Curriculum Kits

Most of our STEM Teaching Units Kits are from the Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) program. Through our affiliation with the GEMS program from the Lawrence Hall of Science public science education center at the University of California Berkeley, the SD Discovery Center has expanded its ability to equip teachers with effective, high quality training and kits. The kits provide all the materials for students to investigate science (biology, earth science, chemistry) and math (probability, geometry, multicultural arithmetic) with inquiry based, hands-on activities. Check our professional development page for upcoming GEMS workshops or contact Anne to arrange a training.

Rental fee: $50 (waived for educator members), 1 month rental period.
Restocking fee: $15.
Available for pick-up or shipping (borrowers are responsible for all shipping costs).

Click on a subject to jump to that section.Anchor

Life Science

Animal Defenses  

Grade level: Preschool–K  
Duration: One 45-minute session, one 20-minute session.  

Beginning with an imaginary defenseless animal, this highly visual unit teaches children about defensive adaptations in the animal world. Like Hide a Butterfly, this is an excellent way to introduce biological concepts of predator/prey and help youngsters recognize defensive structures and behaviors. 

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Animal Tracks  

Grade level: Kindergarten–6  

Students will learn differences between different predator and prey tracks found in South Dakota, and unravel track mysteries to tell a story. 

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Ant Homes Under the Ground  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: 5 sessions  

These delightful science- and math-integrated activities introduce young children to ant behavior using role-play, cooperative exercises, and close observation of live ants. A large poster is assembled in stages to highlight ant tunnels, food, social structure, and life cycle. 

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Aquatic Habitats  

Grade level: 2–6  
Duration: 5 sessions  

These engaging life science activities, in which students set up and observe living desktop ponds in the classroom, convey key environmental concepts and illustrate the interactive nature of living ecosystems. An excellent complement to Schoolyard Ecology and Terrarium Habitats. 

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Buzzing A Hive  

Grade level: Kindergarten–3  
Duration: 60-minute sessions, one 15-minute session, two 20-minute sessions.  

This guide explores the complex social behavior, communication, and hive environment of the honeybee through activities that mix art, literature, role-play, and drama. (Live bees are not a part of this unit.) A nice entomological partner to Ant Homes Under the Ground, Hide a Butterfly, and Ladybugs. 

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Eggs Eggs Everywhere  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: 4 sessions  

This unit introduces young children to the wonders of eggs of all kinds, developing age-appropriate concepts in biology and life science. Activities combine literature, math, role-playing, drama, and art, and introduce sorting, classifying, and graphing. 

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Elephants and Their Young  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: 4 sessions  

With art, drama, and role-play, young children learn all about the African elephant’s unique body structure and fascinating social behaviors. Math and science concepts include measurement, weight, volume, and comparisons of many kinds. 

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Environmental Detectives  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 8 sessions  

In this challenging unit, built around a fictional environmental-damage scenario, students learn of the interconnectedness of the natural world and the complexity of many environmental problems. Students consider pollution from many sources, perform chemical and biological tests to finger the culprit(s), and track changes in predator-prey relationships. 

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Farmers Grow My Plate  

Grade level: Kindergarten–4  
Duration: 5 units  

Each unit include lessons on nutrition, food preparation, food production, physical activity, and arts/crafts. Topics cover food groups, fruit and vegetables, dairy, grain and protein. This is versatile and complete for teaching Kindergarten through 4th grade youth. The kit is provided by a Team Nutrition State Training Grant through the SD Department of Education. 

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Hide A Butterfly 

Grade level: Preschool–K  
Duration: Three 20- to 60-minute sessions.  

This guide introduces children to the basic concepts of protective coloration as they learn to identify parts of a flower, create a nature-scene mural, learn about butterflies, and talk about animals they may have seen in the wild. (Camouflage is also explored in Animal Defenses.) 

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Ladybugs  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: Thirteen 45- to 60-minute sessions.  

This popular unit uses the charm of ladybugs to present key science and math concepts relating to animal adaptation, ecology, and interdependence. Children learn about ladybug body structure, symmetry, life cycle, defensive behavior, and foods. Use of live ladybugs is optional. Great with Buzzing a Hive and Hide a Butterfly. 

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Lakes and Streams Trunk  

This trunk was developed by the East Dakota Water Development District and is available to borrow through the SD Discovery Center. The kit provides posters, videos, books, puppets and more. 

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Mother Opossum and Her Babies  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: 3 sessions  

Integrating math with life science, these activities for young children use role-play, drama, measurement, and comparison to study opossum adaptations. Students learn about marsupial pouches and the development of baby opossums, and about the famous trick of playing ’possum. 

