Science Extension Activities with Purpose

February 2, 2021

In this episode, Nicole and Erin explain how to create meaningful science extension activities in your classroom. Often, these activities also referred to as elaborate activities when using the 5e model.

The purpose of these activities is to deepen student understanding of the content. However, that doesn’t always happen when using a traditional classroom approach.

Traditional Science Enrichment Activities

Often, in a traditional science classroom, extension or enrichment activities are not very purposeful. Here are some activities get used often in a traditional setting:

  • Independent research activities or projects
  • Challenge questions from the textbook
  • Additional practice or worksheets
  • Work that is from the next grade level
"It's kind of this project that if you removed, no one would even know and no one would really care.  Your unit and flow would not be affected in the least."

Why the Traditional Method Doesn’t work

Independent research projects may help students improve their skills with the practice of Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating information. However, these projects rarely include the use of other practices. Therefore, if this is the only type of activity that you are doing, this emphasizes knowledge over practice in your classroom.

Many teachers mistakenly believe that teaching content for the next grade level helps deepen student learning. However, these activities often leave a student feeling bored when they enter the next class or grade level.

Finally, traditional methods are often the place where teachers incorporate student choice and interest. However, in an NGSS aligned course, student interests and chose are woven throughout the lesson sequence.

"Sometimes we think this [extension] is where we can incorporate student interests.  But we should be incorporating their interests and giving them choices in the day-to-day."

How to Build Authentic Science Enrichment Activities

Creating authentic science enrichment activities can be tricky. But here are a few activities that will be meaningful in your classroom.

First, ask students to apply what they have learned to a new scenario or phenomenon. For example, if they have just learned about feeding relationships in one ecosystem, have students apply this knowledge and skill to a different ecosystem. This provides students with meaningful practice. And, it helps students see that these concepts apply in different situations.

Also, you can apply what students have learned to an engineering task. This requires students to dig a little deeper into the content and helps them to build another skill.

Finally, it’s important that you include a wide variety of practices into your classroom.

Whatever you do, it’s important to focus on application. Activities without application can feel repetitive and unimportant to your students.

Other Resources to Help with Science Enrichment Activities