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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Science Education Chapter 5


Sources of Hands-on K-12 Science &
Math Activity Ideas

Following are brief descriptions of available resources containing ideas for hands-on science and math activities which teachers or other interested adults could use with K-12 students. They have been evaluated and recommended by scientists and engineers who are engaged in science and math education enrichment programs.

This listing is by no means inclusive. If you have used other outstanding materials which you believe should be considered for addition in future printings, please list and descibe them on the Reader's Questionnaire at the end of this guide.

Note regarding costs: Only the approximate costs of these resources are included. The terms "inexpensive, modestly priced, and more expensive" imply costs of less than $10, between $10 and $25, and more than $25, respectively.

Category I -- Fully Developed Single Session Activities

These resources contain activities which could be used with little or no modification for complete single session programs lasting one class period. Typically, they are fully developed stand-alone programs in which the students perform experiments, make measurements, record and analyze data, and develop conclusions about the pertinent scientific principles. Scientists or engineers could either conduct these activities with the students or help teachers become familiar with and integrate these hands-on activities into their instruction.

  • Lawrence Hall of Science
    University of California
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    (510) 642-1016

    Lawrence Hall of Science has produced a very large number of fully developed science and math activities for use with elementary and middle school students. Activities cover the full spectrum of life science, earth science, physical science, chemistry, astronomy, math, etc. These have been developed by a staff of educators and museum personnel specifically to provide high quality educationally sound resources for use by teachers. Many of the activities are available as inexpensive to modestly priced written materials which require only inexpensive readily available supplies. Other activities require more expensive kits of equipment and supplies which can be purchased from LHS. Training seminars on use of specific LHS materials are available at the museum in Berkeley. A free catalog, titled "Eureka", is available. Activities in the SAVI/SELPH, GEMS, and SEPUP programs are particularly good.
  • AIMS Foundation
    P.O. Box 8120
    Fresno, CA 93747
    (209) 255-4094

    AIMS has published about 20 modestly priced books each containing approximately 25 fully developed science and math activities for use with elementary and middle school students. Each book emphasizes a particular topic area relating to life science, earth science, physical science, or math, and concentrates on a particular student age range. Most of the activities were developed by teachers and use readily available inexpensive supplies. Detailed descriptions and student work sheets are included for most activities. Limited numbers of free copies can be made for classroom use, and unlimited copying rights can be purchased. Local representatives will conduct training seminars on how to conduct AIMS activities. A catalog is available.
  • Operation Physics
    American Institute of Physics
    1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 213
    Washington, DC 20009
    (202) 232-6688

    AIP has trained and equipped teams of science educators in each state to enable elementary and middle school teachers to conduct hands-on physical science activities with their students. These Operation Physics teams conduct local teacher workshops on topic areas including light, color & vision; sound; electricity & electric circuits; magnets & magnetism; states of matter; forces & fluids; forces & motion; simple machines; heat & energy; measurement; and astronomy. The trainers have as resources substantial numbers of fully developed hands-on activities in each of these topic areas. These activities were developed by teams made up of university and high school physics teachers, elementary science specialists, and 4th-6th grade teachers. Each activity includes teacher instructions and student activity sheets, as well as a list of the readily available supplies needed. AIP has agreed to give interested scientists and engineers access to these program materials and ideas through their local Operation Physics trainers. Call AIP for the name, address and telephone number of the trainer in your area.
  • 3-2-1 Contact
    Children's Television Workshop
    One Lincoln Plaza
    New York, NY 10023
    (212) 595-3456

    The Children’s Television Workshop (producers of Sesame Street) have developed a series of 30 programs for upper elementary and middle school students dealing with various issues involving science, technology and society, for example, trash & recycling. Each program consists of a highly professional 15 minute videotape (narrated by kids), plus a teachers guide with instructions for two 40 minute lessons. Individual topics can be purchased for a modest fee; the entire set costs several hundred dollars. A modestly priced monthly magazine is also published. A free catalog is available.
  • TIMS (Teaching Integrated Math & Science)
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    P. O. Box 4348, Mail Code 250
    Chicago, IL 60680
    (312) 996-2448

