Conducting lab experiments was my favorite part of every science class that I had in middle school and high school. There was something about the hands-on aspect of science labs that always got me excited about learning. I’m sure many of you felt the same way and that your students feel that way now. Here are some places to find ideas and resources for conducting hands-on science lessons.
Scifun.org, written by a University of Wisconsin chemistry professor, features twenty-five fun and safe science experiments that can be performed with household items. The experiments introduce students to basic chemistry concepts through fun, hands-on activity. The experiments on Science is Fun are probably most appropriate for use with students in the fourth through ninth grade. In addition to providing detailed directions for conducting each experiment, Science is Fun provides an explanation of the chemistry at work in each experiment. Complementing the experiments are easy-to-understand explanations of many chemicals and elements on the periodic table.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a great selection of hands-on activities that teachers can use offline in their classrooms. There are activities for twelve topics. Activities for every grade level from pre-K through high school and beyond can be found on the website. To find an activity for your classroom select your grade level then select the topic(s) you want your students to learn about through hands-on activities. A couple of the activities that I liked when I was browsing the catalog were making and flying helicopters and making recycled paper. All of the activities on the site include the standards addressed, the materials needed, and directions for carrying out the activity for the first time.
Discover Your World is a free 158 page activity book from NOAA. The book is available as to download as a complete package in one PDF or you can download it in three separate sections. The sections are titled Explore the Earth, Understand the Earth, and Protect the Earth. In total the book has 43 activities appropriate for most K-12 classrooms but the majority of the activities seem to be most appropriate for grades four through eight. The activities in Discover Your World are hands-on activities designed to help students learn about topics in meteorology and climatology. A few of the activities that I like include reading nautical charts, building a barometer, and being a weather reporter.
This post would not be complete without including my favorite hands-on science lesson, Squishy Circuits. Squishy Circuits is a project developed at the University of St. Thomas for the purpose of creating tools that students can use to create circuits and explore electronics. Squishy Circuits uses Playdough-like to enable hands-on learning about conducting and insulating currents as well as creating circuits. The Squishy Circuits website provides directions for creating the dough and offers ideas for lessons using the dough. Watch the TED Talk below for an explanation and demonstration of Squishy Circuits.