Science Education

Science Developers Ramp Up Inquiry Based Learning Tools

Several scientific developers are rolling out new technology-based laboratory equipment, programs, and curriculum resources for K-12 science classrooms. At the NSTA conference last week, companies like Sally Ride Science and Carolina Biological Supply Co. debuted tools for use with PASCO's Spark educational platform ranging from climate change materials to bundles of sensors and other equipment for conducting hands-on experiments.

PASCO is the developer of scientific educational tools for K-12 instituions, including the Spark, a handheld learning device, and SparkVue, the software that operates both the Spark device and the learning platform on personal computers and mobile devices such as iPod Touch and iPhone.

Carolina Biological Supply Co. (CBSC) has introduced Carolina Biological Investigations for SparkScience, a series of inquiry-based labs for the platform. The high school-level biology labs are the first in a series of subject-based labs from CBSC, which will eventually include chemistry and environmental science as well. Biological Investigations includes: 10 SparkLabs (with PDF files of Teacher Notes to guide instructors in the labs' in-class use); a sensor bundle, which includes all the sensors needed for a class or similar group to perform the 10 labs; and the materials kit, which includes all the necessary lab materials for a class to perform the labs.

Sally Ride Science (SRS) has announced the release of "Our Changing Climate," the first in a series of practical content for SparkScience. The module looks at climate change from both a scientific and environmental perspective and aims to inspire discussion and practical ideas on how to approach the topic and related issues. The complete module includes four books on the climate change; the "Our Changing Climate" SparkLabs; and the sensor bundle required to perform the labs. SRS said it plans to release additional modules for SparkScience covering life science, earth science, and physical science. Sally Ride Science focuses on providing scientific classroom materials with an approach designed to foster STEM equity.

The Pacific Education Institute (PEI), a nonprofit that works to bring real-world science experiences to students, has partnered with PASCO to integrate its field investigations model, established by a panel of experts from universities and state agencies especially for use in K-12 science education, with SparkScience and My World GIS technology. The goal is to allow students the opportunity to collect more accurate and useful data with which to perform their research, thereby providing better preparation for their ongoing education.

The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), the Alabama Department of Education's program to improve math and science teaching statewide, announced it is working with PASCO to create content aligned to state science education standards for the Spark platform for use in fourth-grade and eighth-grade science, as well as high school chemistry.

Hydrogen fuel cell power provider Horizon Fuel Cell has commenced a partnership with PASCO to develop SparkLabs for middle and high school students to study renewable energy using the platform.

Nonprofit Laying the Foundation (LTF), which provides teacher training, classroom materials, and Web-based resources for use in English, mathematics, and science instruction, is specially developing SparkLabs for teachers already participating in the LTF program so that they can use the group's existing content in conjunction with the SparkVue Software and the devices on which it runs.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.

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