Science education bookmarks

(Last Update: 19:53 PDT, 15 May 2013 )

Science Fair

Abe has participated in Science Fairs since 4th grade. Here are the reports he has written:

Robotics Club

We started a Robotics Club at Abe's high school in 2011. The first project was an remotely-operated underwater vehicle for the MATE Monterey Bay Regional underwater ROV competition. The second project was to hook up an Arduino microcontroller board to a $30 OWI arm using an Arduino motor shield.

Tech Club

We started a Tech Club at Abe's school for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Jan 2007, which continues under another parent even after we finished with the school.

Family Science Night

I volunteered to run a committee to organize a Family Science Night at Spring Hill School. I have put together notes for the committee, with lots of pointers, at

Soda-bottle rocket

I gave a little talk and demonstration of pressure to Abe's kindergarten class. I had several small activities, but the most impressive is a soda-bottle water rocket. Here are some plans I wrote up for the launcher. (PDF format) (Now available in Spanish). I started with an in-class circle talking about pressure. I had each student feel the air pressure against their fingers from a bike pump, then showed them water shooting out small holes in the side of a bottle, then had them get in a circle holding hands (the bottle), and had some of them play the role of water molecules bumping against each other and the "bottle". After that we went outside to launch the rockets. During the next week the kids decorated their own rockets with stickers and markers, and we had another launching where each child launched his or her own rocket. It was great fun, and the activities could easily be adapted to older students (by having them do so actual experiments).

For Fiesta de los Artes at Bay View Elementary School (5 April 2003), I set up a rocket-decorating table with 5 rocket launchers---it was a very popular activity. Using colored (and black) vinyl electrical tape proved to be the most popular decorations, though shiny metallic paper with adhesive backing was also popular. Lick-and-stick stickers were not very popular, but 1-cent Kestrel stamps were moderately popular.

I did this project again for Abe's 5th grade class (not including decorating the rockets), where it was very popular. We spent some time before the launching discussing Newton's laws and how rockets worked, and some time afterwards discussing what one could measure on the rocket launches and how to test various ideas about increasing the height rockets went to. For more information about experiments to do with rockets see , particularly

Science curricula and standards
The California Dept of Education Science Framework for California Public Schools (320 pages). There is a much shorter overview at
South Carolina Kindergarten Science Curriculum Standards
Inquiry-based curriculum supplements from the National Institutes of Health. As of 11 Aprill 2005 there were six for high-school, five for middle school, and one for elementary school. (By July 2007, the middle school list was up to 9, the others were still 6 and 1.)
Vail, AZ Science Curriculum
San Marino, CA, First Grade Curriculum
Troy, MI First Grade Curriculum
Forest Hills School District - First Grade Curriculum
Palo Alto Unified School District First Grade Curriculum Summary
Topic List for Kindergarten Science Curriculum

Books, magazines, and book reviews

Free Digital Textbook Initiative
Free digital texts (mainly in science and math), with notes about how well they allign to the california content standards.
My current favorite middle-school science book is Force, Motion, and Energy published by Science Curriculum Inc. We've gone through a few chapters of the book together, and the experiments seem well designed and supportive of learning the basics of Newtonian mechanics.

Their other text, Introductory Physical Science, is also supposed to be pretty good. I have recently gotten a copy of the 8th edition and was a bit disappointed. The chemistry emphasis is a reasonable complement to the physics emphasis of F, M, and E, but the writing is poorer. The investigations have the kids guessing what will happen with no theory to base the guesses on. There are irrelevant questions mixed into the first chapter, and the book makes the common error of "inquiry-based" books of focusing so hard on "what happens" that they forget to discuss why. For example, in the first chapter the kids heat up baking soda to get a gas, but there is no discussion of what the gas is or why heating baking soda makes it release a gas.
The William and Mary curriculum is intended for gifted students. Unfortunately, it is not a stand-alone curriculum: "Our science curriculum is not really intended to be core science curriculum and is more of a supplementary program. It is frequently used for enrichment and extension rather than as a central emphasis."
Larry Gonick has written several "Cartoon Guide to ..." science books. They are generally fun to read covering the basic principles, but not including experiments, questions, ... . The low-quality paper and binding mean that the books would have to be replaced frequently. At about $12 a piece, it might be best to regard them like workbooks, with the students getting their own copy to keep each year.
Larry Gonick and Craig Criddle The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry
Larry Gonick and Art Huffman The Cartoon Guide to Physics.
Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis The Cartoon Guide to Genetics
Larry Gonick and Alice Outwater The Cartoon Guide to the Environment
Larry Gonick The Cartoon Guide to the Computer
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Larry Gonick and Christine DeVault The Cartoon Guide to Sex
Paul Hewitt's books are published by Addison-Wesley and include Like most Addison Wesley books, these are rather pricey. (The trade book is the only one that seems reasonably priced.) There is also a DVD set, but it is $1200.

