing a telescope that aligns with your astronomical aspirations.

AstroGuy is a podcast and YouTube channel hosted by amateur astronomer Wayne Zuhl who lets us  know every month what to look for in the sky at night.  He has 40+ years of experience in the hobby and is a great source of information about planets and deep sky objects not to mention telescopes, binoculars, and related equipment.

This fall, the AstroGuy made some recommendations for beginners in the hobby. Below are affiliate links to all the equipment that he discussed in his podcast.  Clicking on the link won’t cost you any more than if you went to the site yourself.   If you click the link and buy from it sometimes he gets a small commission and that helps the channel a lot. Before you go and spend cash on a telescope, make sure you know what you’re doing! Here are his recommendations.


Start with a Planisphere!

For novice astronomers setting out on their celestial journey, a planisphere and a red light are indispensable tools that can significantly enhance their stargazing experience. A planisphere acts as a hands-on, user-friendly map of the night sky, allowing beginners to easily identify constellations and locate prominent celestial objects at any given time. It’s a simple yet powerful aid in understanding the ever-changing positions of stars and planets throughout the year.

It’s not difficult to build your own planisphere with these simple directions, but you can also invest $15 for a pretty nice one here.


Don’t forget the red light!

A red light is a solution for preserving night vision during observations. Unlike white light, which can disrupt the eyes’ adaptation to darkness, a red light allows astronomers to read star charts, adjust equipment, and navigate their surroundings without compromising their ability to see faint celestial details. Together, a planisphere and a red light form a dynamic duo, providing the foundational tools necessary for fledgling astronomers to navigate the vast expanse of the night sky with clarity and precision.


How to select binoculars:

In the realm of astronomical exploration, binoculars emerge as a versatile and compelling alternative to telescopes, particularly for both novice and experienced astronomers. While telescopes undoubtedly offer powerful magnification, binoculars bring a unique set of advantages to the stargazing table. Their inherent portability, ease of use, and wider field of view make them an ideal choice for sky gazers seeking a more immersive, accessible experience. Binoculars not only simplify the learning curve for beginners but also provide seasoned astronomers with the flexibility to quickly scan the night sky, making them excellent companions for casual observations or spontaneous celestial discoveries.

The numbers associated with binoculars, such as 7×35, 7×50, and 10×50, represent two key specifications: magnification power (the first number) and the diameter of the objective lenses in millimeters (the second number).

Bushnell Falcon 7x35s: These binoculars provide a magnification of 7 times the naked eye and have objective lenses with a diameter of 35mm. The 7x magnification strikes a balance between stability (less shakiness) and field of view.

Celestron 7x50s: Like the 7×35, these binoculars also have a 7x magnification but feature larger 50mm objective lenses. The larger objective lenses allow more light to enter, making them suitable for low-light conditions like stargazing. The wider diameter provides a brighter image.

Sky Genius 10x50s: With a higher magnification of 10 times and the same 50mm objective lens diameter, these binoculars offer more detailed observations of distant objects. However, the increased magnification can also make the image shakier, so they may benefit from stabilization features or a tripod for extended use.


Dobsonian Telescope Buying Guide

Dobsonian telescopes, popular among beginners for their simplicity and affordability, operate on a straightforward yet effective design. Named after their creator, John Dobson, these telescopes use a Newtonian reflector optical system. The heart of a Dobsonian telescope is a large, parabolic primary mirror that gathers and reflects light to a smaller secondary mirror, which, in turn, directs the light to the eyepiece. What sets Dobsonians apart is their altazimuth mount, a simple and intuitive base that allows for easy movement in both horizontal (azimuth) and vertical (altitude) directions. This uncomplicated design makes navigating the night sky more accessible for beginners, providing a stable platform for observing celestial objects without the complexity of equatorial mounts. Dobsonian telescopes are prized for their large apertures, offering impressive views of planets, galaxies, and nebulae, making them an excellent choice for those venturing into the captivating realm of amateur astronomy.

