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Science Teacher's Toolbox: Engaging Students with Science Mysteries

Do you ever struggle with how you will introduce a science lesson, or how to get kids hooked on an science activity? Have you ever turned a science concept into a puzzle or mystery? It works like a charm. Kids and adults want to know what happens next when there is an open ended question. Let's take a look at how you can successfully introduce your science lessons this way.

Starting a lesson with a mystery or something unexpected lends itself very well to the 5 E Inquiry Teaching Model. The 5 E model works as follows:
  • Engage: Pique student interest and get them involved in the science lesson while assessing for prior knowledge.
  • Explore: Students engage in an activity designed so that they build their own understanding. This is where students engage in hands-on learning.
  • Explain: A chance for students to communicate with others in their own words about their understanding of the topic and activity.
  • Elaborate (or Extend): This is a chance for students to continue to investigate the topic while applying their new found understanding to the world around them in novel ways.
  • Evaluate: Teachers and students evaluate what has been learned, if understanding is sufficient and goals of the lesson have been met.
Why not use a mystery or an interesting and unexpected demonstration to ENGAGE your students? 

If you don't know where to start, the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) has several excellent books that present science concepts as mystery stories and lead to open ended investigations appropriate for inquiry learning. I highly recommend this "Everyday Science Mysteries" series by Richard Konieck-Moran. If you are an NSTA member you are most likely familiar with these materials. [There are many other great benefits to being an NSTA member in addition to great books like these, so you might consider becoming a member if you are not already.] You can also purchase the series through Amazon. Click on any of the images in the widget below to learn more. (affiliate links)

Another great resource for sparking interest is Mystery Science. This is a new NGSS linked science curriculum for grades 2-5. The "open and go" video lessons use mystery to engage students in accompanying hands-on activities. You can sign up for this program for FREE throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

The internet is a wealth of information on great science demonstrations to spark intrigue in your classroom. You might want to check out these sites for some fresh ideas and information:
Remember- if you are doing a demonstration as an intro to a lesson, what is the purpose of your demonstration? Will it present an open-ended question that students will be able to explore? Or are you just doing it for entertainment value? Although there are a lot of really fun demonstrations, be sure you are choosing them for the right reasons.

What are some of your favorite ways to get kids hooked on a science topic? Comment below or share on our Facebook or Google+ page.

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