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Ocean Currents 

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 7 Activities (11 Sessions)  

This companion guide to Only One Ocean provides fascinating, real-world insights into the causes and effects of marine currents. Students explore how wind, temperature, salinity, and density set water in motion. They learn how the ocean makes our planet livable and transports nutrients, people, and pollution. Makes a strong connection to Discovering Density. 

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Only One Ocean  

Grade level: 5–8  
Duration: 3 sessions  

This comprehensive companion to Ocean Currents interweaves the concepts of connected ocean basins, animal adaptation, and sustainable fisheries. Its highlight, a classroom squid dissection conducted by student pairs, leads to activities about ocean fisheries and diminishing resources. Students brainstorm and present possible solutions in a world conference. 

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On Sandy Shores  

Grade level: 2–4  
Duration: Five activities over 19 sessions of 45—60 minutes each.  

These marine activities allow students to deepen their understanding of sand, animals, biological and ecological interactions, and personal responsibility for the environment. Designed to be used in culturally diverse classrooms and with English-language learners. 

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Parent Partners 

Workshops to Foster School/Home/Family Partnerships  

Parent Partners provides parents and other caregivers with concrete, practical things they can do to help their children succeed in school. This kit is designed for educators and activists parents seeking to increase parents involvement in their child’s education. The varieties of tools in this kit educate parents about current approaches in science and mathematics education and about the enormous positive education impact parents can have. 

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Penguins And Their Young 

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: 4 sessions  

This appealing guide addresses important math concepts and skills as children learn about the adaptations and environment of the emperor penguin. With role-play, drama, and multisensory games, children integrate language learning with mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

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Schoolyard Ecology  

Grade level: 3–6  
Duration: 5 sessions  

Students are introduced to biological sampling techniques and mapping as they survey their schoolyards ecosystem. Based on the results of their survey, they select their favorite part of the schoolyard and then write about it in a concluding activity. 

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Terrarium Habitats  

Grade level: Kindergarten–6 
Duration: 5 sessions  

These life science activities bring the natural world into your classroom and deepen children’s understanding of and connection to all living things. Students investigate soil, design and populate terrariums, and observe and record changes over time. Schoolyard Ecology makes a great next step. 

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Tree Homes  

Grade level: Preschool–1  
Duration: Eleven 45- to 60-minute sessions  

These activities focus on appreciation for trees and the animals that live in them, stimulating children’s interest in the natural world and emphasizing the biological need for warmth and shelter. Students use role-play to understand adaptation and deepen their math learning by sorting, classifying, and measuring. 

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Earth Science

Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect  

Grade level: 7–8  
Duration: Eight or more 45- to 60-minute sessions.  

Students explore this crucial topic through a variety of formats. The unit presents scientific theories and evidence and helps students see environmental problems from different points of view. Donor: Carolina Biological Supply. 

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Incredible Journey  

Map your way through the water cycle with this Project WET activity. Students simulate being a water drop, cycling through the earth systems, collecting beads as they go. Kit includes beads, fuzzy sticks, and both large and small spinners. 

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Plate Tectonics 

Grade level: 6–8  
Duration: 8 sessions  

These groundbreaking earth science activities—including models of erupting volcanoes, strike-slip faults, and sea-floor spreading—reveal the dynamic nature of the Earth’s crust. Like real earth scientists, students conduct research at key geological sites around the world and record observations, calculations, and conclusions in a geological field notebook. An expansive complement to Stories in Stone. 

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River Cutters  

Grade level: 6–8  
Duration: 7 sessions  

Creating river models using a dripper system and diatomaceous earth, students acquire geological terminology and begin to understand rivers as dynamic, ever-changing systems. They investigate the concepts of erosion, pollution, toxic waste, and human manipulation of rivers, and gain understanding of controlled experimentation. This unit is an ideal springboard for the full-scale independent student investigations strongly urged by the National Standards. With the GEMS guides Acid Rain and Global Warming & the Greenhouse Effect, River Cutters can be used to good advantage in a unit on environmental issues and human impact. 

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Stories in Stone 

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 8 sessions  

This earth science unit explores the formation of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Students distinguish and classify rocks and minerals, observe formation of salt crystals and make model crystal shapes, and use clay-modeling activities to learn about the rock cycle and more. A strong curricular companion to Plate Tectonics. 

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Physical Science

Bubble-ology  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: From eight to ten 45- to 60-minute sessions.  