The Pros and Cons of Dobsonian Telescopes

Pro Con
Affordable for their size Can be bulky and heavy
Larger aperture – able to gather more light Most are not motorized
Simple design and easy to use Not usable for long exposure astrophotos
Collimation is relatively easy Usually lack Go-To capability
Wide-field of view Some assembly required

Here are some Dobsonians that AstroGuy recommends in his telescope buying guide:

Less than $300 Orion Starblast 4.5 Dobsonian SkyWatcher Heritage 130
$300-$500 Orion Skyline 6” Dobsonian SkyWatcher Virtuoso 130
$500-$1000 SkyWatcher Classic 200 Dobsonian SkyWatcher Classic 250 Dobsonian


Refracting Telescope Buying Guide

A refracting telescope uses lenses to gather and focus light, allowing users to observe distant celestial objects with clarity. At its core, the telescope features an objective lens positioned at the front, designed to capture and converge incoming light. This lens brings the light to a focal point, forming a clear image of the observed object. The eyepiece, located at the back of the telescope, magnifies this focused image, enabling observers to peer into the cosmos. The telescope’s magnification is determined by the ratio of the focal lengths of the objective lens and the eyepiece.

The Pros and Cons of Refracting Telescopes

Pro Con
High contrast views Can be expensive for their size
No collimation required Smaller aperture for their cost
Durable optics Cool down is required for stable images
No central obstruction like reflectors or cats Some designs suffer from aberrations
Easy to transport Some require additional accessories

AstroGuy’s telescope buying guide includes these recommendations::

Less than $300 Celestron AstroMaster 90 EQ SVbony 90mm Refractor
$300-$500 Celestron Star Sense 102 SkyWatcher StarTravel 120
$500-$1000 Celestron Omni XLT 120


Compound/Catadioptric Telescope Buying Guide

A catadioptric or compound telescope is combines lenses and mirrors to capture and magnify light. The heart of a catadioptric telescope includes a primary mirror at the back, which gathers and reflects light, and a corrector plate or lens at the front, which refines the image and eliminates optical aberrations. The combination of mirrors and lenses allows for a more compact design compared to traditional reflectors, making catadioptric telescopes highly portable without compromising on optical performance. Among the most popular designs are the Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes, both revered for their versatility and the ability to deliver sharp, high-contrast views of celestial wonders. For beginners seeking a telescope that balances portability and optical excellence, a catadioptric design offers a captivating gateway to the wonders of the night sky.

The Pros and Cons of Compound Telescopes

Pro Con
Compact design Can be expensive for their size
Easy to transport More complex than refractors or reflectors
Versatile for different types of observations Steeper learning curve than refractors or reflectors
Minimized chromatic and spherical aberration Cats with longer focal lengths have limitations in wide-field views
Large apertures in relatively small packages Require periodic alignment and collimation
Suits a wide variety of budgets Heavier than other telescope designs


Here are some refractors AstroGuy recommends in a variety of prices:

Less than $300 Orion Starmax 90 Maksutov
$300-$500 Celestron SLT 90 Explore Scientific First Light 127 Mak 
$500-$1000 Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi with SkyMax 127 Celestron Nexstar 6 SE

Smart Telescope Buying Guide

Amateur astronomy has been revolutionized with the advent of smart telescopes, marking an exciting intersection of technology and stargazing. Smart telescopes, equipped with integrated computerized systems and advanced software, have become invaluable companions for beginners venturing into the hobby. These telescopes often feature automated alignment, GPS tracking, and smartphone connectivity, streamlining the once intricate process of finding and tracking celestial objects. For novice astronomers, this technological prowess translates into an immersive and user-friendly experience, eliminating much of the learning curve associated with traditional telescopes.

Smart telescopes can identify and locate celestial wonders with the touch of a button or a tap on a smartphone app, making the exploration of planets, stars, and galaxies more accessible and engaging than ever before.

