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Professional Development Modules

Learning Cycle Lesson Plans

This resource is designed for teachers, curriculum directors, and administrators who are responsible for developing research-based professional development experiences for K-12 science teachers.


The Bending and Bouncing of Light

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn about the transfer of light energy as it interacts with matter. Key terms of refraction and reflection will be explored as they apply to light energy. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Can You See the Light?

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn through design and implementation of their own experiments about the transmission of light energy. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Changing Ramp Heights

Abstract: Participants will discover the relationship between the height of a ramp and the energy of a ball rolling down the ramp. As they conduct the investigation, they will discuss the factors that cause variability in results and the need for multiple trials. Participants will experience the substantial connection of mathematics and science in this lesson. In addition, participants will evaluate the samples of students' work (already scored using a rubric) to learn about assessment of students' investigations.


Check Out Lights and Shields with Beads

Abstract: Participants explore Ultraviolet (UV) detecting beads and conduct several investigations with them to find sources of UV radiation and find sources that block UV radiation.


Charting Data in an MS-Excel Spreadsheet

Abstract: This lesson stresses the best practice approach of using electronic technology in science education. The focus is the use of the electronic spreadsheet to track data and create graphs that illustrate numeric relationships. The lesson is a hands-on activity that uses MS-Excel to organize and graphically represent weather data. The data is inserted from an online realtime data source. The activity will provide you with spreadsheet and graphing skills that can aid you in the making of an effective learning interaction. Included are: 1) An explanation of how to set up a spreadsheet in MS-Excel, insert data, and create line graphs and pie charts using MS-Excel Chart Wizard; and 2) online resources providing lesson plans in which electronic spreadsheets are used, and links to online realtime data resources.


Classifying Matter: An Inquiry Approach

Abstract: In this lesson participating teachers will be led through an exercise to develop a scheme for classifying matter using the inquiry method. This is a lesson involves the cognitive skill of inquiry and the content skill of the classification of matter. No prior knowledge of classification of matter is necessary. This activity could be used to introduce concept mapping.


Cling On's: The Study of Static Electricity

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn through design and implementation of their own experiments about static electricity and its relationship with various materials. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Cohesion and Adhesion

Abstract: This module explores the difference between cohesion and adhesion. Participants observe and make predictions so that they can direct their students to do the same. First, participants are given various liquids and asked to make observations. Then, participants report their findings and compare the liquids. Operational definitions are addressed and discussed. Participants investigate factors that may affect the cohesion and adhesion of a substance.


Condiment Diver

Abstract: This module's hands-on activity uses a condiment packet to teach how fish use their swim bladders to rise and descend in the water and other practical applications. Participants will discuss concepts of density, buoyancy, and sinking and floating - very difficult to teach. In addition, participants will discuss the best practices of using a model.


Converting Energy

Abstract: As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will use internet resources and hands-on activities to define "energy" and how it can be measured through energy transformations. Participants will discuss safety considerations for lab activities. Participants will design a lesson that uses inquiry-based internet resources to use in their classroom.


Counting Animal Populations

Abstract: As a result of the professional development provider-conducted module, participants will learn about the method that field scientists use to determine the population of a species for a specified study area. Through collaboration they will design their own strategic method for counting the population of students in their school. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Cross that Bridge!

Abstract: This inquiry activity introduces participants to different hands-on building activities. The participants will review what is meant by "constraints" and will brainstorm constraints that might affect the building of structures. Participants will review and discuss how these activities can be adapted for use in a variety of content areas. Throughout this lesson, the best teaching practices of inquiry approaches, hands-on/minds-on learning, and applications to the real world will be emphasized.


Describing the Motion of a Battery Powered Car

Abstract: The motion of battery powered cars is investigated as the cars move along a level surface. Time and distance data is collected and graphed for cars moving with one battery and cars moving with two batteries. The pattern of data from both cars produces straight lines with positive slopes on the graphs. Analysis of the lines on the graphs indicate that the cars were moving at a constant speed (velocity) and that the car with two batteries moved with a greater overall speed than the car with one battery. Distance and time data is also used to calculate the average speed of the cars. The average speeds are then compared to the slopes of the lines on the respective distance vs time graphs.


