Offering K-12 educators a variety of STEM-related curriculum for the classroom

There is a wealth of STEM curricula and classroom resources available to assist educators in developing in students thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative and creative skills that they can use in all areas of their lives. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is committed to providing relevant and complete materials to assist educators in engaging students in STEM subjects. Below you will find activities and lessons that support the U.S. Department of Energy's Harnessed Atom and Bioenergy Workforce Development for Educators curriculum, as well as K-12 lesson plans, and STEM videos that complement classroom learning.

Harnessed Atom

The Harnessed Atom middle school STEM curriculum provides teachers with non-biased information on energy science and nuclear energy for classroom instruction. Developed under a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the curriculum has been updated with current information and aligned with the latest national science standards. The curriculum covers the essential principles of energy and matter and provide teachers with an engaging platform to excite students’ learning about these topics.

Harnessed Atom coverThe Harnessed Atom Activities

Build an Atom: Desktop version | Accessible and Smartphone version

Power It Up: Desktop version | Accessible and Smartphone version

Fermi Feud: PowerPoint version

The Harnessed Atom Lessons

The Harnessed Atom - Student edition (7.7 MB PDF)

The Harnessed Atom - Teachers' edition (19.3 MB PDF)

The Harnessed Atom Teacher Presentations

K-12 Lesson Plans and Other Resources

  • Saving our Community from Rising Water

    Subject: K-5

    This severe weather unit plan is designed to be implemented over several weeks and incorporates a problem-based approach. The PBL encompasses all subjects through research, reading, writing, observing, experimenting, designing, modifying, and analyzing data.

    Is Oobleck a solid or a liquid?

    Grade: Kindergarten

    In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to use the scientific method to investigate Non-Newtonian fluids. Non-Newtonian fluids may act as a solid or liquid depending on the force applied to them. Therefore, students are able to experiment with different states of matter and classify the matter as a solid or a liquid based on its physical properties.

    What Does an Animal Eat?

    Grade: 2nd Grade

    Students will be able to sort animals by the types of food they eat and develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.

    Sports Collisions: What Makes a Player Great?

    Grade: 4th Grade

    Students will use various sports equipment to investigate the transfer of energy and the transfer is impacted by different types of materials.

    Catapulting into Denmark

    Grade: 5th Grade

    This two-day lesson integrates engineering design, mathematics, English-language arts, and the fifth grade science standard on motion. Students will design, create, and test a catapult which will launch a plastic army man. Students will use their experience with the catapult to collect and analyze data about the motion of the launched army man. Specifically, students will use observations and measurements to understand how force and mass affect the motion of an object.

    The Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017

    Grade: 5th Grade

    This lesson includes links to many resources for teaching about solar eclipses including videos and web articles. Students will create a model to illustrate the motion of the moon and Earth around the sun and use the model to illustrate solar and lunar eclipses. Students will create a pinhole camera to calculate the diameter of the sun and use powers of 10 to compare the size of the sun and Earth.

    Bobsledding into the Olympic Games

    Grade: 5th Grade Science

    In this problem-based lesson, students work in groups to design a bobsled prototype, test and re-test their prototype, and communicate their findings. This lesson focuses on the engineering design process while enhancing students’ reflection, collaboration, and communication skills. View the accompanying presentation.

  • Waste Free Lunch

    Grade: 6th Grade Science

    In this three-day lesson, students investigate the impact humans have on the environment. Students learn methods of monitoring their actions and learn ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. After engaging with the content individually and as a school, students describe how a waste-free lunch at the Olympics would minimize the negative impact on the environment. View the accompanying presentation.

    Breakout Box Hurricane Activity

    Subject: 6th Grade Science

    Influenced by recent extreme weather, this highly engaging activity on hurricanes uses a “Breakout Box” to motivate students. Students complete multiple steps using hints to solve hurricane-related questions. This activity can be used as an introduction to weather topics such as atmospheric conditions, analysis of data, and prediction of probable weather.

    Potential & Kinetic Energy

    Subject: 6th Grade Science

    This lesson provides students with the opportunity to conduct an investigation demonstrating the transfer of energy from potential energy to kinetic energy. Students will draw conclusions from the data to understand the relationship between kinetic energy, the mass of an object in motion, and the speed of the object. A teacher created excel calculator is used in this lesson to demonstrate the relationship between potential and kinetic energy.

    Weather Alert! Did We Do That?

    Subject: 7th Grade Science

    This multi-dimensional lesson plan sharpens students’ reading, writing, and debate skills. The lesson scaffolds students to form their own opinions of weather and climate based on evidence.

    Just Breathe: An Introduction to Photosynthesis

    Subject: 7th Grade Science

    In this lesson, students compare the chemical compounds that make up the reactants and products of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Students will construct a model of the chemical compounds using different colored marshmallows. Then, students rearrange the marshmallows to represent how reactants transform into the products during the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Students will also explain how oxygen and carbon are exchanged between living organisms and the environment.

    Density and Properties of Wood

    Subject: 7th Grade Math

    Students will use density cubes and different types of wood to investigate density and physical properties that are beneficial in bio-derived materials for large-scale additive manufacturing (3D printing).