Here are the 2 Smart Telescopes recommended by AstroGuy for this telescope buying guide:

$300-$500 ZWO Seestar 50 
$500-$1000 Dwarflab Dwarf II


Selecting the right eyepieces for your telescope is a crucial step in unlocking the full potential of your astronomical observations and no telescope buying guide would be complete without a mention of eyepieces. Eyepieces play a pivotal role in determining the magnification and field of view, directly impacting the clarity and detail of the celestial objects you observe. When choosing eyepieces for your new telescope, factors such as focal length, apparent field of view, and the type of celestial objects you wish to observe should be carefully considered. Understanding your telescope’s specifications and the inherent trade-offs between magnification and field of view will guide you in assembling a well-rounded eyepiece collection tailored to your specific astronomical interests. Whether you’re observing the Moon’s craters, tracking distant planets, or exploring deep-sky objects, a thoughtful selection of eyepieces will enhance your stargazing experience and allow you to appreciate the vast wonders of the night sky with clarity and precision.

Here are two eyepieces that AstroGuy recommends. Choose the one with the same size barrel as your telescope

2 inch barrel Celestron Ultima Edge 30 mm 2” eyepiece
1.25 inch barrel Orion 38mm Q70
Explore Scientific 10mm Argon


What are you treating yourself to this winter? Let us know in the comments!

Potential and Kinetic Energy Unit Plans

Understanding the fundamental concepts of potential and kinetic energy is essential in comprehending the behavior of objects in motion and unlocking the mysteries of the physical world around us. In this post, we’ll explore a week’s worth of lesson plans designed to make potential and kinetic energy come alive in the classroom. This potential and kinetic unit plan has been carefully crafted to provide students with hands-on experiences, engaging activities, and real-world applications. By actively participating in these lessons, students will develop a deep understanding of the principles of energy and gain the skills to apply them in practical contexts.

This unit on potential and kinetic energy is based on the Next Generation Science Standards and is suitable for middle schoolers.

Potential and Kinetic Energy Unit Plans

Why Focus on Potential and Kinetic Energy?

Potential and kinetic energy are two fundamental forms of energy that shape the world we live in. Potential energy is the energy an object possesses due to its position or condition, while kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. Understanding these concepts helps us make sense of how objects interact, how energy is transformed, and how forces affect the world around us.

By delving into potential and kinetic energy, students can grasp the underlying principles that govern everyday phenomena, from a swinging pendulum to the launch of a rocket. These concepts provide a solid foundation for further exploration in various scientific disciplines, including physics, engineering, and even environmental science.

NGSS Standards

This unit addresses the NGSS of MS-PS3-1 [Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object.] and MS-PS3-2 [Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system].

I Can Statements

1. I can define potential energy and give examples of different forms of potential energy.
2. I can explain what kinetic energy is and provide examples of objects possessing kinetic energy.
3. I can differentiate between potential energy and kinetic energy and identify situations where each type of energy is present.
4. I can calculate potential energy using relevant formulas and understand the factors that affect its magnitude.
5. I can calculate kinetic energy using relevant formulas and understand the factors that affect its magnitude.
6. I can describe the relationship between potential energy and kinetic energy in various scenarios.
7. I can identify and explain real-life examples of energy conversion between potential and kinetic energy.
8. I can solve problems and perform calculations involving potential and kinetic energy.
9. I can analyze and interpret experimental results to reinforce my understanding of potential and kinetic energy.
10. I can evaluate the efficiency of energy transformations and propose ways to optimize energy transfer in practical situations.
11. I can investigate and demonstrate examples of potential and kinetic energy through experiments or demonstrations.
12. I can apply critical thinking skills to real-world applications of potential and kinetic energy.
13. I can discuss and analyze the impact of energy conservation and energy transformation in everyday life.
14. I can propose sustainable solutions that optimize the use of potential and kinetic energy resources.
15. I can effectively communicate scientific ideas, findings, and solutions related to potential and kinetic energy through oral, written, and visual means.
16. I can collaborate with my peers to share knowledge, perspectives, and work together on projects or experiments related to potential and kinetic energy.


Lesson Plans: Day 1: Introduction to Potential and Kinetic Energy

Objective: Students will understand the concepts of potential and kinetic energy, their relationship, and how they apply to real-world scenarios.

Slideshow presentation
Guided sketch notes 
– colored pencils
– Chromebooks, iPads, or other internet device for student access

– Potential and Kinetic Energy Boom Cards

Duration: 60 minutes


1. Warm-up (5 minutes)
– Begin the lesson by asking students to share examples of objects or situations where they think energy is involved.
– Discuss their responses as a class, highlighting the various forms of energy they mention.