    TIMS provides approximately 50 fully developed math-related hands-on activities for elementary and middle school students which emphasize the scientific method and relationships between variables. Students identify variables, collect and graph data, make predictions from their data, and do additional experiments to verify their predictions. Topics such as measurement error, scatter in data, proportionality, and extrapolation are developed in the context of group problem solving. These materials were initially developed and used by university scientists and mathematicians in an outreach program with public schools. Based on their success they have more recently been adopted and used by teachers. The materials contain detailed activity descriptions and student work sheets. Individual activity plans are inexpensive and limited numbers of free copies can be made for classroom use. Only inexpensive supplies are required. A free catalog is available.
  • Science Activities in Energy
    Office of Scientific & Technologic Information (OSTI)
    P.O. Box 62
    Oak Ridge, TN 37831
    (615) 576-1305

    Science Activities in Energy provides fully developed activity outlines for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students in several energy-related areas, such as conservation, energy storage, chemical energy, electrical energy, solar energy, wind energy, etc. Each packet contains 10 to 30 detailed activity outlines as well as student work sheets. Some of these are available in Spanish. These were developed by the staff of the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge and are available at no cost. The activities use inexpensive and readily available supplies. Unlimited copies can be made for distribution to teachers and students
  • Institute for Chemical Education
    University of Wisconsin - Madison
    1101 University Avenue
    Madison, WI 53706
    (608) 262-3033

    ICE has a several modestly priced resources in the area of chemistry. Fun With Chemistry contains detailed descriptions and student work sheets for more than 50 activities for use at various age levels from elementary through high school. Hands-on Chemistry contains ten activity ideas for elementary aged children to do at home with their parents or other adults. Chemistry Camp describes how to conduct a week-long summer program for middle schoolers. These activities were developed by teachers and, for the most part, use inexpensive and readily available supplies. The materials are copyrighted, but limited copies may be made for teacher or student use. Training workshops are conducted regionally. A free newsletter is also sent to those who request to be on the ICE mailing list.
  • LESSON Program
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    Science Education Center, L-793
    P.O. Box 808
    Livermore, CA 94550
    (510) 373-0778

    The LESSON Program contains public domain outlines for fully developed elementary school activities dealing with a wide variety of science topics. More than 40 activities are available relating to topics from the disciplines of life science, chemistry (mostly as it relates to earth science), and physical science. These activities were developed and used by scientists and engineers in a science enrichment program for elementary school students. Workshops are available on how to conduct these activities effectively. The material contains detailed activity descriptions, but not student work sheets. Most use readily available supplies, but some require home workshop construction of simple equipment. A kit containing all of the supplies needed to do these activities is available for several hundred dollars from Delta Education, 1-800-258-1302. Unlimited copies can be made for distribution to teachers and students with LLNL permission.
  • National Engineers’ Week
    1420 King Street
    Alexandria, VA. 22314
    (703) 684-2852

    Each February the National Engineers’ Week Committee encourages engineers to conduct in-class science activities in their local schools. A packet of materials including a number of fully developed hands-on activities is provided to interested engineers.

 

Category II -- Briefer Demonstrations & Activities

These resources contain ideas for briefer demonstrations or activities which require less than a full class period, but could be integrated with other ideas into more complete programs. In many cases the activities are described only briefly, leaving more of the fleshing out process to the adult leader. Scientists, engineers or teachers could use these ideas to demonstrate particular phenomena as portions of more complete programs.

  • (Science) for Every Kid -- 101 Experiments That Really Work
    Janice VanCleave
    John Wiley & Sons, 1989 - 1991

    This is a series of 6 modestly priced books. Individual books deal with math, earth science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics, respectively. Each book includes brief outlines (not detailed descriptions) of over 100 activities and projects for upper elementary and middle school students. Most of these are not fully developed experiments in which students record and analyze data, but interesting activities in which students learn about scientific principles by "guided messing around". These activities were developed and tested by teachers and edited by the author, who is an award winning teacher. Most of them use readily available supplies.
  • 175 Science Experiments to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends
    Brenda Walpole, 1988
    (also 175 More Science Experiments ..., Terry Cash, Steve Parker and Barbara Taylor, 1989)
    Random House, New York, NY

    These two modestly priced books each contain 175 ideas for elementary school level science demonstrations and activities. The contents are brief outlines (not detailed descriptions) of activities in various areas of physical and earth science. Most of these are not fully developed experiments, but interesting activities in which students learn about scientific principles by "guided messing around". They were developed by authors of numerous books on science activities for children. Most of them use readily available supplies.
  • Invitations to Science Inquiry
    Tik L. Liem
    Science Inquiry Enterprises
    14358 Village View Lane
    Chino Hills, CA 91709
    (714) 590-4618