Designer Sneakers

Abstract: This module allows the participant to use inquiry to investigate the science involved in the design and manufacture of an "everyday" product - the athletic shoe. Participants will examine their own shoes looking at the parts and identifying their functions. Shoes are made of polymers, long chain molecules that have unique physical properties. Participants will learn to alter the physical properties of a common polymer, glue, with different additives. They will then test their formulations for such properties as impact resistance, strength, bounce, fluidity, and texture. Using data collected during the testing, participants will design and actually build a prototype of a designer sneaker from the polymer products they have designed and tested.


Determining the Age of Fossils

Abstract: How do scientists really know how old a fossil or a rock is? This is a question that many students and teachers have and this module is designed to answer this mystery. Participants will follow the learning cycle with hands-on/minds-on activities to investigate the phenomena of radioactive decay while enjoying the "sweet taste" of their success.


Determining the Density of Water

Abstract: Participants will be led through an exercise to devise a strategy to teach students how to properly graph data gained from massing and measuring the volume of different numbers of drops of water and finding the density of water and oil.


The Dirt on Soil

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn about some of the properties of soil and factors that affect the ability of water to permeate through the soil to an aquifer. Participants will construct a model water treatment plant based on experimentation and research. Through design and implementation of their own experiments, participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Discovering the Physical and Chemical Properties of Polymers

Abstract: In this lesson participating teachers will be led through an exercise using their observation skills to discover the physical and chemical properties of polymers. This is an example of an inquiry based lesson, whose methodology can be adopted in other lessons. No prior knowledge of polymers is necessary. The instructor for this exercise should be familiar with resources that define the physical and chemical properties of polymers, given in the Explanation of Science section.


Downhill Racer

Abstract: Motion of a car traveling along an inclined plane is investigated. Participants will observe the pattern of water drops left by the moving car. The changing distances between the successive drops indicate that the car was not traveling at a constant speed. The pattern of drops can be used for data collection and graphs representing the motion of the car drawn. Analysis of the graphs leads participants to the conclusion that the car was increasing in velocity, or accelerating, down the ramp.


Egg Walk Challenge

Abstract: Participants must design special shoes using old shoes, plastics, rubbers, and duct tape. The shoes will be used for walking on an imaginary planet that has a very brittle, thin crust. In this activity, eggs will be used to model the surface of this planet, since the thin crust is not available for evaluation. Therefore, the success of the designed shoes for walking on the planet will be tested by walking on eggs.


Electromagnetic Radiation and It's Spectrum

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn about electromagnetic radiation and the electromagnetic spectrum. Participants will create waves to understand the relationship between energy and wavelength. Participants will design and implement an experiment to reduce UV exposure to an object as well as design a lesson that can be implemented in their own classroom.


Float Your Boat

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn through design and implementation of their own experiments about Archimedes' Principle, the effects of the force of buoyancy, and the role density plays in the sinking and float of objects. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Heat Loss and Gain

Abstract: Participants will perform a qualitative activity to observe the temperature of three substances when added to water then they will perform a qualitative activity measuring the temperature change versus time for the three substances. From this experience the participants will develop a lesson plan to teach heat loss and gain in physical changes and chemical reactions.


The Homemade Roller Coaster

Abstract: Participants will observe conversions between potential and kinetic energy, as well as conversions from kinetic energy to heat, as they design and build a roller coaster track for a marble. Using foam insulation tubing, participants will make a track, starting with simple inclines and ending with loops and curves that will carry a marble successfully from start to finish. The only stored energy available for travel will come from the placement of the marble on the top of the initial incline.


How Creepy!

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will use self collected data to make line graphs. They will discuss what elements are needed to make a good graph. Participants will design a lesson that will use graphing in their classroom. Participants will discuss limitations of models to represent the real world.


