Pin Your Favorite Teacher Gifts to Give or Receive and Win a $100 Steve Spangler Gift Certificate

Contest Is Closed – Congratulations to our winners #4 & #13 comments – Sarah and Chelsey!






Parents – does your teacher have their fill of mugs, candles and smelly lotion? What are you giving your favorite teachers this year?

Teachers – what gifts do you appreciate the most? Gift cards, items for next year’s classroom, books, or hand-written notes and gifts?

We love and appreciate all teachers at Steve Spangler Science and want to help share ideas and favorites to help parents give their teachers the best this May. Our Teacher Appreciation Pinterest board has a ton of gift ideas for all kinds of budgets, teachers and craft levels.

What are your favorite gifts to give to your amazing teacher?

And teachers – what are your most memorable and favorite gifts to receive? Here is your chance to share with parents what teachers really appreciate and what gets re-gifted or forgotten. My daughter’s second grade teacher shared a clock that a student gave her a few years back. She still displays it proudly in her classroom.

Here’s how to Pin It to Win a $100 Gift Certificate to

1. Visit Steve Spangler Science’s Pinterest page and Follow All.

2. Create a board on your Pinterest page and title it “Teacher Gifts.” For parents – in the description share why you appreciate your child’s teachers. For teachers – in the description, share why you enjoy teaching.

3. Pin at least 5 items from that you want to give to a teacher or want to receive as a teacher. You can start in our Teacher Gifts category, but don’t stop there, surf around and see what you can find. Don’t stop with 5 – pin away as long as you’d like. Please add other pins and ideas for teachers gifts that you have given, received, or found around the Internet. You are also welcome to repin from our Teacher Gifts board.

4. Include a Pin from this blog post on your Teacher Gifts board.

5. Leave a link to your board in the comments below. Two lucky winners will be chosen at random to win one of two $100 gift certificates to use on

6. Complete your Teacher Gifts Pinterest board by midnight MST, Thursday May 23rd.

7. Steve Spangler Science will repin our favorite ideas found on your boards to share with our audience.

So what are you waiting for? Go get creative and get pinning!


Science in the Rockies Teacher Training Now Aligned to Next Gen and Common Core

As many of you know, the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards were just released in early April. Over the past few weeks, our team has been working feverishly to align Steve Spangler’s hands-on science curriculum from Science in the Rockies with these newly released standards. In addition to the science standards, we know that many of you are looking for creative strategies for connecting more hands-on science with the Common Core reading, writing and math objectives. That’s why we are very excited to share these integration strategies and creative methods for making science even more fun and meaningful for your students in the coming years.

Next Generation Science Standards are a voluntary set of rigorous and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education. Twenty-six states and their teams joined 41 writers and partners to compile science and engineering content that all students should learn to prepare for college and the real world.

“The Next Generation of Science Standards promise to help students understand why is it that we have to know science and help them use scientific learning to develop critical thinking skills-which may be applied throughout their lives, no matter the topic. Today, students see science as simply a list of facts and ideas that they are expected to memorize. In contrast to that approach education researchers have learned, particularly in the last 15 to 20 years, that if we cover fewer ideas, but go into more depth, students come away with a much richer understanding,” said Joseph S. Krajcik, Professor of Science Education in the College of Education at Michigan State University and a member of the writing team.

Common Core State Standards are standards set across states to create a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, and to put both parents and teachers on the same education team. These standards provide skills and knowledge students need to prepare for college and beyond.

Please join us in Denver July 9th through 11th for Steve Spangler’s Science in the Rockies.

Not familiar with Science in the Rockies? Every July, 150 teachers from around the world come together for three days with a team of instructors who are over-the-top excited about teaching science.

The workshop focuses on ways to bring wonder, discovery, and exploration back into your classroom through Halloween activities, electricity, things that glow, or even launching a potato out of PVC pipes. This is not a “sit-and-watch” teacher training… this is a “get-up-and-do” learning experience featuring over 75 engaging activities that you can take home and immediately share with your students.