I've not looked at Hewitt's books yet, but I've seen recommendations for them in a few places.
Mahlon Hoagland, Bert Dodson, Judy Hauck. Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology is intended as a college-level biology book for non-majors or high school general biology (not AP). The language *may* be a bit too difficult for 7th graders---I'll have to look at it. The cost is $62, but an instructor can request a review copy. There are instructor's manuals and CD-ROM toolkits. The book has been getting stellar reviews on Amazon.
ChemCom® is a chemistry curriculum developed by the American Chemical Society in the 1980s (first published in 1988). The text is Chemistry in the Community and is in its fifth ediction. It is a high-school-level chem course with a somewhat different coverage than most chem courses (less mathematical theory and more practical application).
an inquiry-based series
an inquiry-based series
Event-based Science.
The magazine Science News now has some of its articles simplified and presented on the web in a fairly kid-friendly format.
The weekly e-mail digest ScienceWeek has archives of its news available for free. One can also subscribe to the newsletter, or (for free) to a reduced student version. To subscribe to the free ScienceWeek Student's Edition, send an Email message with "SWSE" as the subject header to
Looks like a nice set of on-line tutorials on a varity of science topics. Aimed at 13-year-olds and up, but fairly basic.
FASEB has a well-written series of articles for the general public in their "Breakthroughs in Bioscience" series.
I've not checked this site, but it supposedly has a full AP biology course.
I've not checked this site, but it supposedly has both Physics B and Physics C AP courses as free online courses. (Calculus AB and BC also.)
Book review for Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert Park (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction by Charles Wynn and Aurthur Wiggins (Joseph Henry Press, 2001). A detailed review that explains why everyone should study science---the books look quite interesting also.
Reviews by John Hubisz of middle school physical science texts and videos.
A review of middle-school science texts, by John L. Hubisz. This detailed review (in 1998) pans all the widely-distributed middle-school science books.

Web sites for kid's science education

In this section I'll try to collect on-line education material for science. I'll mainly be looking for 4th grade and up (given when I started doing the collection), and will be looking for substance, rather than flash.
Various world almanac-like information displayed by distorting world maps so that areas of countried matches the relative sizes of the data.
Movies of bacteria swimming (several different sorts)
"is a resource for students (ages 8-18), their parents, their teachers and their school counselors."

In addition to various career-guidance sorts of things, there are a bunch of lesson plans, but I have not looked at them to see whether they are any good. I looked at the summaries of a few of them, and they look like good ideas for fun projects, but they would need to be integrated into a coherent curriculum.
Haven't looked at this one yet.
NIH has a bunch of curriculum supplements (mainly at middle-school level on health issues):
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has a number of free publications. I've looked at "The Structures of Life" and it seems fairly good (about middle-school level, maybe early high school).
A nanotechnology web site (video) recommended on the TAGPDQ mailing list.
Intro to nanotechnology including an applet for playing with nanotubes.
Another nanotech web site recommended on TAGPDQ. Supposedly has plenty of pictures and no complicated terminology.
A collection of science stories in 7 or 8 categories of science. The stories are "news" stories, and so lack depth, but can provide interesting factoids.
This site has lesson plans for physics instruction in the elementary grades, with suggested grade levels (though the grade ranges are sometime quite large, like K-12). We have not tried any of them yet.
Animations of virtual cells, done in Windows Media. When I tried to use it (18 Dec 2005), the audio had been compressed with a codec not supported by Media Player, and the animations were not downloadable, so the overall value of having the animations on the web was questionable. The animations themselves looked promising, so if they can fix their technical problems, this could be a good reasource for learning some cell biology.
Howard Huges Medical Institute has put together a web site to introduce young kids to biology. Simple pages suitable for K-3, adapted from various childrens' museums.
This site has some cool biology animations (suitable for grades 6-12, I think) as well as virtual labs and other stuff.
Not looked at yet, but supposedly has good info about how various products are made.
Gale Rhodes has written some great educational material (his "Crystallography made Crystal-clear" text is a classic). I have not looked carefully at this web site, but this tutorial, based on human opsins seems to be well designed and uses reasonable tools.
The Society for Amateur Scientists is trying to start a children's education/social program called LABRats. Their web site is now in pretty good shape and their founder is the last author for the famous "Amateur Scientist" column in Scientific American (which the journal unwisely axed). They are offering a CD-ROM of the entire run of "Amateur Scientist" which seems like a pretty good deal.
This site is dedicated to helping kids win (or, at least, participate in) science fairs. Lots of project ideas and some hints on how to do things right. This site is sponsored by the Society for Amateur Scientists.
self-described as "over 500 fully searchable and well categorized science fair project ideas, with full instructions and explanations. Currently, over 500,000 students across the USA and Canada are using this totally free educational resource to search for science fair project ideas."
Collection of interactive web-based science education sites, collected by Central Bucks School District in suburbs of Philadelphia. I've not looked at them yet.
"Here you will find instructions showing you how to build scientific equipments from relatively cheap materials." The instructions for making a working version of Leeuwenhoek's microscope look pretty good.
Videos of manufacturing processes. A little heavy on the advertising info, as would be expected of videos produced by manufacturers.

