Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Important New TED-Ed Video & Lesson: “Rosalind Franklin: DNA’s unsung hero”

TED-Ed has just published a new lesson and video titled “Rosalind Franklin: DNA’s unsung hero.”

It looks like they did a far better job here than on their last video and lesson about an important woman in science: Disappointing New TED-Ed Video & Lesson On Henrietta Lacks.

July 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Book Excerpt: “STEM by Design”

Anne Jolly’s new book, STEM by Design, has just been published by Routledge and Middleweb, and she has graciously allowed me to publish this short book excerpt.  The book also has its own website containing many additional resources:

I wrote STEM by Design because I’m passionate about STEM and about creating meaningful learning experiences for kids. But I’ve found that passion alone isn’t enough. Teaching STEM takes knowledge, energy, persistence, and the ability to create learning experiences that cultivate kids who can successfully tackle real-world challenges.

According to studies and writings about STEM education at its onset, certain criteria and principles would be common to STEM lessons and programs.

Consider how these criteria match up with some of the most popular approaches to K-12 STEM in U.S. schools today. This information might be useful if you and your fellow teachers are called on to help design or set up STEM programs and classes.

Remember, good science, math and technology programs can have many different “looks,” but if we’re going to call a program “STEM” then these eight STEM criteria should be at the center.

The Eight STEM Criteria

1. An engineering design process is used to integrate science, mathematics, and technology.

2. Science and math content is standards based, grade-appropriate, and applied.

3. Students focus on solving real-world problems, or engineering challenges.

4. Students regularly work in teams to plan, design, and create prototypes and products, then test and evaluate these and plan how to improve.

5. Students use a variety of communication approaches to describe their challenge and justify their results.

6. Teachers facilitate inquiry-based, student-centered learning that features hands-on investigation.

7. Failure is regarded as a natural part of the design process, and an essential step toward creating an improved or successful solution.

8. Students are introduced to STEM careers and/or life applications.



What Kinds of Problems Can Students Realistically Address? 

Problem-solving is fundamental to STEM. But coming up with real-world engineering challenges for students to solve can be tricky. Here are some ideas about locating problem possibilities.

Encourage student-generated problems. These are obviously ideal for creating student enthusiasm and engagement. Adolescent students love to make learning about “me.” Give them as much input as possible into problems they want to solve, within constraints dictated by the curriculum.

Engineering teacher Alexander Pancic addresses student engagement with problems in this way: “I’ve been trying to get my students to make the step, when they encounter a problem, of asking, ‘What do I need to know to try to solve it?’” “Students who are accustomed to doing worksheets,” Pancic says, “get used to having everything they need to know included in the problems. Life isn’t like that. You encounter real-life problems and have to figure out, what do I need to know? How can I find out? And then, how do I apply it?”

Check out 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. In the 2008 National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering report, the NAE identified 14 broad categories of problems that we as a nation must be prepared to solve in this century. Mull over the list of real-world problems. Your students might be interested in designing model solutions related to some of these. Some Grand Challenges that I think might inspire middle school STEM students include solar energy, clean water, health care (including food shortage and disease and accessibility issues), and urban infrastructure (including transportation systems and visually appealing bridges and municipal structures).

Do an Internet STEM Lesson search. Simply typing “real-world problems” into a search engine can bring up a host of possible sites that you can sift through for ideas. Of course, everything labeled “STEM” is not necessarily a true STEM lesson. To narrow your search you might detour over to the Resources section in the Appendices and examine some sites mentioned under “STEM Lessons.” Be sure the check out the Link Engineering website for great insights into good STEM lessons as well as information about engineering design.

Keep the problem do-able. Whether your students identify a problem to solve or you choose the engineering challenge, be sure to keep it do-able. Consider (1) what students have already learned that can help with solving this problem, and (2) the resources available for the challenge. Engineering solutions for a problem involving clean energy (wind turbines, solar cells, etc.) might be quite realistic. Tackling a problem involving interplanetary travel—not so much.

For more thoughts on finding good STEM lessons, see  “How to Analyze a Lesson for STEM Potential” at my book website.



July 5, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Resources On Juno’s Entry Into Jupiter’s Orbit


Here are new additions to The Best Resources For Learning & Teaching About The Juno Spacecraft:

Juno meets Jupiter, survives radiation shower at north pole is from the PBS News Hour.

‘Welcome to Jupiter!’ NASA’s Juno space probe arrives at giant planet is from CNN.

The Juno Spacecraft Reaches Jupiter is from The New Yorker.

Juno’s Triumphant Night is from The Atlantic.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter’s orbit is from USA Today.

June 30, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Learning & Teaching About The Juno Spacecraft


NASA’s Juno Spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4th (Update – it has arrived!)

