While you may know Science A-Z as an award-winning resource for teaching reading and scientific literacy, did you know that it also provides affordable, hands-on STEM instruction? In a world of increasing demands for innovation in science and engineering, teachers are challenged with finding the right resources to engage students with STEM topics to prepare them for the careers of tomorrow.
By working with Science A-Z Process Science activities, students can practice the skills and thinking habits of scientists by learning how to use scientific tools and follow experimental processes. These structured activities lay the groundwork for more student-directed investigations as children develop their scientific literacy. For example, students learn about the skills and materials used by geologists, engineers, and zoologists in the following activities.
This Process Activity helps teachers guide kindergarten through second grade students to understand the processes that shape the Earth’s surface. Students conduct an experiment in which they build two sand towers and observe how well these structures withstand wind and water erosion. Like most Process Activities, the materials included in the activity—burlap, sand, water, straws, and rulers—can be found and purchased at your local hardware or department store, making it easy and affordable to implement in the classroom. As students conduct the experiment and make observations, questions in the Teaching Tips guide students to think critically about the processes that shape Earth’s landscapes and about their own connections to those places.
Design a Machine
Third and fourth grade students become engineers as they create and use simple machines to accomplish a STEM challenge: design and assemble a machine that can move a ball the farthest distance. Students experiment with using an inclined plane, wedge, lever, wheel and axle, pulley, and screw to predict and observe how far each machine can make the ball move. Then, after recording their observations, students make adjustments to improve their machine design. With included suggestions to the teacher for extending and varying the lesson, this Process Activity can be easily included in your curriculum with its affordable, easy to obtain materials: scissors, yarn, a roll of tape, empty rolls of toilet paper, and a lightweight ball.
Bird Beak Adaptations
Fifth and sixth graders model the structure and function of various bird beaks by exploring how well certain tools (e.g., pliers, tweezers, a pair of plastic forks) are able to interact with different objects (e.g., pebbles, paper clips, toothpicks). This Process Activity highlights how bird beaks have adapted to differences in food sources, food availability, and the environment. After analyzing how well each tool worked for picking up certain objects, students draw conclusions about how organisms are adapted to their environments.
Benefits of Process Activities
In these Process Activities, students get critical hands-on practice with skills like measurement, observation, identifying and controlling variables, and drawing conclusions while using affordable and easy-to-obtain materials. Students also develop practices such as asking and answering questions, constructing explanations, applying math skills, and developing models. As students experiment with these processes and materials, they have an opportunity to think and act like geologists, engineers, zoologists, and many other STEM professionals. These lessons also allow students to collaborate, discuss ideas, and think critically with others: all skills that are in high-demand in STEM fields.