You’ll leave the workshop with all the tools you need to become the best science teacher possible, including over $300 of gizmos, gadgets, hands-on learning materials for your students, hard-to-find supplies, and cool resources that accompany the Science in the Rockies curriculum. You’ll also receive a 250-page training manual that details every aspect of your learning experience, from the detailed instructions and recipes to the in-depth explanations and real-world applications.

The enthusiasm for making science fun spreads like a virus! Steve Spangler and his staff will change the way you teach science… forever.


Teaching Student Leadership Lessons Through Needles and Piercings

Stand back and watch as I pull a needle through a balloon without popping it.

This trick is a magicians’ favorite. They can mystify an audience by putting a needle through a balloon and pulling through a ribbon without popping it. The demonstration is mysterious until you learn a little stress-related science.

When a balloon is inflated, the middle is under a lot of stress and pressure from the air inside. The top and bottom are not stretched as far or put under as much pressure. To illustrate this – color dots all over a deflated balloon. Then blow it up and look at the dots. The dots in the center of the balloon will be stretched and thin, while the dots on the ends won’t be stretched as far.

To use this demonstration as a student leadership lesson, use the balloon as an example of a real world problem. If you approach  a volatile situation at the most tense and stressed out part, the balloon or the situation may pop. But if you cautiously approach it from the strongest point, you may just get through.

For the complete experiment and science behind it, visit the Skewer Through the Balloon experiment page.

Power of the Pen – Is Red Ink on Schoolwork Damaging to Students' Confidence?

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

We all remember the feeling of sitting at desks while the teacher returned a test or important paper. I held my breath waiting to catch a glimpse of that red mark on the top of the paper…was it an A or even an A- or lower? Those red marks and red grades are a source of stress for almost all students. Is red ink on a paper damaging to student confidence and motivation?

An unnamed secondary school in London recently banned teachers from using red ink on papers in case it upset or discouraged the students. The ban was set by a head teacher at the school.

One of the classroom teachers brought this ban to Bob Blackman, a Tory (conservative) member of Parliament, and he brought the issue before Parliament.

Blackman is against the ban and explained, “A teacher contacted me and said ‘I cannot believe I have been instructed by my head to mark children’s homework in particular colours and not to use certain colours. It is all about not wanting to discourage youngsters if their work is marked wrong’  It sounds to me like some petty edict which is nonsense. It is absolutely political correctness gone wild. My take on all this is to say children need to understand the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.”

The issue does have its supporters in the education world. A Florida teacher chimed in the discussion by saying, “I do not use red. Red has a negative connotation, and we want to promote self-confidence. I like purple. I use purple a lot.”

The red ink issue is global – teachers in Queensland, Australia were given mental health kits in 2008. The kits suggested teachers avoid using red pen, because it can be seen as aggressive. Some students say they feel less than perfect when they see red corrections on their work.

Are students being coddled and protected by these types of over political correctness? What will happen when they grow up and become a member of society and the work force? I’m not sure they will be able to handle any criticism without getting offended. Part of getting an education is learning from mistakes and adjusting to criticism.

Keep in mind that red does stand for stop, while green for go. Maybe green pens should be banned so students don’t get confused and feel too positive with their grades.

A study in 2008 European Journal of Social Psychology claimed grades would be higher if teachers graded in blue ink vs. red. It suggested that red pens may potentially make teachers more likely to spot errors on tests and be more critical. The use of a red pen triggers the teachers’ brains to focus on failure.

Despite teachers’ efforts to free themselves from extraneous influences while grading,” write California State University Northridge psychologist Abraham Rutchick, Tufts University psychologist Michael Slepian and Bennett Ferris of Phillips Exeter Academy, “the very act of picking up a red pen can bias their evaluations.”

I do still remember the feeling of receiving a paper covered in red marks. It definitely didn’t feel good and did upset me. But it also motivated me to work harder the next time and eliminate some of the red marks on the next try. Errors should not be treated as defeats, but a second chance. There is always another test or another essay to redeem yourself. It’s all in the way students are trained to react to all of those marks, whether red or green or purple.