Here are some initial resources for teaching and learning about it. I’ll add more after it arrives:

All Eyes (and Ears) on Jupiter is from The New York Times, and includes videos and interactives.

Here’s the official Juno Mission website at NASA.

Popular Science has an interactive guide to the Juno Spacecraft. has a regularly updated page on the mission.

Juno meets Jupiter, survives radiation shower at north pole is from the PBS News Hour.

‘Welcome to Jupiter!’ NASA’s Juno space probe arrives at giant planet is from CNN.

The Juno Spacecraft Reaches Jupiter is from The New Yorker.

Juno’s Triumphant Night is from The Atlantic.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter’s orbit is from USA Today.

The Dreamiest View in the Universe is from The Atlantic.

June 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Science Sites Of 2016 – So Far


Here’s my latest my-year list.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Science Sites Of 2015

The Best Science Sites Of 2014 – Part Two

The “All-Time” Best Science Sites

The Best Science Sites Of 2014 – So Far

The Best Science Sites Of 2013 – Part Two

The Best Science Sites Of 2013 – So Far

The Best Science Sites Of 2012 — Part Two

The Best Science Sites Of 2012 — Part One

The Best Science Sites Of 2011

The Best Science Sites Of 2011 — So Far

The Best Science Websites — 2010

The Best Science & Math Sites — 2009

The Best Science & Math Websites — 2008

The Best Science Websites For Students & Teachers — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Science Sites Of 2016 – So Far (not in any order of preference):

The Best Videos Explaining Gravitational Waves (In An Accessible Way)

Videos & Lesson On Rube Goldberg Machines From Our School’s Physics Teacher

The Best Resources On The Recent “Discovery” Of A Possible Ninth Planet

Who isn’t going to see “Finding Dory”? So, it’s likely that by the fall, many educators and students will have viewed it at least once, and will be more than eager to see it – or scenes from it – again when it comes out in DVD or streaming a few months later. Disney has published an extensive “Finding Dory” Educator’s Guidethat looks like it could be useful. It’s science-oriented, though I suspect there will be some opportunities to connect Social Emotional Learning to the film, too. And, speaking of Nemo and Dory, Film Education has an equally extensive series of science-based lessons for the original “Finding Nemo,” and Teach With Movies has a broader teaching guide.

bioGraphic is a “new-to-me” site from The California Academy of Sciences. It has great collection of accessible science articles and multimedia, and appears to be regularly updated.

Ice and Sky is an interactive describing the history of climate change. It’s a good complement to A Journey Through Climate History, a site I’ve previously shared.  I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Climate Change.

Apollo 17 is a multimedia interactive letting you experience – in real time – that moon-landing mission.

Mawahtale is an interactive on Ebola.  I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The Ebola Virus.

How Much Warmer Was Your City in 2015? is a new NY Times interactive that shows how recent temperatures in over 3,000 cities compare with historical highs. I think it would be a better resource if the differences were displayed a bit more clearer than they are, but students should be able to figure it out with a little teacher guidance.

NBC Learn has created excellent free video resources for quite awhile. Their new resources are series on the Science of Innovation andMysteries of the Brain. But the new one I think will be really be useful is their new ten video collection titled When Nature Strikes: Science of Natural Hazards.

The Online Star Register takes you a virtual tour of outer space. It’s pretty impressive, especially if you click “Take A Tour” at the top. I like it better than Google’s Sky site.

The Curious Engineer offers free monthly video animation “explainers” about different topics.

Here are four free online science textbooks which all have lots of interactives that I added to The “All-Time” Best Science Sites this year:

CK-12, which I’ve described in a previous post (see “CK-12” Has Free Resources In All Subjects & Individual Student Progress Can Be Easily Tracked).

Science Book

Open Educational Resources from UEN, which also has a separate page for online science interactives.

Scott Foresman Science

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites To Learn About Trees, which I’ve also just revised and updated:

Lines Of Thought: Discoveries That Changed The World is a new online exhibit from the Cambridge University Library. You can read more about it at the NBC News article, 600-Year-Old Cambridge Library Offers Rare Glimpse of Collection, and watch a short video about it below:

I’m adding this info to The Best “Lists Of Lists” Of History’s Most Influential People, Events & Ideas.

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About Human Evolution, which I’ve also just updated and revised:

When we study science in IB Theory of Knowledge, one of the ideas we consider is that not all scientific breakthroughs come through rigidly following the scientific method. NPR recently did a short series of videos examining just this: “modern examples of serendipity in science – happy accidents/mistakes/coincidences from the last few years that have led to discoveries and insights.” They’ll be useful in TOK class, and here they are:

Fig. 1 by University of California is a YouTube Channel offering short, accessible science animations with closed-captioning. Here are some samples:

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