Imaginative experiments with soap bubbles introduce students to solid science, technology, and math content. Students have a ball as they learn important concepts in chemistry and physics, devising a number of experiments and drawing conclusions. Builds nicely on Bubble Festival. 

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Chemical Reactions  

Grade level: 6–8  
Duration: 2 Sessions  

An ordinary zip-locking bag becomes a safe and spectacular laboratory as students mix chemicals that bubble, change color, and produce gas, heat, and odor. A terrific introduction to chemistry, this guide is often adapted for lower grade levels. 

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Crime Lab Chemistry  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: Five 35- to 45-minute sessions plus follow-up sessions.  

Recently updated and expanded, in this forensic science primer student detectives use paper chromatography to investigate solubility, pigments, and separation of mixtures. New activities provide opportunities to explore and understand scientific models. See also Fingerprinting and Mystery Festival. 

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Electric Circuits: Inventive Physical Science Activities  

Grade level: 3–6  
Duration: 11 Sessions  

This flexible unit opens with conductors, insulators, and simple closed circuits; these early sessions can combine to serve as a basic electricity unit. In later, more advanced sessions, students read circuit diagrams, build circuits, and learn about series and parallel circuits. 

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Exploring Magnetism  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 5 sessions  

In the sessions of Exploring Magnetism, your students will act as scientists discovering magnetic fields and electromagnetism through inquiry and measurement. 

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Invisible Universe: The Electromagnetic Spectrum from Radio Waves to Gamma Rays  

Grade level: 6–8  
Duration: 5 Sessions  

In an investigation of the electromagnetic spectrum students examine wave motion, then face challenges at invisible energy stations, including infrared (TV remote); radio; ultraviolet (black light) and others. They learn that these have become powerful tools in astronomy. Students are also introduced to Gamma Ray Bursts and ponder the most powerful explosions in the Universe. Many color images are included in the Tour of the Universe. 

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Involving Dissolving  

Grade level: 1–3  
Duration: Four 15- to 50-minute sessions.  

This guide, like Liquid Explorations and Secret Formulas, creates a very positive early experience with chemistry. Here students explore the concepts of dissolving, evaporation, and crystallization. Using familiar substances, they create homemade gel-o colorful disks, and crystals that emerge on black paper to make a starry night. 

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Liquid Explorations  

Grade level: 1–3  
Duration: Five or more class sessions.  

A great way to introduce young students to the properties of liquids, and (like Involving Dissolving and Secret Formulas) an excellent physical science unit for primary grades. Activities include classification, observation, and experimentation; one activity supports discussion of oil slicks and other environmental issues. 

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Matter: Solids, Liquids & Gases  

Grade level: 1–3  
Duration: Five activities comprising six classroom sessions, 45-60 minutes.  

In a succession of intriguing hands-on learning station activities, students gather, apply, and reflect on physical evidence, just as scientists do, and learn what matter is—and what it is not. Students learn about the properties of solids, liquids, and gases, and apply this knowledge to common objects in the world around them. 

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Microscopic Explorations  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 10 Learning Stations  

The interdisciplinary richness of these learning stations presents a wide spectrum of scientific investigation. Students expand their understanding of science, research, and how microscopic and related techniques contribute to diverse fields. Color Analyzers and More than Magnifiers connect well. 

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More Than Magnifiers  

Grade level: 6–8  
Duration: Four 30- to 50-minute sessions. 

In this ingenious unit on physics, optics, and light, students use two lenses in different ways to create optical instruments and learn how the measurable properties of lenses are used in magnifiers, simple cameras, telescopes, and slide projectors. A great partner to Color Analyzers and Microscopic Explorations. 

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Mystery Festival - The Felix Story  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: Five 45- to 60-minute sessions for each mystery. 

This extremely popular forensic science unit features an imaginative and compelling mystery for older children. Students learn to distinguish evidence from inference, and conduct such crime-lab investigations as thread tests, powder tests, DNA comparisons, chromatography, and fingerprinting. 

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Mystery Festival - Who Borrowed Mr. Bear  

Grade level: 2–3  
Duration: Five 45- to 60-minute sessions for each mystery.  

This extremely popular forensic science unit features an imaginative and compelling mystery for younger children. Students learn to distinguish evidence from inference, and conduct such crime-lab investigations as thread tests, powder tests, DNA comparisons, chromatography, and fingerprinting. 

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Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do?  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: Four or more 20- to 45-minute sessions.  