What are your thoughts? Should red pens be banned in education to protect students’ feelings and remove some of the focus of being wrong? Or are learning from your mistakes one of the best lessons a student can gain while in school?



The Science Behind Composting – Nourish the Planet on Earth Day

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

Spring time means getting out and enjoying the sun, watching the trees bloom and cleaning out those flower beds and garden patches and filling them with flowers and plants. Before you start clearing out the dead of winter and putting plants in the ground, get a little compost going.

Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden soil.

Compost creates nutrient-rich humus – a natural fertilizer. This super charges plant growth and helps keep moisture in the soil. Your water bill can be reduced by 20%.  It also adds microscopic organisms that works to aerate the soil, break down organic materials and fight off plant disease and insects.

By composting your organic kitchen waste, your trash will be lighter and your footprint smaller. About 30% of household trash is compostable materials.

Materials Needed

  • Carbon materials (The brown material) – newspaper, cardboard (not shiny), paper towel and toilet paper rolls, wool, cotton, dryer lint (from natural fibers only), egg shells, sawdust (lightly to avoid clumps), tea bags, shredded brown paper bags, conifer needles, bits of wood, hay, peet moss, coffee filters, stalks from perennial plants, end of season annual plants, branches, dry leaves, egg cartons made from paper, paper (not shiny).
  • Nitrogen materials (the green material) – fruit or vegetable peels and cores, coffee grounds, all non-meat food scraps, manures (not pet waste), lawn clippings, green leaves, seasonal thinnings from the vegetable or flower garden.
  • Do not put bones, fish scraps, dairy, fat (they will attract pests), plants treated with pesticide, perennial weeds or diseased plants. Also avoid black walnut leaves.
  • Water
  • Air
  • Time

Composting Techniques

  • There are several varieties of rotating composting tumblers on the market. They are expensive but don’t require a lot of work to rotate the material.
  • Make your own composter. Purchase a plastic bin or garbage can and drill some holes in the top and sides to allow air to flow. Secure a cedar plank inside a garbage can and roll it to mix materials.
  • Open air compost pile on the bare ground. This allows worms and other organisms to easily get into your pile and aerate.

Build a Compost Pile

  • Start with sticks or straw on the bottom to help with drainage and aeration. Then place carbon and nitrogen materials. suggests you have 2/3 carbon and 1/3 nitrogen on a 3’x3’x3′ pile.
  • Put a 4-6″ layer of mixed carbon materials on top of the sticks or straw.
  • Add a 2-3″ layer of mixed nitrogen and one handful of garden soil.
  • Mix the layers together and water until the pile feels as wet as a wrung out sponge.
  • Continue to add layers, mix and water until pile reaches about 3′ high.
  • If compost pile is on the ground, cover with black plastic, wood or carpet scraps. This will hold in the heat and moisture – two essential ingredients for great compost.
  • Do not allow the compost to get soaked or overwatered. The pile should be moist.

Maintaining the Pile

  • Rotate the pile once a week. Turn materials from top to bottom.
  • Add a little water if compost isn’t moist.
  • Add food scraps to the middle of the pile and cover with carbon material.

Mature Compost

  • The compost is finished when it looks like dark potting soil and is reduced by half its original size.
  • Contents are not recognizable.

 How to Use It

  • Add a few handfuls of compost into the top 4″ of the soil when planting plants. It can also be added lightly as a top-dressing around plants several times during the season. Compost should only be 25% of the potting soil around a plant, because it is so full of rich nutrients.

Don’t stress about getting it all exactly right. Composting is a natural process and this just speeds it all up. As long as you have all 5 of the main components, you will get nutrient-filled compost for your plants this spring and summer.

Another great idea is to move your compost pile every season and then plant in last year’s location. The soil will be perfect for growing vegetables and beautiful flowers.

Denver offers composting classes and a lot of information on Urban gardening. They also have information on Vermicomposting (using a specific type of worm to compost). offers a lot of information, trouble shooting and bins. Click the link for a chart of compostable materials, whether or not they are carbon or nitrogen and how to use them.

Thank you to both and for help in pulling together this post.