    This book outlines over 400 demonstrations and hands-on activities for upper elementary and middle school students. These activities cover a wide range of topics in physical, earth, and life sciences using readily available supplies. Most are demonstrations in which the students’ curiosity is aroused by observing counterintuitive or surprising results. They were developed and compiled by a professional educator. Videotapes demonstrating the effective use of these ideas are also available. This book (as well as the accompanying videotapes) is more expensive than some resources, but contains a large number of high quality activity ideas.
  • Idea Bank Coalition
    Irwin Talesnick
    S17 Science Supplies and Services Co. Ltd.
    Box 1591
    Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7l 5C8
    (613) 544-6548

    This book outlines over 600 science teaching ideas, many of which are hands-on activities, for use with elementary through high school students. They cover a wide range of topics in physical, earth, and life sciences using readily available supplies. The activities were developed and submitted by teachers and originally published in several educational periodicals. Limited numbers of free copies can be made for classroom use.
  • Chemical Demonstrations
    Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
    University of Wisconsin Press
    114 North Murray St.
    Madison, WI 53715-1199

    Four modestly priced books each provide detailed descriptions of dozens of chemistry demonstrations (not hands-on activities) for use with high school and college students.
  • The Exploratorium Science Snackbook
    The Exploratorium
    3601 Lyon Street
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    (800) 359-9899

    This modestly priced book contains teacher-developed descriptions of how 100 hands-on science museum exhibits can be modified, built, and used to illustrate physical science principles in classroom situations. The emphasis is on middle and high school students, but some are also applicable to upper elementary school.
  • Wonderscience
    American Chemical Society (jointly with AIP)
    1155 Sixteenth St. NW
    Washington, DC 20036
    (202) 452-2113

    Wonderscience is a periodical published 8 times yearly to provide physical science activity ideas for upper elementary students to do with adult guidance and supervision. Each issue contains 4 or 5 activities built around a topical theme (e.g., reflection, friction, static electricity, etc.). These activities are developed by professional educators on the staffs of ACS and AIP. Most of these are not detailed experiments in which students record and analyze data, but fun activities in which students learn about scientific principles by "guided messing around". Subscriptions are inexpensive and selected back issues are available.
  • 333 Science Tricks & Experiments
    (also 333 More Science Tricks & Experiments)
    Robert J. Brown
    Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA

    These modestly priced books each contain many ideas for science demonstrations and activities appropriate to upper elementary and middle school students. The contents are very brief outlines (not detailed descriptions) of activities in various areas of physical science and earth science, along with brief explanations of the pertinent phenomena. Most of them use readily available supplies.
  • 700 Science Experiments for Everyone
    United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
    Doubleday, New York, NY

    This modestly priced book contains very brief descriptions of science demonstrations and activities appropriate to upper elementary, middle school, and beginning high school students. The activities deal with various areas of life science, earth science, and physical science and use readily available supplies.
  • Mr. Wizard’s 400 Experiments in Science
    Don Herbert & Hy Ruchlis
    Book Lab
    500 74th Street, Bergen, NJ 07047

    This inexpensive book contains very brief descriptions of physical and life science activities for upper elementary and middle school students. All of them use readily available supplies.
  • Science on a Shoestring
    Herb Strongin
    Addison-Wesley, New York, NY

    This modestly priced book contains over 50 ideas for hands-on science activities appropriate for upper elementary students. The activities deal mostly with physical science principles, but are organized by application under the major categories of matter, change, and energy. Fairly detailed descriptions of each activity are given, as well as a "script" and suggested discussion questions. The activities use readily available supplies.
  • Scienceworks
    Ontario Science Center
    Addison-Wesley, New York, NY

    This inexpensive book contains 65 ideas for science tricks and demonstrations for elementary and middle school students. The contents consist of fairly detailed descriptions of general science activities which use readily available supplies.
  • Science Magic for Kids
    William R. Wellnitz
    Tab Books
    Blue Ridge Summit, PA

    This inexpensive book contains 68 ideas for science activities appropriate for elementary school students. The contents consist of fairly detailed descriptions of general science activities, as well as very brief explanations of the pertinent phenomena. All of the activities use readily available supplies.