Ice Melting

Abstract: Participants design an investigation to test various materials to prevent heat gain in frozen water. The posed problem, "Which materials will keep heat away from an ice cube longer than a plastic bag?" is addressed by the participants, who will formulate a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, gather, process and analyze data, and report their findings. Participants will describe transfer of heat by conduction and convection. Participants will discuss helping students develop their investigative skills by using a structured model for problem solving that guides the students without giving them a "recipe" to follow.


Industrial Processing of Polymers: How Toys are Made

Abstract: Participants explore the ties between science and technology as they simulate the plastic manufacturing processes of extrusion, injection molding and blow molding. First participants will examine a variety of simple plastic toys and try to find traits that would lead them to suggest a process by which a given toy was made. Next they will form "manufacturing companies" and actually extrude a product using a common toy - the Play-Doh Fun Factory®. Participants will also make an injection molded product using a hot glue gun, and a blow molded product using plastic tubing and a simple mold. Finally, participants will review their original set of toys and classify them as injected, extruded, or blow molded.

Throughout this lesson, best teaching practices are emphasized. Simulation and hands on/minds on techniques are used in conjunction with the learning cycle to show the ties between science and technology.


Jungle Gym Drop

Abstract: As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will become familiar with using a "hands-on/ minds-on" active approach to the physical science standard of seeing the motion of a variety of falling spherical objects. Participants will also become familiar with how gravity, mass, and air resistance affect the falling motion of these objects.


Light Stick Chemistry

Abstract: As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will use hands-on activities to define chemiluminescence and bioluminescence. Participants will determine the effect of temperature on reactions. Safety considerations for lab activities will be discussed. Participants will design a lesson that uses inquiry to use in their classroom.


Miracle Fish

Abstract: This module leads participants through the process of designing an experiment so that they can direct their students to do the same. First, participants are given a miracle fish and asked to make observations. Then, through a series of steps, they develop procedures to investigate the behavior of the fish. After discussing the components of an experiment, participants are lead through a second exploration, involving polymer spikes, where they make observations, collect data, complete graphs, and draw conclusions. As a final part of this module, participants discuss teaching by inquiry and develop a plan to implement what they have learned in their classrooms.


Models as Instructional Tools

Abstract: Participants will construct a simple model of the human lung and use this model to identify the structure and function of the lung and possible compromises to the function of the lung due to illness or disease. Within the conduct of this module participants will discuss the pros and cons of using concrete/physical models as a teaching tool.


Observations and Inferences

Abstract: This module provides participants with activities which can be used to help demonstrate to their students the difference between observations and inferences. Participants are asked to make observations of what appears to be a burning candle. In reality, they are observing a burning nut placed on an apple cylinder. When all the observations are listed, a discussion is lead to separate actual observations from inferences made. Next participants observe the appearance and behavior of two balls which are similar in appearance but very different in composition. Observations and inferences are made relating to the two balls.


Observe This!

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will distinguish between observations and inferences through questioning, short video clips of mouse activity and participant created scenarios. Participants will design a lesson that will use a simulation in their classroom.


One Plus One Makes New: Investigating Composite Materials

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will learn about the properties of matter and how properties can change when composite materials are produced. Through design and implementation of their own experiments, participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Physical Science: A Close Look at Chewing Gum

Abstract: This module will provide an inquiry based investigation into the components of common chewing gum. Creating a better understanding of the sugar content and the polymeric properties.


The Radiometer: Using Inquiry to Teach Energy Conversions

Abstract: A radiometer is made from a glass bulb from which much of the air has been removed. Inside the bulb is a low friction spindle and a rotor with several lightweight metal vanes spaced equally around the axis. When the bulb is exposed to certain energy sources, the rotor turns.

This module allows participants to investigate the motion of the rotor by designing their own experiments and drawing their own conclusions based upon their observations and data. They will then be asked to identify the energy conversions taking place that allow potential energy to be converted into the kinetic energy of the turning rotor.

This module also leads participants through the process of designing an experiment so that they can direct their own students to do the same. As a final part of this module, teachers develop a plan to implement what they have learned in their classrooms.


Science and Literacy

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted in-service, participants will become familiar with a strategy for improving the technical reading and writing skills of their students. Participants will design a lesson that will use this strategy in their classroom.


