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5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Classroom Budget

Circular timeline graphic showing a typical education purchase cycle

By Tom Smith

Teaching can be a challenge, but budgeting to teach is often a downright pain. Teachers not only face small budgets and limited time to plan out their classrooms each year, but often deal with sudden “use it or lose it” funds with little advance notice. Confusing planning strategies, unclear budget allocations, and stretched resources can make it difficult to plan a budget for their classroom that’s both realistic and meets their needs.

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Delve into Block-Based Programming On Scratch Day!

Happy Scratch Day graphic

By Josh Ence

Join members of the Scratch online community on May 11th as they come together to share, create, and expand on new ways to utilize Scratch programming. We make it easy by providing a free fun activity.

Understanding block-based programming languages like Scratch is an important skill for 21st century students to have, but it can be difficult to find resources to teach it successfully. As an Engineering Education Technology Specialist at Vernier, I help teachers bring block-based programming into their classrooms. It can be taught at all levels—from elementary to college—and can be used across disciplines, including computer science, math, social studies, music, and even art.

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Happy DNA Day!

DNA Day graphic

By John Melville

National DNA Day is on April 25th. This is an excellent opportunity for you to discuss the importance of DNA and to introduce the topic of gene expression in your class. As a former instructor, I found that there were very few lab activities that investigated gene expression. Most DNA activities were classic DNA precipitation or biotechnology cloning activities. While these activities are great for learning about DNA and biotechnology, one of the key concepts that I wanted my students to understand was gene expression. To this end, I worked with Bio-Rad Laboratories and my friend Dr. Roy Ventullo, a college professor and microbiologist, to develop a unique way to look at gene expression using fluorescence with our SpectroVis® Plus Spectrophotometer.

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How Physical Computing Can Help Your Elementary and Middle School Students

by Rick Bush, Library & Instructional Technology Teacher, Stoller Middle School

A photo of a girl using a Go Direct Force and Acceleration Sensor to control a sprite in Scratch.
Students use the Go Direct Force and Acceleration Sensor to provide input and control their sprite.

Introducing new technology into your classroom can be a significant undertaking. Creating new lessons and incorporating new platforms can require you to learn new technology, figure out how to incorporate it, test it, and then implement it with your students.

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Earth Day: Inspire Your Students’ Interest in a STEM-Related Career with Hands-On Activities and Experiments

Earth Day header graphic

Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to get your students engaged in a conversation about conservation and sustainability. By incorporating hands-on activities and experiments that take place beyond a book into your curriculum, you can help your students connect the dots between the lab and the real world. When your students visualize data through real-world applications, they are better able to understand the root causes behind issues and engage in critical thinking.

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Four Ways to Get Elementary Students Excited About Science

by Nüsret Hisim

Elementary students watching vinegar and baking soda react with a Go Direct temperature sensor collecting data.

It can be challenging to engage students in science activities, despite how exciting the lessons are. As an Education Technology Specialist at Vernier Software & Technology, I frequently receive phone calls and inquiries from elementary teachers looking for ways to engage their students with hands-on science experiments. Teachers are tasked with teaching an array of subjects, and as a result, many find themselves teaching science despite not having the experience to describe complicated and seemingly intimidating concepts in an effective and stimulating way. After years of attending and conducting workshops with teachers of all levels, and being a former science teacher myself, I know this to be an especially significant challenge for teachers.

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One Device for Teaching Science and Coding with Scratch

Do you teach force and motion? Equipped with a load cell to measure force and both an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure motion, our Go Direct® Force and Acceleration Sensor is perfect for hands-on science activities. Drag a sneaker across the floor to study friction, or tie Go Direct® Force and Acceleration Sensor to a string and swing it around your head to investigate circular motion. Incorporate the sensor in your LEGO® machines and measure the mechanical advantage of levers and ramps.