From the Stanford alumni newsletter: Ever wonder how jelly beans are made? Or how plastic food containers get made? Then visit the new Stanford Web site that shows kids and adults how more than 40 products are made. The online videos are geared toward both engineers and non-engineers. Click on ``How Everyday Things Are Made.'' Some very nice microphotographs of fun things (like mosquitos).
Cool optical illusions
Web-based games based on identifying chemical elements. Rather boring and useful only for drill work in elements.
This on-line one-page tutorial in "what is the human genome project?" and "what is bioinformatics?" is a nice pointer for someone who just wants cocktail-party level information, with a few pointers to other sources. This is more an advertising blurb than anything else.

There are a few assignments that could be used to scare kids, since they ask questions with large vocabular that is not explained elsewhere on the site (for example, the first question of assignment 1 asks " What do you think is the most probable inheritance pattern for the deafness allele in this family?

without having previously defined any of those terms. It is not clear who (if anyone) is the target audience for this site.

Stores and suppliers

I get no kickback from these stores, but I have found their catalogs to be fun to read and have ordered successfully from all of them. The paper catalogs tend to be better resources for browsing than the web sites. Edmund Scientific
I grew up drooling over the Edmund Scientific's catalogs and they are still good (though it seems to me they have less labware and small items, and more big-ticket stuff than they used to). Still it is a good place to get a variety of different things, much of it useful for science education.
Forget the consumerist lego web sites and catalogs---this one is the branch of Pitsco and Lego that has their classroom sets and educational stuff. The prices for the Lego products are still very high, but they have a much better selection of things to build with here (rather than the throwaway builds-one-thing kits that the commercial lego has devolved to). They also have lego parts that are difficult to find elsewhere (like shock absorbers or the air tank for their pneumatic system).

Pitsco also has a great line of "engineering" toys and projects: mousetrap cars, solar cars, matchstick bridges, ... .
I was very sad many years ago when Heathkit went out of business---how would future generations of electrical engineers get their start? Ramsey Electronics seems to have filled the void very nicely. I have bought two of their projects for my almost 8-year-old son (an "entry-level" electric bell kit and a 130-in-1 electronic lab).

The electric bell kit was not well made or designed. The hole in the lug for the adjusting screw was too small and had to be drilled larger, and the various parts are not firmly held in place when the bell is assembled so the bell will fall apart if shaken too hard or turned upside down. The parts are so loosely held in place that the hammer needs constant readjustment for the bell to ring at all. It was ok for a $7 kit, but I'd have preferred to pay $9 and get something that worked more reliably with less adult assistance neeeded.

The $35 130-in-1 Electronics Lab, on the other hand, seems to be quite a good design, and the book of instructions that comes with it is well written, suggesting several ways that a child (or adult) can try modifying each circuit. The spring terminals are easy for a child to use and hold wires securely. My son has no trouble following the wiring instructions in each experiment by himself (he did the first one with me, and the next two by himself). The selection of components on the board is a good one, with several standard analog parts (resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, loud speaker, transformer, ...) and a few digitial ones. This is not the best kit for learning digital electronics, but it looks like value for money for analog circuit play. (Target age of the text and circuits seems to be 12-18-year-olds.)
This company also sells a lot of kits, mainly electronic but also mechanical (fuel cell car, robots, ...).
A recommendation I've heard for the best chemistry sets are the Thames and Kosmos sets. I have not had direct experience with them.
Nasco is a school-supply company with several excellent catalogs that include school materials that are often hard to find. We have enjoyed the Arts and Crafts catlog and the Science catalog.

