Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gizmos - Science and Math Simulations for Your Classroom

Gizmos - Science and Math Simulations for Your Classroom

Gizmos is an online website (created by Explore Learning) that has an extensive collection of math and science simulations that cover the required curriculum from Grade 3 and up.  

The simulations can be searched for by curriculum and grade level, academic standard and textbook.  They are interactive and engaging and do a great job of providing students with an opportunity to carry out scientific inquiry and test their understanding of concepts.  There are supporting lesson materials, student guides, vocabulary and online quizzes educators can use to test student understanding.   In addition, Explore Learning provides video tutorials for professional development and support for use in classrooms. 

In Food Chain students can run a simulation of an ecosystem over time and explore the effect of removing different levels from the food chain. The predator - prey relationship is explained.  Students can even examine opportunities for recovery from catastrophic damage to the food chain.  In Building Pangaea, students can shift continents and explore and test Alfred Wegener's theory that a supercontinent once existed.  pH Analysis was a great success with my students. I used Gizmos to introduce the lesson and then provided students with litmus paper so they could experiment and test other fluids.  The achieved a much deeper understanding of pH analysis that I could have hoped for.

While good pedagogical practice requires students have an opportunity to work on hands-on activities with manipulatives and materials in order to develop deeper, conceptual understandings, the sad truth is there is no funding available to support this in public schools today.   Gizmos is one alternative.  I believe this program to be the best chance my Grade 6 and 7 students have to carry out many of these simulations and experiments in a learning environment where there are few materials or even space for exploring scientific inquiry.  Smarter Science is another such framework.  (Read more about getting Smarter About Science hereStephen Lippa, an educator from Ontario, has created resources that connect using Gizmos to the Smarter Science Framework and supports integrating the two programs.)

Explore Learning does an excellent job of providing quality programs.  They are responsible for Reflex Math as well.  (I have written about using Reflex with students and at-risk students.)  I like their focus on facilitating teacher record keeping and they have an eye on the assessment piece as well.  Explore Learning offers a 30-day trial so it is worth checking out in the fall.  And definitely check out Cannonball Clowns (Number Line Estimation) - it's my favourite.