2. Introduction to Potential and Kinetic Energy (5minutes)
– Explain the concepts of potential and kinetic energy, providing definitions and examples for each.
– Emphasize that potential energy refers to stored energy due to an object’s position or condition, while kinetic energy is the energy of an object in motion.

3. Slideshow Presentation (20 minutes)
– Present the slideshow on potential and kinetic energy.
– Discuss the key points, definitions, and examples provided in the presentation. Students should fill in the sketch notes as the lesson progresses.

4. Conclusion and Wrap-up (5 minutes)
– Allow students to practice what they’ve learned using the Energy Boom Cards.
– Answer any remaining questions and clarify any misconceptions.


Lesson Plans Day 2: Exploring Potential and Kinetic Energy through Station Activities

Objective: Students will apply their understanding of potential and kinetic energy by participating in hands-on station activities.


Duration: 60 minutes


  1. Introduction and Review (10 minutes)
    • Begin the lesson by briefly reviewing the concepts of potential and kinetic energy.
    • Remind students of the definitions and examples discussed in previous lessons.
  2. Station Activity Setup (5 minutes)
    • Divide the classroom into several stations, each focusing on a different activity related to potential and kinetic energy.
    • Set up the materials and instructions at each station, ensuring they are clearly labeled.
    • Assign students to small groups and provide them with a rotation schedule for moving through the stations.
    • Explain the rules and expectations for the station activities.
  3. Station Activities (30 minutes)a) Marble Ramp: Students will experiment with different ramp heights and measure the distance traveled by a marble. They will record the potential and kinetic energy calculations for each trial.b) Energy Tarsia Puzzle: Students cut out puzzle pieces and assemble them by matching definitions with key terms.c) Roller Coaster Simulation: Students will use a virtual roller coaster simulator to design and test roller coaster tracks. They will analyze the changes in potential and kinetic energy throughout the ride.d) Small group instruction:  In small groups, demonstrate how to calculate kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy. Use the energy workbook for sample problems to practice.
  4. Reflection and Discussion (5 minutes)
    • Gather the students together and facilitate a class discussion.
    • Ask students to share their experiences and observations from the station activities.
    • Encourage them to discuss how potential and kinetic energy were demonstrated in each activity.
    • Discuss any challenges or surprises they encountered and how they overcame them.
    • Summarize the key takeaways and address any questions or misconceptions.
  5. Conclusion and Wrap-up (5 minutes)
    • Review the main concepts of potential and kinetic energy covered in the lesson.
    • Reinforce the importance of understanding these concepts in everyday life and various applications.
    • Provide positive feedback and acknowledgment of student participation and engagement.
    • Encourage students to continue exploring and applying their knowledge of potential and kinetic energy outside the classroom.

Lesson Plans: Day 3: Calculating Kinetic and Gravitational Potential Energy

Objective: Students will practice calculating kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy using relevant formulas and apply them to real-world scenarios.

Energy Calculations self-checking worksheet

Energy Pixel Art Worksheet

– iPad or Chromebook for student internet access

Energy calculations riddle worksheet

Duration: 60 minutes


1. Introduction (5 minutes)
– Begin the lesson by briefly reviewing the concepts of kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy.
– Remind students of the formulas for calculating each type of energy.

2. Kinetic Energy Calculation Practice (5 minutes)
– Write the formula for kinetic energy (KE = mass * velocity^2/2) on the board.
– Explain the components of the formula: mass and velocity.
– Work through a few examples on the board, demonstrating how to calculate kinetic energy.

3. Gravitational Potential Energy Calculation Practice (5 minutes)
– Write the formula for gravitational potential energy (PE = mass * gravitational acceleration * height) on the board.
– Explain the components of the formula: mass, gravitational acceleration (g), and height.
– Work through a few examples on the board, demonstrating how to calculate gravitational potential energy.

4. Practice (20 minutes)

– Provide students with copies of the Energy Pixel Art Worksheet to solve independently or in pairs.

– Allow students to work independently or in pairs to solve the digital self-checking worksheet and the pixel art worksheet.