    Inspired by the research of Erin Webb, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

  • Algebra | Biology | Calculus | Chemistry | Ecology/Environmental Science | Geometry | Physical Science | Physics

    Algebra Lesson Plans

    What Factors Correlate to Olympic Success?

    This extended cross-curricular lesson combines the ideals of scientific inquiry with statistical data. Students predict the factors that may contribute to overall Olympic success of a country, design a way to assess the correlation of those factors, execute their design, and interpret the results. After the 2018 Olympics is completed, students compare their predictions to the results.

    Box Plot Analysis of Forest Growth in a Pellet Mill Region

    Students will create and compare box plots for forest area data. Data analysis will include five number summaries, range, interquartile range and outliers.

    Inspired by the research of Esther S. Parish, Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Statistical Analysis of Forest Growth in a Pellet Mill Region

    Students will using graphing calculator technology to find mean, median and standard deviation for two sets of forest area data. They will use the values they find to compare the two data sets.

    Inspired by the research of Esther S. Parish, Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Linear Regression of Forest Growth in a Pellet Mill Region

    Students will create scatter plots and use their graphing calculator to find regression models for two sets of forest area data. They will interpret the slope, y-intercept and correlation coefficient from their models. They will also use their models to predict values that within and outside the provided timeframe.

    Inspired by the research of Esther S. Parish, Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Unit Conversions in Biofuel Applications

    Students will calculate common quantities used in agriculture. Emphasis is placed on unit analysis.

    Inspired by the research of Erin Webb, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Comparisons of Future Biomass Production by Region

    Students will find and compare linear regression equations for expected biomass production by regions of the country. This lesson has a link to an interactive visualization tool. Both teachers and students can explore data and create extension to the lesson.

    Inspired by the research of Michael Hilliard, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Biology Lesson Plans

    Should the Olympics be Divided into Men’s and Women’s Games?

    In this heredity lesson plan, students make a claim on the genetic grounds for having male and female categories in the Olympics. Students explore the inheritance of biological traits and defend their claims based on evidence. View the accompanying presentation.

    Growing Algae

    Students will explore the carbon cycle by growing algae and measuring the biomass using a colorimeter or dry weight. After learning the procedure for growing algae, students can use critical thinking to develop and test a plan to increase the amount of biomass grown. Increasing algal biomass is a currently researched topic to lead to larger amount of bioenergy.

    Inspired by the research of Terry Mathews, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Relating Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration Using Algae

    Using bromothymol blue as an indicator, students will observe the carbon dioxide in water being removed by spirogyra undergoing photosynthesis. Students will relate their observations to the larger carbon cycle.

    Inspired by the research of Terry Mathews, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Macromolecule Manipulative Review

    Students will arrange manipulative cut outs to test their knowledge of the four macromolecules: lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, and nucleic acids. This activity can be done individually, in pairs, or in groups.

    Calculus Lesson Plans

    Calculating Average Distance Biomass will Travel to a Biorefinery – Calculus based

    Students will solve a biomass transportation problem by creating an integral to find the volume a solid of revolution. They will then use calculus to derive a generalized formula that can use to find the average distance between all points in a circle and the center for any size circle.

    Inspired by the research of Michael Hilliard, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Chemistry Lesson Plans

    Ethanol Production

    Students will use stoichiometry to determine how much ethanol is produced as they measure the volume of Carbon Dioxide gas produced from various feedstocks by yeast.

    Inspired by the research of Brian Davison, Chief Scientist, Biotechnology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Catalysts and Reaction Rates

    Students will investigate Catalysts and Reaction Rates in the framework of bioenergy.

    Inspired by the research of James Parks, Energy and Transportation Science Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Nuclear Chemistry Card Sort

    Students will complete a Venn diagram using manipulative cards to compare and contrast Fission, Fusion, and Nuclear Decay.

    Utilizing X-ray Diffraction and Computer Simulation to Determine the Structure of the Protein Lysozyme

    Students will follow a lab procedure to create crystals of the protein lysozyme and then complete a web quest to learn how Molecular Dynamics Researchers would use their crystals to learn more about the structure of lysozyme.

    Building Materials to Study Heat Transfer

    Students will conduct a series of three experiments to investigate heat transfer in a variety of materials. Experiments include examining how the temperature of water affects the movement of food coloring in water; exploring the effect of cup type on the temperature of the liquid inside over time; and investigating the temperature and light intensity on opposite sides of different types of panes of glass.

    Ecology/Environmental Science Lesson Plans

    Extreme Weather: Hurricanes

    Via a multi-strategy instructional approach, students investigate the formation of hurricanes, the Coriolis Effect, and the relationship between extreme weather and our society.

    Geometry Lesson Plans

    Calculating Average Distance Biomass will Travel to a Biorefinery – Geometry based

    Students will utilize a complex, solid geometry model to calculate average distance travel distance of all biomass in a circular area. Students will then create a generalized formula for this problem.