The Science of Microwave Popcorn: A Matter of Understanding Physical Changes

Abstract: This unique module of science and technology will give teachers the opportunity to explore the mysteries of microwave popcorn and the technologies that make it possible. In this process they will venture through a series of events in the investigation of the microwave popcorn bag. They will make inferences and hypothesis based on observations and prior knowledge. The participants will have a better understanding of scientific investigations in the areas of science and technology.


Specific Gravity: The Relative Density of Liquids

Abstract: As a result of the professional development provider-conducted module, participants will learn through the creation of their handmade hydrometers, how a hydrometer functions and what it measures. Using their hydrometers, they will determine the relative differences in specific gravity of liquids and compare these values to those obtained from a commercially manufactured hydrometer. Based on their findings, participants will create their own liquid density column. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Sports Helmets and Impact Testing of Polymers

Abstract: In sports, participants may be subjected to collisions with balls or other people or even crashes on bikes and skate boards. How is it possible for athletes to tolerate such blows and still "remain in the game"? This module allows participants to use inquiry to investigate the materials used to make sports helmets, a modern form of body armor. The participants will perform impact tests on plastic (polymer) samples by dropping a plumb bob from differing heights onto to the samples. The test, modeled after actual industrial testing methods, will measure the brittleness of a material that has been subjected to an intense blow. Both "hard" plastics that may be used in the outer shell of a helmet and foamed plastics that can be used for the inner lining of the helmet will be tested. The participants will use data gained from their tests to determine which plastics they feel are most suitable for usage in a helmet.


Star Light Star Bright

Abstract: As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will use Internet resources to explore the nature of the electromagnetic spectrum. Participants will correlate images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other astronomical instruments to the wavelength, color and temperature information that can be found in the spectrum. Participants will design a lesson that uses inquiry-based internet resources to use in their classroom.


Using Current Data for Graphing Skills

Abstract: Everywhere you look, graphs surround your life. All types of businesses, periodicals, and reference materials utilize graphs to visually depict statistical information. Graphing skills are not only helpful within the walls of schools but also in understanding the complexities of everyday life. This module is designed to help participants identify the parts and differences between an effective and ineffective graph, draw their own graphs, and interpret and relay information in a graph into another form of communication. This module requires the use of computers and the Internet by teacher groups, the learning cycle, and hands-on/minds-on teaching strategies.


Water Bottle Rocket Fun

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted in-service, participants will become familiar with the use of simulations in the classroom. The simulation used will allow the user to change variables affecting the flight of a water rocket. Participants will design a lesson that will use a simulation in their classroom.


Where Did the Water Go?

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted discrepant event demonstration, teachers will pose a problem. They will formulate their hypotheses, conduct experiments, and report their findings. Since it is unlikely that the teachers will be able to reproduce the outcome of the demonstration, it will be pointed out to them that very often scientific investigations do not lead to "answers". We suggest that this experience follow the lesson: "Miracle Fish: Designing a Scientific Investigation" found at... This lesson gives teachers an opportunity to experience and discuss how a demonstration can be a vehicle for investigative science activities.


Where to Live?

Abstract: Information analysis is a huge part of our lives. As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will explore various aspects of their world using a Geographic Information System in order to make decisions. Participants will design a lesson plan using GIS in their classroom.


You are What You Eat!

Abstract: As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will construct a simple calorimeter. Through experimentation and simple calculation, participants will determine the number of calories in a sample of food. Through the use of the Internet, participants will plan a meal and calculate the number of calories the meal contains. From that calorie count, they will devise an exercise program to "burn off" the calories consumed. Participants will design a lesson they can implement in their own classroom.


Ziplock Chemistry

Abstract: This module provides participants with an activity that can be used to teach their students both physical and chemical changes as well as demonstrate exothermic and endothermic processes. This simple experiment yields many interesting results. As baking soda and calcium chloride dissolve in a water-based indicator, temperature changes occur. As the dissolved chemicals mix in solution, carbon dioxide gas is created and the Ziplock bag swells. The gas mixes with water to produce a weak acid that changes the indicator color from red to yellow.