– Circulate the classroom to provide assistance and address any questions or misconceptions.

5. Conclusion and Wrap-up (5 minutes)
– Summarize the main concepts covered in the lesson, emphasizing the calculations for kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy.
– Discuss any challenges or common mistakes students encountered during the practice.
– Address any remaining questions or concerns.

Lesson Plans Day 4: Reviewing Potential and Kinetic Energy

Objective: Students will review the concepts and calculations related to potential and kinetic energy in preparation for an upcoming assessment.

Energy foldable

Energy Color By Number 

Energy Whole Class Quiz Game

Duration: 60 minutes


1. Warm-up (5 minutes)
– Begin the lesson by asking students to recall and define potential energy and kinetic energy.
– Have them provide examples of each type of energy and briefly explain the concept behind it.
– Discuss their responses as a class, ensuring clarity and understanding.

2.  Group Quiz Game (20 minutes)

– Divide your class into 4 teams and play the Energy Quiz Game.

3. Concept Review (20 minutes)
– Allow students to complete the Energy foldable   and Energy Color By Number for additional review.

4. Closure and Final Tips (5 minutes)
– Summarize the key points and formulas covered during the lesson.
– Provide final tips or strategies for success on the upcoming assessment.
– Encourage students to review their work, ask any remaining questions, and seek assistance if needed before the assessment.
– Express confidence in their abilities and wish them good luck.


Lesson Plans Day 5: Potential and Kinetic Energy Assessment Day

Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of potential and kinetic energy by completing an assessment.

Energy Assessment

– Chromebook or iPad for student internet access

Duration: Varies based on assessment length and timing


1. Introduction (5 minutes)
– Begin the lesson by briefly reminding students about the importance of potential and kinetic energy in understanding the behavior of objects.
– Reinforce the key concepts, formulas, and units of measurement for potential and kinetic energy.

2. Assessment Instructions (5 minutes)
– Distribute the assessment by directing students to the online platform where the assessment is hosted.
– Clearly explain the instructions, time limit, and any specific guidelines or restrictions for completing the assessment. Provide scratch paper and calculators.
– Address any questions or concerns raised by students regarding the assessment.

3. Assessment Completion (Varies)
– Allow students the necessary time to complete the assessment.
– Encourage them to read each question carefully, show their work when required, and double-check their calculations.
– Remind students to manage their time effectively to ensure they can answer all questions within the allotted time frame.

4. Reflection and Discussion (10 minutes)

– Facilitate a class discussion about the assessment experience.
– Encourage students to share their thoughts, challenges, or questions they encountered during the assessment.
– Address any common concerns or misconceptions that emerged during the assessment.


Back to School Sale!

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50% off Thanksgiving Resources for Middle School Science

often face the challenge of creating engaging and innovative lesson plans while managing limited time and budgets. The good news is that we’ve got a solution that not only enriches your middle school science curriculum but also saves you precious time and resources. Our Thanksgiving themed resources are on sale for 50% off all of November  to help you infuse the spirit of the season into your lessons without breaking the bank or sacrificing valuable instructional time.

Why Choose Thanksgiving-Themed Resources for middle school science?

This unique approach to science education not only makes learning more engaging and enjoyable but also helps students connect with their own culture and traditions. Thanksgiving-themed resources provide a bridge between the classroom and the holiday table, showing students how science is an integral part of everyday life.

A Smart Investment for Teachers

Saving Time: Our Thanksgiving-themed resources for middle school science are a treasure trove of pre-designed lesson plans, worksheets, activities, and experiments that align seamlessly with middle school science curricula. These resources are ready to use, eliminating the need for time-consuming planning and preparation. With everything at your fingertips, you can focus on what you do best – teaching.

Saving Money: Creating custom educational materials can be expensive and time-consuming.  These resources are now on a 50% off sale to provide an affordable, all-in-one solution, allowing you to allocate your budget elsewhere.

Practical and Hands-On: Many of our resources encourage hands-on learning, engaging students in interactive experiments and activities. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and promotes active participation, which is invaluable for knowledge retention.