Other Bookmarks
A listing of high schools that specialize in math, science, and technology. (No idea whether the schools are any *good*, just that they specialize.)
The Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, in conjunction with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, offers a variety of programs for high school biology teachers and their students. These programs are all Boston-based, not on-line.
This site has the complete songs of a 6-LP set of science records produced in the late 1950s to early 1960s. It includes the original version of "Why Does the Sun Shine?" which has more recently been made popular by "They Might Be Giants".
IEEE has collected (and is collecting) oral histories from engineering pioneers.
Welcome to the ASEE EngineeringK12 Center
I have judged at the Santa Cruz County Science Fair for many years. In recent years it has been getting bigger and the projects have been getting better---Santa Cruz sends more projects to the state Science Fair than would be expected based on our population.
The Seymour Center at the Long Marine Laboratories in Santa Cruz is the closest science museum to us (2.8 miles away). Although small, they do have a good touch tank, knowledgeable docents, and a good summer children's program.
The Association of Science-Technology Centers is a group of science and technology museums who allow each other's members free admission. There is a long list of museums, and if you travel much, it might be a very good idea to become a member of one of the museums.
Outdoor Science Exploration---a Santa Cruz County couple that do informal science education at First Night, in one-day "adventures", at birthday parties ($90/hour + $3/student), in classrooms, ... .
Why ants are not super strong. Scaling laws for strength.
National Association of Biology Teachers. They have a short list of resources that may be useful.
aera-k: kindergarten science ideas
PENNlincs: Early Elementary Science
StudyWeb: Professional Development:Teaching Resources:Collaborative Activities:Kindergarten:Science
kindergarten science - books, links and much more
Supposedly has some showy demonstrations. A not-for-profit organization devoted to improvement of teaching of math and science.
The Green Frog News is a resource center for the Hohokam Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. The "Simon's Magic Lunchbox" section has a lot of simple experiments to do, mainly as links to other sites. There are some formatting problems with the tables, resulting in overly long pages, so this is not a site to print.
This is from the West Genesee Teachers' Association, of West Genesee School District, Camillus, NY 13031. There are 10 annotated lists of web sites for astronomy, biology, chemistry, dinoaurs, Earth science, general sciences, meteorology, physics, science education, and science fairs. The lists seem to be pretty good, with useful annotation, but this is a meta-list sort of place, so you'll be clicking down a few levels before you get to web reources with actual content.

Not visited yet
Claimed to be "A collection of on-line games to help your students learn about the elements and the periodic table. Includes element flash cards, hangman, matching and crossword puzzles. Find these, as well as other math and science games."
Claimed: "internet resource link for the space science studies teacher. ... This is a neat resource you can use with your class. It allows students to get a better understanding of satellites and their orbits. The part most students enjoy is visually sighting satellites and knowing what they are. Use the J-Pass feature to put in your latitude and longitude, or just use your zip code, and it will give you a list of satellites visible in your area. It will provide the time of when the satellite will rise, set, azimuths for both as well as a printable "sky map" to help your students locate them. It's very easy and the students will know when to look, where to look and what they are seeing."
I haven't looked at this one yet. Claimed: "Out of This World is the Web's most comprehensive site for middle-school science students. With over 1,000 science and space related content pages, streaming audio and video, this award-winning site has lab activities, quizzes, self-paced in-service, links to resource sites, and tech support."
example tests from Virginia's state-wide tests in math and science:
Not visited yet.
Basic science for kids, childrens science projects & experiments
PENNlincs: Early Elementary Science
CoachLab Probeware for Science, Math and Technology Educators
Science and technology education from Flying Turtle Exploring
A collection of anecdotes about famous mathematicians and scientists.
A nice poster (available free as PDF or can be ordered already printed) of the electromagnetic spectrum. Journey North
Animal Migrations website (not visited yet) NASA Spaceplace for kids
(not visited yet) Bizarre Stuff You Can Make in Your Kitchen
Supposedly easy, fun science experiments for home or school. (not visited yet)
Science Toys to make with Kids (not visited yet)

sketch of Kevin Karplus by Abe
Kevin Karplus's home page
Abe with glasses
Abe's home page
Abe as Alfonso Churchill
Abe's theater page

Questions about page content should be directed to Kevin Karplus
Biomolecular Engineering
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
318 Physical Sciences Building

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