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Introduce STEM and Engineering Concepts with Real-World Applications: Testing Fishing Knots

“Let’s break some stuff, shall we?” Martin excitedly proclaims during his recent review of the Vernier Structures & Materials Tester (VSMT) on NSTA Recommends.

Martin and his physics students at Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana, used the VSMT to investigate the tensile strength of a variety of different pencils, as well as different kinds of popular fishing knots. Martin decided to use the local interest for fly fishing to introduce engineering applications for testing and design. After collecting data with the VSMT, students determined which knots for fishing were best to use in terms of strength.

In the review, “Vernier Structures and Materials Tester: An Engineering Marvel To Test Student’s Engineering Marvels,” Martin Horejsi highlights the functionality of the VSMT, which is designed for all project-based STEM and engineering classrooms. He says:

Vernier Structures & Materials Tester is truly a piece of engineering elegance. It looks amazing sitting in the classroom and no doubt will inspire innovation and creativity by its mere presence. And its good looks are just the beginning. The dynamics of operation also share the elegance. Using two sensors in tandem, the Vernier Structures & Materials Tester measures both force and displacement. The force sensor has a range from zero up to 1000 newtons with 1 N resolution. And the displacement sensor will measure at tenth-millimeter resolution a distance up to seven centimeters.”

Check out Martin’s experiments on NSTA Recommends »

Hands-On Spectroscopy Experiments Encourage Student Engagement

In a recent two-part review on NSTA Recommends, reviewer and educator Martin Horejsi used the to describe his experiences with his high school chemistry and physics students throughout multiple investigations. During one of the investigations, he used the spectrophotometer and a compatible optical fiber to explore various spectrum-specific light bulbs, including both frosted and clear bulbs with different wattages. He was able to use the spectrophotometer to measure the wavelength spectrum and draw conclusions about the types of bulbs on the market today. He said:

“So now when I see interesting light bulbs and light sources, I try to imagine what the wavelength spectrum looks like. And given the rapid evolution of LED lights and light applications, I cannot easily think of a limit to the educational applications of the Vernier Go Direct® SpectroVis® Plus Spectrophotometer.”

In another investigation, Martin used the Go Direct® SpectroVis® Plus Spectrophotometer to teach his students about the transmission and absorption spectrum of a fluid. After preparing the liquid using isopropyl alcohol and a kale leaf, the class used the spectrophotometer to view and investigate the sample’s absorbance spectrum. Martin then engaged students in a whole-class discussion about the findings, in which he said:

“While running this analysis projected onto a large screen with a classroom full of students, I posed the question of what would the spectrum curve look like for transmittance, or reflectance, as we like to think of it. A student slowly approached the whiteboard with the giant projected absorbance spectrum curve and tentatively plotted some data points opposite the existing graph. As the mental gymnastics went into overtime, it was clear that the undeniable inverse within science was inescapable. The reflectance could be nothing other than the opposite of the absorbance.”

With the Go Direct® SpectroVis® Plus Spectrophotometer, students can easily and wirelessly collect a full wavelength spectrum—absorbance, percent transmission, or intensity—in less than one second. The spectrophotometer can be used in a variety of spectroscopy experiments including determining the peak wavelength to collect data on solution concentration for studies of Beer’s law or to monitor rates of reaction; collecting a full wavelength spectrum to measure absorbance, percent transmittance, fluorescence, or emissions; conducting enzyme kinetics experiments; and more.

Learn more about the Go Direct SpectroVis Plus Spectrophotometer »

Celebrate Brain Awareness Week with Your High School Students

By John Melville

Brain Awareness Week is March 11–17. This is an excellent opportunity for you to discuss the importance of neuroscience in your class using engaging activities. As a former instructor, I often found that teaching neuroscience could be challenging. Neuroscience is a broad field, and students need to understand molecular and cellular concepts, as well as brain anatomy and physiology. After years of teaching, I found several ways that seemed to make neuroscience easier for my students to understand. I’d like to share them with you.

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