Cross-Curricular Connections: Thanksgiving is more than just a science holiday – it’s an opportunity to bridge multiple subjects. Our resources incorporate elements of history, geography, mathematics, and even the arts, allowing students to see how science weaves into the fabric of our lives.

Thanksgiving Resources for middle school science from the Web

Try these websites for additional ideas!



Thanksgiving STEM Activities for Middle School

Self-Checking Worksheets in Middle School Science

What are self checking worksheets?

Picture this: you’re knee-deep in the world of science, trying to wrap your head around all those atoms, cells, and forces of nature. But here’s the deal – after hours of scribbling equations and jotting down notes, you’re left wondering if you’ve got it all down pat. That’s where self-checking worksheets swoop in like science superheroes in your middle school science classroom!

self checking worksheets in middle school scienceSelf-checking worksheets are like your secret weapon for nailing middle school science concepts. They’re a bunch of practice problems that come with built-in magic – I mean, answers – so you can check your work on the spot. No more nail-biting uncertainty! These sheets give you the chance to tackle questions, test your understanding, and see instant results. It’s like having your own personal science guru right there, giving you a thumbs up or a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Self checking worksheets let students practice without the pressure, boost their confidence, and help them learn from their mistakes. Plus, they’re super flexible – students can use them in class, at home, or even during study sessions with buddies.


Three types of self checking worksheets

There are 3 types of self checking worksheets that I use routinely in my 7th and 8th grade science classes:

  1. Google Forms – Using Google forms, you can create a self directed learning experience in which students must answer correctly before moving on. If you’ve never tried one, here’s a link to download a free self-checking assessment.
  2. Boom Cards – Technically not worksheets, Boom cards offer students an opportunity for self-guided practice and reinforcement and serve the same purpose as a self-checking worksheet. We love Boom cards, and our students do too. They can be as interactive and engaging as you want. If you’ve never tried them but are curious, here’s a link for a free set of Boom cards.
  3. Google Sheets – Google Sheets enables you to create a self-checking worksheet by using conditional formatting. Set the conditional format to one color for correct answers and another color for incorrect answers. There are a million ways you can customize this from creating pixel art to images that get revealed by blocks. If you’ve never tried a conditionally formatted Google sheet, here is a link to download a free block reveal of Snoopy in the Starry Night.

Why are the benefits of self checking worksheets?

Using a self checking worksheet in your 7th or 8th grade science class can help you and your students in a ton of ways. Here are the reasons I love them:

  • Instant Feedback: With self-checking worksheets, you don’t have to wait for me to give you the thumbs up. You’ll know right away if you’re soaring like a superhero or need a little boost.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Making an oopsie? No problemo! Self-checking worksheets help you see where you stumbled, so you can learn from those slip-ups and come back stronger. That helps build a growth mindset and grit.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: The more you practice, the more confident you become. Self-checking worksheets let you tackle problems at your own pace, building your skills step by step.
  • Time Flexibility: Got a few minutes before dinner? Dive into a self-checking worksheet and make the most of your spare time – without the clock ticking loudly in the background.
  • Independent Learning: You’re in the driver’s seat, my friends. Self-checking worksheets empower you to take charge of your learning and explore topics on your terms.
  • Teamwork Friendly: Grab a buddy and dive into these worksheets together. Compare answers, discuss concepts, and watch your understanding bloom.
  • Boost Confidence: There’s nothing like acing a problem and seeing that correct answer pop up. It’s like a mini celebration that fuels your confidence to tackle even trickier challenges.
  • Time Management: Using a self checking worksheet frees my time up in the classroom a little. When I have an independent activity ready for my students, I can work one on one with students who need more support while the rest of the class sails on their own.
  • It’s Fun! Students are more engaged when they have instant feedback. When the pixel art becomes visible after getting a question or two correct, it’s a little dopamine hit for your kids!

self checking worksheets in middle school scienceHow can you use self checking worksheets in your middle school science classroom?