    Inspired by the research of Michael Hilliard, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Rainbow Science

    Students will conduct a series of activities which illustrate how scientists investigate natural phenomena by using appropriate models. Students will be prompted to think about ways the models used in this lesson serve as good representations for rainbow production, and what the limitations of the models might be.

    Physical Science Lesson Plans

    Winter Paralympics

    Because there is not currently a luge event offered for Paralympic athletes, this three-day STEM lesson challenges students to design a novel luge sled. Students must engage with the engineering design process to meet the athlete’s specific classification requirements. Students strengthen their research, problem-solving, and collaborative skills throughout this physical science lesson.

    Density and Properties of Wood

    Students will use density cubes and different types of wood to investigate density and physical properties that are beneficial in bio-derived materials for large-scale additive manufacturing (3D printing).

    Inspired by the research of Erin Webb, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Algae Shape and Sinking Rate

    Students will investigate how different shapes of algae sink at different rates as they compare position-time and velocity-time for student-engineered algal shapes.

    Inspired by the research of Terry Mathews, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Shedding Light on Solar Energy

    Following instruction on solar energy, students will construct a moving Solar Cockroach using a 2V Solar Cell and construct a solar oven that can be used to cook s’mores. Data on the internal temperature of the solar oven can be collected and graphed.

    Physics Lesson Plans

    Rainbow Science

    Students will conduct a series of activities which illustrate how scientists investigate natural phenomena by using appropriate models. Students will be prompted to think about ways the models used in this lesson serve as good representations for rainbow production, and what the limitations of the models might be.

    Superconductivity

    Following a presentation based on the work of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, students will write an article that explores the construction and benefits of superconductors.

    How to Power your Smartphone for a Week

    Students will construct fruit batteries, use multimeters to measure the current and voltage of their batteries, and calculate the power. View the accompanying presentation.

  • STEM Resource Book for Teachers

    This document contains links to hundreds of websites with a variety of resources for educators. Websites are hyperlinked, annotated, and listed by subject and grade. The document includes a table of contents to help you quickly find what you are looking for whether it is an academic competition for your students, professional development opportunities, or an amazing E-Resource that can be used in your classroom.

Bioenergy Workforce Development for Educators workshopBioenergy Workforce Development for Educators

The Bioenergy Workforce Development for Educators curriculum was developed for a summer workshop provided by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office in order to equip educators with training, materials, and lesson plans to teach their students about bioenergy. The activities integrate bioenergy topics into lessons that cover the content in the 2018 Tennessee Academic Standards for Science.

Access Bioenergy activities and lessons

Videos for Educators

  • Emotional Gaps Affect Achievement Gaps

    Dr. Kenneth Wesson, education consultant for Delta Education, discusses the Emotional Gap in education. This clip could be used to start a discussion among educators at an in-service about how to promote student buy-in and hold student interest in their classes.

    Teaching is the Most Important Paid Work

    Angus McBeath, superintendent with the Edmonton Public School Board, explains why teaching is important in preparing young minds for the world ahead.

    Readiness Stats for High School Seniors/Incoming Freshman

    Dr. Kenneth Wesson, education consultant for Delta Education, shares survey results comparing high school teacher’s perception of their student’s preparation to actual college student performance. This fascinating clip is a springboard to spur teacher discussions on improving the college readiness of their students.

    Bring Your Own Device

    Anthony Smith, technology curriculum coordinator for Athens City Schools, describes the difficulties in setting up a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) atmosphere in a classroom and gives the solutions that were used in his school district.

    Things That Impact Memory

    Dr. Kenneth Wesson, education consultant for Delta Education, discusses things that impact memory and uses a fun activity to demonstrate how difficult multitasking is for students.

  • Connecting Students to STEM

    Jeff Martin, senior vice president and Creative Director of GMMB, discusses the rebranding of the STEM initiative to reach students—connecting STEM to life.

    Engineering on a Dime

    Tad Douce, professional development instructor for META Solutions, discusses realistic ways to integrate the Educational Design Process into your classroom. His discussion includes using balloon-powered cars and paper rockets.

    Using Fairy Tales to Teach Math and Engineering in Lower Elementary School

    Kimberly O’Dell, a teacher at Clinton City Schools, gives descriptions of three classroom-ready hands-on activities for K-2 teachers to integrate literature, math, and engineering using the stories of the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the Gingerbread Man.

    How to Develop an Upper Elementary STEM Lesson

    Kimberly O’Dell, a teacher at Clinton City Schools, describes a STEM lesson she uses in her fifth grade classroom that asks students to improve the design of a fountain. All four aspects of STEM are integrated. 

    Differences Between Diamond and Graphite

    Dr. Ian Anderson, director of Graduate Education and University Partnerships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, explains the differences between diamond and graphite with students at a Science Saturday program. The main point is that the location of the atoms affects the material’s properties. He demonstrates a simple activity that can be used in a classroom using a pencil and a synthetic diamond.

    Introduction to Probeware in the Classroom (Venier)

    An introduction to Vernier products and probeware by Terry Bunde, Vernier consultant and professor emertis of chemistry at Maryville College. If you are considering adding probeware to your classroom, check this out! This video describes many types of experiments that can be done using Venier probeware.