Basher Books Heighten Engagement in Science

I was recently working with a student who showed me a new book that she had gotten about physics. To be honest, I am not too interested in physics. I know that sounds terrible coming from a teacher, but hey…we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. That being said, this book was so colorful and the pages were so engaging that I wanted to learn more so I did some research and found out that the physics book was part of a really enticing series called Basher Books, created and illustrated by Simon Basher. Here is a quick glance at a few of the books in the series…

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The Basher Books website has a ton of information about the books, the book topics and extension materials and activities. The Basher Book Series contains books (and flashcards!) on a range of topics including science, math, music and punctuation. The mission of Basher Books is to breathe life into topics that are often taught in a dull way.

Below you can find a snapshot of the Basher Books Website. When you visit, make sure to click on the tab that says “Subjects.” It is a unique take on an interactive wordwall. Simon Basher does a wonderful job of using illustration to engage learners. “His illustration style is described as graphic surrealism; a synergy of European graphic design and Japanese character creation” (Taken from Simon Basher’s biography on the Basher Books website.)

You should also click on the “Downloads” tab where you can find great visuals available for download. Here is a screenshot.

If I were a middle or high school science teacher, I would have the whole collection in my classroom available for students. What a great find! Best part, the series was recommended to me by a fourth grader:)

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Google Science Fair


The Google Science Fair is an event that inspires our youth to make change! Google invites all 13-18 year olds who are creative, outside of the box thinkers who demonstrate curiosity about the world to compete in the science fair. Just a few reasons to love the science fair:

  • The fair allows young, unique thinkers to connect with other likeminded teens
  • The fair encourages students to follow application instructions carefully, which is a great skill to learn early on. This is a similar process to what they will go through with college applications, job applications, etc.
  • The fair connects the world of academia to technology, video and the Internet
  • The prizes are outrageous, life changing experiences which teach and inspire young winners

What Can You Do?

The Google Science Fair site offers a variety of tools for educators to use to inspire students to compete. These tools are simple and can be used by parents as well. Download these documents to get your child pumped up about the science fair. Support your child through the brainstorming process using these activities and guiding worksheets. All students need to obtain parental consent in order to compete.

The Google Science Fair is accepting applications until April 1st, 2012. The rules are specific and important to follow so be sure to check into the rules well before submitting your idea.

In 2011:

In 2011, Google held its first science fair. With over 10,000 applicants from 91 countries, Google narrowed it down to three young WOMEN who won the fair. Read more about the winning entries and where their winning projects led them. When I think of these young women, I am speechless. I am so impressed by their creativity

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Khan Academy: Helping individuals learn at their own pace

Khan Academy is a non-profit organization with the mission of “providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” How do they do this? By providing an extensive library of videos which teach lessons in a variety of topics that apply to mathematics and science. Sal Khan, the founder of Khan academy has three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.

I must say, Sal Khan has the rare ability to teach challenging topics by breaking them down into manageable pieces and using extensive modeling. His videos are short and simple to understand. The videos include both visual and audio representations of the material to build conceptual understanding. All of the videos at Khan Academy are free and once you have a login you can even track your progress. If you are a coach, parent or teacher, you have a login and can obtain information on the progress of your student(s). This can help you make informed decisions about next steps for learning.

Many of the topics that are focused on are appropriate for high school or college students, but there are also videos devoted to lower-level math such as basic operations or percentages. These videos can be used in a variety of ways to support education:

  • Administrators can encourage teachers to use Khan Academy in the classroom as a means of incorporating differentiation.
  • Teachers can use Khan Academy to differentiate learning in the classroom.
  • Teachers can assign Khan Academy videos for homework to reinforce or preview what is being taught in school.
  • Families can use these videos to reinforce lessons for struggling learners or to increase the level of learning for students who are not being challenged.
  • Students can use Khan Academy as a study guide or as a way to get extra practice in a skill or concept.
The library has pretty much every topic you could possibly think of related to math, science and finance. They are expanding to Art History and have the over-arching goal of covering as many topics as possible! My hope is that they expand to include a wider range of lessons for younger students, and possibly even branch out to literacy. Here is a screen shot from the library archives…and believe it or not, this is only one topic (algebra)!

Screenshot of Khan Academy Library

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Slime, perfume, volcanoes, ice cream and more…

When I was younger I loved school…most of it anyway. Unfortunately I was not a huge fan of science. I found the readings dense and the vocabulary challenging. Looking back I realize I didn’t have the right teacher. It is sad because I must admit, science is now one of my favorite subjects to teach because it is so experiential. While I didn’t love science in school, I always loved science projects, kits and games that I could use at home! I loved feeling a sense of ownership over my projects, whether it was growing plants, brine shrimp or crystal gardens! I specifically recall falling in love with these 3 kits:

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Magic Crystal Garden Lab

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Brine Shrimpery

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Sea Monkeys Ocean Zoo

A lot of things have changed since I was in school. Today I want to review a particular set of more recent scientific kits that kids go crazy for! A science teacher I used to work with used some of these kits in her classroom. She even gave them out as rewards for the student with the most growth in her class at the end of the year…and as you can imagine, students would all shoot for the stars to have a chance at winning one of these kits! With the holiday season coming up, they can also make great gifts for kids – especially if you are looking for something that is on the academic/exploratory/creative side of the game world.

Scientific Explorer educational kits are a great way to get your child/student engaged in science. They make a variety of kits designed to foster creativity, exploration and curiosity in a range of scientific areas. Most of the kits are geared towards astrology, physics and chemistry and all of them make science accessible to even the least scientifically involved children. If you are looking to bring science into your classroom or home and want to ensure that it is fun and engaging, be sure to take a look at these kits!

Just to point out my favorite picks:

  1. Perfumery Kit does wonders for getting girls engaged in chemistry!
  2. Tasty Science offers little chefs a means of understanding the science behind food
  3. Disgusting Science: A Kit For Studying the Science of Revolting Things (What more is there to say?)
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Do you have any other engaging science kits, games or experiments to share? Leave a comment so others can see your ideas!

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