When you’re writing your lesson plans, here are some ways to incorporate self checking worksheets:

  • Bellringers: Nothing says “get started” like a review sheet. And the benefit of using a self checking worksheet is that there is no pressure on students who maybe need more practice time or might be self conscious.
  • Independent Practice: Hand out self-checking worksheets as homework or in-class assignments. They encourage students to take initiative, practice concepts, and reinforce their understanding on their own.
  • Station Activities: Set up self-checking worksheet stations for group work or rotations. Students can collaborate, solve problems, and verify answers together, promoting teamwork and discussion.
  • Differentiation: Provide a range of self-checking worksheets with varying levels of difficulty. Tailor the challenges to individual student needs, letting everyone progress at their own pace.
  • Review Sessions: Prep for tests or exams with self-checking worksheets that cover key concepts. Students can refresh their memory, identify weak spots, and build confidence before the big day.
  • Closures: A self checking worksheet offers great formative feedback to measure how well your students picked up what you put down during the lesson.

Want to go deeper? Here are some strategies to craft creative lessons using self checking worksheets:

  • Peer Teaching: Assign students to create their own self-checking worksheets. This encourages them to deeply understand the material and share their knowledge with peers.
  • Flipped Learning: Flip the script by assigning self-checking worksheets as pre-class work. This primes students with essential knowledge, so you can delve deeper into discussions during class time.
  • Gamification: Turn learning into a game by incorporating self-checking worksheets into quiz competitions or classroom challenges. Everyone loves a friendly competition!

self checking worksheets in middle school science

How do I make a self checking worksheet for middle school science?

Creating your own self checking Google form is as simple as setting correct answers and then selecting what happens when students get the question correct or incorrect. Here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating a Google form self-checking resource.

Boom cards are a little more complicated. You will need your own account (a free account has some restrictions but is usable for basics). If you’ve tried them and love them as much as we do, here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating your own Boom Cards. If you decide to upgrade your account, use my referral link to save a 10%!

Self checking Google sheets can be as complicated or simple as you like. You can simply have a box turn green if the answer is correct or red if it’s wrong, or you can gussy it up with fancy picture reveals or pixel art. If you’ve tried them and want to create your own, here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating your own self-checking Google Sheets.


I’d love to know what kinds of self checking worksheets you’ve tried and how you use them! Let me know in the comments!


Here are some self checking worksheets you can find in the JustAddH2OSchool store!

Weather Self Checking Worksheet Human Impact on the Geosphere Self Checking Worksheet for Middle School Plate Tectonics Digital Silly Story Worksheet for Halloween Relative dating digital worksheet rock cycle 2 player digital game digital escape room The Pet Shop women in science boom cards cover and thubms (3)

How much do you know about Halloween?




Welcome to the spookiest showdown of wits and wisdom – our Halloween Trivia Quiz! As the leaves fall and the nights grow longer, it's time to test your knowledge of all things eerie, mysterious, and delightfully frightful. Whether you're a seasoned expert on the history of this haunting holiday or just a casual observer of the candy corn-filled festivities, our quiz will challenge your Halloween know-how and ensure you're well-prepared for the most spine-tingling night of the year. So, grab your broomstick, light the jack-o'-lantern, and get ready to discover how much you really know about the tricks and treats that make Halloween so enchantingly spooky. Let the ghastly games begin!


Macabre Mashup of Halloween Science

Whether you’re ready or not, your middle schoolers are celebrating Halloween soon! You can get in on the fun. Here are our best selling Halloween activities for middle school science – all offered for 25% off until November 1st!





































I haven’t picked my costume yet and I’d love some ideas from you!




6 Most Common Rookie Science Teacher Mistakes

Are you a rookie science teacher? It can be overwhelming – not only are you teaching for the first time, but there are a lot of moving parts to teaching science that can make management tricky. If you’re anything like me, there is some piece of equipment or lab supply that I need every single day either for a demo or for an experiment. Lab materials and supplies need to be set up before experiments and demos and stored afterward. At the same time, you’re managing student safety, communication with parents, and working with a new team. Some rookie science teacher mistakes are easy to avoid. Here are the top 6.

Rookie Science Teacher Mistake #1 – Focusing on Memorization

One common mistake is to focus too heavily on memorization and recall of information, rather than on understanding and application of scientific concepts. While it is important for students to have a strong foundation of factual knowledge, it is equally important for them to understand how to apply this knowledge and to be able to think critically about scientific information. When teachers focus too much on rote memorization, students may not be able to understand or apply the information in meaningful ways.

