Let’s jump right in – I LOVE having activities that are ongoing throughout a good chunk of the year.
Most of them are SUPER SIMPLE, and students love to revisit them over time. They’ll often check them out or talk about them as they enter the room or when they’re on a break, and it’s also a way that you can fill time if you need to!
Here are some of my favorite ongoing options.
1) Observing a local tree:
You can’t get much easier than this. Pick a tree on your school grounds that students pass daily and pay close attention to it over the year.
Ask them about it a couple of times a week. Bring it up so frequently that you’re incepting their brains!
They’ll start to watch, and that’s when magic happens! Talk about it as a class: gather observations, encourage them to ask questions and research the answers, mark events on a calendar, take photos…whatever!
There might be long stretches where not much happens, but that’s all part of the conversation too (Why is nothing happening? What will need to change in the environment to see changes? What will happen in the tree at that point? When do you think the next stage will begin?).
Students will begin to look at the world around them a little differently.
2) Observing pond water:
Grab a sample of local pond water and encourage students to look at it under the microscope on a regular basis.
What do they see? Can they draw and identify the life inside? How does it change over time? What role do these organisms have in the ecosystem? What do they need to live?
Encourage students to check it out whenever they want!
If you want to get even fancier, you can build a Winogradsky column. You’ll see visible changes to the column makeup over time, as well as through the microscope. (Full disclosure: I haven’t done the Winogradsky columns in my classes yet, but it was a cool component of a microbial growth class I took in university.)
3) YouTube alternative bell ringer:
It’s an assignment that has students sift through YouTube to find a video that relates their science class to the real world.
They select the video and sign up for a presentation slot, which happen at the beginning of a class for a given amount of days, weeks, or months!
I’ve used it in various classes for years and students always find incredibly interesting and engaging content. Their classmates LOVE watching a video to start the class and everyone learns about cool places where science is found!
4) Pumpkin decomposition:
I actually stumbled upon this idea from an elementary school teacher, but why not use it in your middle school or high school science classes? It follows the life cycle of a pumpkin from recently carved to decomposition to sprouting and developing into a mature plant. Check out a full explanation here. It’s SO COOL!
Life is easier for chemistry students if they know as many of the elements of the periodic table as possible. This game gives students 15 minutes to list as many chemical elements as they can while staring at a blank periodic table.
I’ll give hints like, “Think of gases you know…think of elements named for scientists…think of metals…” etc. and I’ll help them with spelling if they can’t get it quite right.
I usually do this at the beginning of class a couple of times each week for the first few weeks, but we always pop back to it every once in a while throughout the year.
It’s incredibly helpful for students, they think it’s fun, they see their own improvement, AND I have had more than a few students memorize the ENTIRE PERIODIC TABLE. It melts a science teacher’s heart!!
I hope you give one or more of these ideas a try!
Are you an ONTARIO SCIENCE TEACHER?
Me too! Click here if you’d like some specific science content that’s aligned to the Ontario curriculum, Growing Success, and all that as, of, for jazz that we know and love! (I promise you won’t be overloaded with emails!)
Interested in other helpful Back to School ideas? Check out: