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Lesson Plans

Celebrate STEM: a collection of resources

April 25, 2014

Full Lesson


PBS NewsHour Extra is celebrating STEM (science | technology | engineering | math ) education and careers. Use our rich collection of profiles on exciting STEM careers to get students excited about a future in STEM. Fascinate students with our short list of amazing STEM websites that cover units of scale, psychopharmacology and cell anatomy.

Looking for great STEM lesson plans that are guaranteed to engage students while honing their STEM knowledge and skills? We’ve put a list of our very best original STEM lesson plans together that cover topics from the economics of the “Great Gatsby Curve” to the science of zombie invasions. Finally, we’ve looked back over the last year and collected our best STEM stories that will take your students to the end of our solar system as well as inside their heads.

STEM Careers

2015 STEM superstar: Christopher Cross

This year we’ve focused our attention on up-and-coming neuroscience rockstar Christopher Cross. Still under 30, Cross has earned degrees in biomedical engineering, neuroanatomy and is currently working on his PhD in neuroscience at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Along the way, Chris has trained at Harvard, worked on Capital Hill as a congressional science fellow and dedicated his time to teaching audiences everywhere about the wonders of neuroscience. These days you’ll find him at the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory investigating the role genetics play in the mental health of African Americans.

The stories behind 23 STEM superstars 

STEM careers

There are a lot of negative stereotypes out there about careers in STEM – it’s time to break them! Get your students psyched about cool jobs in STEM they probably never knew existed. Use these interview profiles from real scientists and engineers who do everything from studying volcanoes to treating addictions to making things fly.

STEM heroes who inspired a generation

Jane and baby chimp

After your students have learned about our STEM superstars, invite your students to see who they look up to with this brief and inspiring list recent STEM Heroes. Learn more about these heroes who changed our understanding of the world and beyond.

Secret lives of scientists

Want to know more about the secret lives of scientists and engineers? This is where you can learn about cutting-edge science and engineering, the amazing people who do that work, and the things they do when their lab coats come off – win beauty pageants, wrestle professionally, become rock stars and magicians, etc. Scroll down to explore the lives of some gifted and inspiring people who are changing our world… and having a great time while they’re doing it.


Still have students who aren’t sure what area of STEM they’d like to pursue? Have them take this short quiz to discover what STEM type matches their personality.

Online STEM resources

Math | Scale of the Universe

scale of the universe
Use this awe-inspiring interactive tool to help students grasp the concept of scale.

Biology | Cell Craft

Sparticl is a new web and mobile service for teens, a collection of the very best the web has to offer in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM. Sparticl includes answers to science questions, images, videos, games, and hands-on activities, all curated by a team of experts. Try out this Sparticl game favorite, Cellcraft, and have fun while learning about cell anatomy and development.

Lesson plans and activities

Video | Introduction to STEM careers with Michelle Dickinson

Start your kids off with this inspiring 15 minute TEDx talk about STEM careers from Michelle Dickinson, a nanotechnologist from New Zealand with superhero-powers.

Lesson plan | Neuroscience and zombies! 


This super-engaging set of four lessons challenge students to learn neuroscience and create a cure for zombies. Created in partnership with Dr. Steven Scholzman, Harvard’s “Zombie Doc”, the lesson plans include everything you need to get kids passionate about neuroscience.

Lesson plan | Toxic trial

Created in partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Guardian, this mock trial simulation helps students to become active participants in assessing responsibility for some of the country’s worst toxic waste sites (superfund sites).

Lesson plan | Climate change as a scientific theory


This lesson is designed to help students better understand the concept of scientific theory, then use what they have learned to evaluate the scientific theory of climate change. Students will explore one type of observation scientists use to study climate change — glaciers and sea ice melt — through online video and interactive media tools. Students will be asked to evaluate the strength of climate change as a scientific theory based on evidence they find, and reflect on what it means to both local and global communities.

Lesson plan | Research methods and statistics through kickball


Looking to get your kids excited about statistics and research methods? In this active learning lesson plan students will learn basic statistics and research methods by playing kickball. Let the fun begin!

Lesson plan | The Olympics: body and mind


This powerful lesson plan presents two sides of the same coin – the mind and body – as a lens to learn about the Olympics and some of its greatest athletes. Introduce students to the fascinating field of sports psychology and discover its role in the Games.

Lesson plan | The Great Gatsby Curve


Tackle two engaging topics, economics and inequality, in one lesson plan using the classic American tale “The Great Gatsby”. This lesson delivers an exciting simulation about resource inequality that your students will love and provides the background and contextualization to help them apply what they learned to the larger economic picture.


Article | Voyager becomes first spacecraft to enter interstellar space


Article | What a concussion looks like inside your brain


Article | Betting on the Super Bowl? Get math on your side


Article | The highest tech Cheez Whiz you’ve ever seen



Special thanks to Elizabeth Jones for her significant contribution to this project.

Additional thanks to Claire O’ Hanlon for her outreach assistance on this project.