 

Category III -- Multiple Session Activities

These programs require more than a single session to complete. They include multi-unit programs in which each activity builds on the previous ones, and individual or team projects which are carried out over weeks or months. Scientists or engineers could in some cases work directly with the students by conducting activities and assisting with projects, and in other cases serve less directly as sponsors or advisors.

  • A World in Motion
    Society of Automotive Engineers
    400 Commonwealth Drive
    Warrendale, PA 15096
    (412) 776-4841

    SAE provides a kit containing two phases of activities on physical science, technology, and math exploration for students in grades 4-6. In phase one, student "design teams" engineer projects through scientific experimentation, math, and problem solving. This lasts seven class sessions, one hour each. Phase two includes 15 (per grade) individual hands-on experiments which supplement phase one activities. This program was developed for SAE by teachers, education consultants, and engineers. They make use of readily available supplies. Detailed activity descriptions are provided, but not student work sheets. All materials, including a videotape, are reproducible. Kits are sent at no cost to engineers or scientists who are willing to work together with teachers and students in the classroom. Promotional materials are also available to organizations interested in encouraging their members to form such educational partnerships.

  • International Science and Engineering Fair
    Science Service
    1719 N Street NW
    Washington, DC 20036
    (202) 785-2255

    K-12 students conduct science related projects which are judged locally, regionally, and nationally. Volunteers can mentor students in designing projects and conducting experiments, provide tours and field trips to local industries, and serve as judges.
  • Science Olympiad
    5955 Little Pine Lane
    Rochester, MI 48064
    (313) 651-4013

    K-12 students work in teams on science related projects in preparation for local, state, and national competitions. Volunteers can serve as coaches, judges, or in various organizational capacities.

  • Odyssey of the Mind
    P.O. Box 27
    Glassboro, NJ 08028
    (609) 881-1603

    School teams solve two engineering or performance problems: one spontaneous and one long-term. Volunteers can serve as coaches, judges or contest organizers.

  • Young Scientists and Engineers
    P.O. Box 3084
    Sierra Vista, AZ 85636-3084
    (602) 458-1560

    K-12 students conduct after-school science and engineering projects. Volunteers can develop project ideas, provide technical assistance to the students, support performance-based competitions, or serve in various organizational roles.

  • National Engineering Design Challenge
    Junior Engineering Technical Society
    1420 King Street, Suite 405
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 548-5387

    High school students design and build a "product" to meet a specific engineering need. Volunteers can help develop problems, serve as mentors to student groups, and conduct post-competition student programs.

  • U.S. Skill Olympics
    Vocational Industrial Clubs of America
    P.O. Box 3000
    Leesburg, VA 22075
    (703) 777-8810

    Vocational students participate in competitions in 40 technical / vocational areas. Volunteers help organize and staff local competitions and serve as judges.
  • Mathcounts
    1420 King Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 684-2831

    Middle school students participate in math competitions similar to athletic events. Volunteers can coach teams and serve in various organizational capacities.

  • Community Computers Learning Centers
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    1333 H Street NW
    Washington, DC 20005-4792
    (202) 326-6670

    This program provides middle school math activities for students and their parents, teachers and counselors. Volunteers lead computer classes or workshops, teach math or science using hands-on materials, make presentations, etc.

  • Operation Smart
    Girls’ Clubs of America
    30 East 33rd Street
    New York, NY 10016
    (212) 689-3700

    Girls are involved in hands-on experiences, building and taking things apart, questioning and predicting, and developing an understanding of what scientists do. Volunteers can assist with hands-on activities, provide field trips, and serve as mentors.

Category IV -- Hands-on Science Curricula and Information for Teachers

These resources are systematic curricula based on hands-on inquiry-based activities, as well as information on novel approaches to science education. They are ideal for sharing with teachers who have become excited about the discovery-based approach and want to pursue it in as their primary teaching approach.

  • Science and Technology for Children (STC)
    Developed by: National Science Resourrces Center
    Smithsonian Institution
    Arts & Industries Building, Room 1201
    Washington, DC 20560
    (202) 357-2555

    Distributed by: Carolina Biological Supply Company
    2700 York Road
    Burlington, SC 27215
    1-800-334-5551

    This program consists of a series of 24 inquiry-centered curriculum units for students in grades 1-6. There are 4 units per grade level covering key topics in the areas of life science, earth science, and physical science. Each unit consists of approximately 15 sequenced activities on a topical theme, e.g., electric circuits. These activities are designed to be done over an 8-week period in pairs or small groups. Emphasis is placed on developing science content and science process skills in the context of age-appropriate investigations. Teacher's books include teaching strategies and classroom tips, activity instructions, assessment materials, suggestions for linkages to other subjects (math, language arts, social studies), and a bibliography of resources for teachers and students. Student work books are also available, as well as kits containing all of the equipment and supplies needed for a class of 30 students. A free brochure is available which describes the program in greater detail.

