Making Middle School Science Engaging & Hands-on

by Katie Meier, Science Teacher, Capitol Hill Magnet School

February 2010

Imagine 30 8th grade science students running around a classroom shouting:

“Where’s soil?”
“How do I get from animals to atmosphere?”
“Will you pay me to drink that water, Ms. Meier?”
“I’ve been in the ocean forever!”

To an outsider, my classroom appears to be the definition of chaos. To me, all the running, shouting, dice rolling and scribbling is the definition of learning. I have learned one thing well in my ten years of teaching: to learn, you have to do.

All teachers are faced with long lists of standards to incorporate into lessons. One of our greatest challenges is translating those standards into activities that engage and teach students. As I was preparing my Earth science unit on water, I pulled out my MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader’s Guide and found exactly what I needed.

incredible journeyStudents at Capitol Hill Magnet School playing Incredible Journey  

Lesson 3:1 - Incredible Journey is a great way to introduce or review the water cycle with students of all ages. Students become a water molecule and physically move through the water cycle. This lesson clearly demonstrates that the water cycle is not a perfect circle. Older students can record their journey in notebooks and include an explanation about how water moves from each stage. At the end of the lesson, each student has a page full of notes on the water cycle and you haven’t lectured at all!

Would You Drink This Water?

Lesson 3:2 - Would You Drink This Water? works well as an introductory activity for water quality. Students use their senses to observe water and determine if it is safe to drink. Watching students drink water that looks clean but is “contaminated” with salt engages the entire class. You can easily build on this lesson by having students develop experiments to further test water quality.

The MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader’s Guide offers great ideas for middle school Earth and life science as well as elementary science topics. Thanks for making 8th grade science exciting!

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