6 rookie science teacher mistakes

Rookie Science Teacher Mistake #2 – Forgetting hands on activities

Science is a hands-on subject, and students learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process. Hands-on activities and inquiry-based projects allow students to explore scientific concepts in a more authentic and engaging way, which can increase motivation and engagement. Nothing helps students learn better. If there’s an opportunity to put wheels or clay or a test tube in their hands, do it!

6 rookie science teacher mistakesRookie Science Teacher Mistake #3 – Over using or under using technology

Another mistake is to under- or over-use technology in the classroom. Technology can be a powerful tool for engaging students in the learning process and for providing them with a more interactive and immersive experience, but too much is just as bad as too little. Teachers can use technology such as simulations, virtual labs, and online resources to help students to better understand and retain key concepts, but it can absolutely not replace an actual teacher.

6 rookie science teacher mistakes

Rookie Science Teacher Mistake #4 – Ignoring formative assessment

Some rookie science teachers neglect the use of formative assessment. Formative assessment allows teachers to assess student understanding and progress in real-time, which allows them to adjust instruction accordingly. Without formative assessment, teachers may not be aware of areas where students are struggling and may not be able to provide the necessary support and guidance.

6 rookie science teacher mistakes

Rookie Science Teacher Mistake #5 – Not differentiating

Differentiation is the process of tailoring instruction to meet the diverse needs of students. Differentiation can be used to provide students with different levels of support, depending on their needs, which can help to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed. Try using different modalities – maybe Monday’s lesson can be kinesthetic and Tuesday’s lesson can be visual. Assessments can be differentiated as well – provide choice boards or problem based assessments that allow students to use their strengths and interests to demonstrate mastery.

6 rookie science teacher mistakes

Rookie Science Teacher Mistake #6 – Not making connections

It’s all about the kids, folks. The best part of my day is the time I spend with my students. I love laughing with them, learning new things from them, and helping them become their best selves. Take time to get to know your kids – talk to them every single day. In 10 years, they’ll possibly forget the steps of mitosis, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Decide how you want them to feel when they come into your room.

6 rookie science teacher mistakes

In conclusion, science classes can be challenging for both students and teachers, and there are a number of common mistakes that can be made in these classes that can negatively impact student learning and engagement. These mistakes include focusing too heavily on memorization and recall, neglecting the use of hands-on and inquiry-based activities, neglecting the use of technology, neglecting the use of formative assessment, neglecting the use of differentiation strategies and neglecting the use of real-world connections. By avoiding these mistakes, teachers can create a more effective and engaging learning environment for their students.

How to watch the October 14 Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse is a type of solar eclipse that occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth but does not entirely cover the Sun’s disk. This phenomenon is due to the Moon being at a point in its orbit where it appears slightly smaller than the Sun when viewed from Earth. Consequently, during the eclipse, a ring of sunlight remains visible around the Moon, giving it an annular or “ring of fire” appearance. The October 14th eclipse will be visible as an annular eclipse in the United States on a path between Oregon and Texas. It will appear as a partial throughout the rest of the continental United States. path of october 14 annular eclipse

While the October 14 eclipse  doesn’t occur on a school day (unlike the total solar eclipse of April 2025!), and even though it is only a partial eclipse in my part of the Country, I still plan to prepare my students to observe this phenomenon.

One activity students can do to prepare for the eclipse is to learn how eclipses work. A simple flashlight demo with a golf ball and a tennis ball is perfect to model lunar, solar and annular eclipses.

It is very important to strongly warn students against observing a solar or annular eclipse directly! Students can observe the eclipse using ISO approved solar glasses or by creating a pinhole projector which is what we will be doing in my class this week. A pinhole projector allows students to indirectly observe the Sun changing shape by standing with your back to the Sun and projecting an image of the Sun onto a piece of paper.

use a pinhole projector to observe the October 14 annular eclipse

I am offering this activity on my TpT store for $4.50, but readers of this blog can get it for $2.50 by clicking here!