  • Full Option Science System (FOSS)
    Developed by: Lawrence Hall of Science
    University of California
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    (510) 642-8941

    Distribted by: Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation
    310 S. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60604
    1-800-554-9862 ext. 6554

    This program consists of a series of 27 inquiry-centered curriculum units for students in grades K-6. There are 5 kindergarten units, 6 units for grades 1/2, and 8 units each for grades 3/4 and 5/6. These cover key topics in the areas of life science, earth science, physical science, and scientific reasoning/technology. Most units consists of 4 sequenced activities on a topical theme, e.g., levers and pulleys. These activities are designed to be done over a 4 to 6 week period in small collaborative groups. Emphasis is placed on developing science content and science process skills in the context of age-appropriate investigations. Teacher's books include background information on the topic area, an overview of unit teaching goals and strategies, activity instructions, duplication masters of pages for student collection and plotting of data (in both English and Spanish), assessment materials, and a bibliography of multimedia enrichment options. Kits containing all of the equipment and supplies needed for a class of 32 students are also available. A free brochure is available which describes the program in greater detail.

  • Insights
    Developed by: Education Development Center
    55 Chapel St.
    Newton, MA 02160
    1-800-225-4276 ext. 2430

    Distribted by: Optical Data Corporation
    30 Technology Drive
    Warren, NJ 07059
    1-800-524-2481

    This program consists of a series of 17 inquiry-centered curriculum units for students in grades K-6. There are 4 units for grades K/1, 5 units for grades 2/3, 5 units for grades 4/5, and 3 units for grade 6. These cover key topics in the areas of life science, earth science, and physical science. Units consists of approximately 15 sequenced activities on a broad topical theme, e.g., habitats of living things. These activities are designed to be done over a 6 to 8 week period in small collaborative groups. Emphasis is placed on developing science content and science process skills in the context of age-appropriate investigations. Teacher's books include background information on the topic area, an overview of unit teaching goals and strategies, activity instructions, duplication masters of pages for student collection and plotting of data as well as home-school work assignments, assessment materials, and a bibliography of supplementary resources including books for students and teachers, audiovisual materials, software, and organizations which supply free or inexpensive enrichment materials. Kits containing all of the equipment and supplies needed for a class of 30 students are also available. A free brochure is available which describes the program in greater detail. A follow-on middle school curriculum is also available.

  • Science Plus: Technology and Society
    Developed by: Atlantic Science Curriculum Project
    University of New Brunswick
    Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
    Distributed by: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
    151 Benigno Blvd.
    Bellmawr, NJ 08031
    1-800-426-0462

    This program consists of 3 levels of inquiry-centered curriculum for middle school students. Each level is intended to be a year long study of 8 interdisciplinary topical units covering key areas of life science, earth science, and physical science. The units each consist of 4 to 12 sequenced lessons on a broad topical theme, e.g., oceans and climates. These lessons are designed to be done over a one month period. Each unit involves a combination of reading, exploration activities done in collaborative groups, analyses, discussions, and writing assignments. Emphasis is placed on developing science content and science process skills in the context of relevant applications. The Teacher's Annotated Edition and Resource Binder for each level contain overviews of each unit's teaching goals and strategies, suggestions for exploration activities, master copies of unit worksheets, teaching transparencies, a guide to materials needed for each activity, assessment materials, and extensive information on supplementary resources. Student books contain minimal text, but numerous suggestions for discussions, activities, and analyses through which students develop their thought processes and understandings of scientific phenomena. Supplementary videodisks specifically designed to complement this curriculum are also available.

  • National Diffusion Network
    Office of Educational Research & Improvement
    U. S. Department of Education
    555 New Jersey Avenue
    Washington, DC 20208
    (202) 357-6134

    The National Diffusion Network provides funding to assist with the dissemination of outstanding educational programs from the schools in which they were developed to other schools. Typically, this involves major curriculum elements, rather than individual activities. This won’t provide information on specific activities, but help teachers and schools access exemplary programs.

Copyright National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.