woman illustrating albert einstein formula

It’s that time of year again when you’re asked to provide lesson plans for a substitute who may or may not have a science background. Keep your students engaged in science with activities that are safe and easy for a substitute to manage.

  1. Make it phenomenal! Use our Phenomena Video Gallery to get students questioning and thinking about familiar occurrences using scientific and engineering practices. 
    • Select a phenomenon video.
    • Download the lesson activity sheet and print it or upload it to your website or learning management system (LMS). The lesson activity is linked on the video and found in a list below the video play list.
    • Play the video several times, allowing students to generate questions and ideas. This should take no more than 10 minutes.
    • To extend the lesson, allow students to work individually or in pairs to select one of the questions they wrote to investigate further. Students should produce a list of facts, accepted explanations, hypotheses, and a list of resources used. The extension employs the scientific and engineering practices of asking questions, constructing explanations, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. This may take 30 minutes or more and may extend to a homework assignment or be continued the next school day.
    • Students can also write a formal explanation for the question they asked about the phenomenon. Presenting multiple explanations to the class will spur interesting discussion and model the type of discussions scientists have. Use this as a literacy extension or an extra credit assignment.
  2. Get to the essentials of learning with Carolina Essentials, free activities that can be downloaded and printed, saved to your class site, or distributed electronically to students. Every activity includes a Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) table with applicable Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts; an online and PDF version of a teacher’s guide; an online and fillable PDF student’s activity guide; materials list; and applicable safety guidelines. These activities require minimal classroom materials:
  3. Even when you aren’t in the classroom, you can facilitate student learning with our free infographics. Choose from a variety of topics in anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, environmental science, forensics, and physics. You can also have students design their own infographics as a review exercise using one of the infographics as a model. To find them, go to Carolina.com and type “infographic” in the search bar. Here are examples:
  4. If your substitute has a science background and is comfortable guiding students through hands-on activities, you can opt for online activities that require minimal materials and set-up time and are designed to introduce science concepts to students.

We hope these resources help you plan for those last-minute situations when you need a substitute, so that your students can continue their learning in a safe and productive environment.

For more content and activities, visit Carolina.com and Carolina Knowledge Center.

Try one of these:


Phenomena Video Gallery

What are phenomena? They’re observable, naturally occurring events that are everywhere. A sunset, your breath on a cold morning, and the fizz of baking soda […]


Kool-Aid® Chromatography

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Carolina Essentials

Discover free 3-D/NGSS activities for your science classroom. Did you know that we offer a series of free, hands-on, NGSS-based activities called Carolina Essentials™? These […]

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How to Use a Graduated Cylinder

Get tips to help you measure the volume of a liquid with a graduated cylinder. Graduated cylinders are long, slender vessels used for measuring the […]

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The Basics of Graphs and Charts

Help your students brush up on their graphing skills with this quick review. Graphs and charts communicate information visually. They can show patterns, help scientists […]

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

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