This immensely popular unit has been updated, but the strangely behaving substance called Oobleck still provides high engagement while students gain authentic insight into real-world scientific inquiry. Students are totally engaged in observation, hands-on investigation, a scientific convention, and spacecraft design. 

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Paper Towel Testing  

Grade level: 5–8  
Duration: Four 30- to 45-minute sessions plus follow-up sessions.  

This unit is a stimulating introduction to consumer science and controlled experimentation. Students rank the qualities of four paper towel brands, compare the costs of each, and determine which brand is the best buy. Can be expanded to test other consumer items. 

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Secret Formulas  

Grade level: 1–3  
Duration: 9 sessions  

In these compelling physical science activities, children investigate the properties of substances as they make their own personal brands of toothpaste, paste, cola, and ice cream. The unit provides real-life experiences with chemistry and conveys key science/math skills and concepts including cause and effect. 

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Sifting Through Science  

Grade level: Kindergarten–2 
Duration: 4 sessions  

Young students explore buoyancy, magnetism, and the use of tools as they investigate the physical properties of objects. They use learning stations that allow for open-ended explorations to solve a design challenge. Each activity leads students to a greater knowledge of these properties. The final activity challenges students to solve an interesting problem: how to separate the various components of simulated garbage. To solve the problem, students must apply the knowledge gained in the previous activities. Donor: SD 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. 

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Space Science

Earth, Moon, and Stars  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: Six 40- to 45-minute sessions; four 20- to 30-minute sessions; six 15-minute sessions.  

Students learn a great deal about the Earth and astronomy with modeling and observation activities that focus on gravity, the shape of our planet, moon phases and eclipses, and the stars. A questionnaire on the Earth’s shape and gravity makes an excellent pre- and post-assessment tool. See also Messages from Space and Moons of Jupiter. 

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Messages from Space  

Grade level: 5–8  
Duration: 6 sessions  

This exciting unit opens with a binary-coded message from space and takes the class on a journey through our solar system and beyond. Students model size and distance, explore how systems may have formed, ponder stellar life zones, and design space travel brochures. See also Earth, Moon, and Stars and Moons of Jupiter. 

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Space Science Sequencing (3-5)  

Grade level: 3–5  
Duration: Each of the 4 units in the sequence contains 4 to 9, 60-minute sessions.  

Students learn fundamental concepts in space science using the Sun-Earth-Moon system as the focus. Through models, hands-on activities, and readings, students explore topics such as planet size and distance, Earth’s shape and spin, gravity the apparent movement of the sun and stars, moon phases and eclipses. 

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Space Science Sequencing (6-8) 

Grade level: 6–8  

This advanced kit offers lessons on the Sun’s effect on Earth, why we have seasons, and the Solar System. and Beyond. 

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Engineering

Inventing to Learn  

Grade level: 4–8  

This kit is stock full of materials that will be used to investigate all sorts of fun scientific inventions. Your students will learn about the internal mechanisms of a toy car by taking it apart. They will use what they have learned to build a car of their own, have a classroom car race and graph their findings. They will build a self-propelled boat that runs with balloon power. These and many more inventions will be the highlight of your students’ year if you Invent to Learn with this kit. 

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Paper Towel Testing  

Grade level: 5–8  
Duration: Four 30- to 45-minute sessions plus follow-up sessions.  

This unit is a stimulating introduction to consumer science and controlled experimentation. Students rank the qualities of four paper towel brands, compare the costs of each, and determine which brand is the best buy. Can be expanded to test other consumer items. 

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Math

Frog Math: Predict, Ponder, Play  

Grade level: Kindergarten–3  
Duration: Six 45- to 60-minute sessions.  

This series of lively activities jumps off from one of the well-known Frog and Toad stories, The Lost Button. The story leads to free exploration then sorting and classifying buttons. A Frog Pond board game helps students develop strategic thinking skills, and the Hop to the Pond game is an experiment in probability and statistics. Donor: SD 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program 

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In All Probability: Investigations in Probability and Data Analysis  

Grade level: 3–6  
Duration: Twelve or more 45- to 60-minute sessions.  

Students gain confidence in these concepts as they investigate chance, gather and analyze data, make predictions, and draw conclusions. The unit provides a solid basis for the development of much-needed real-life understandings and skills. 

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Math Around the World  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: 8 Games  

This stimulating unit uses games and puzzles from many continents to explore mathematics in a multicultural, international context. Each game can be presented as a two- or three-session activity or at a stand-alone learning station. Maps and historical connections provide a social studies element. 

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Math on the Menu  

Grade level: 3–5  
Duration: 5 sessions  

This unit provides strong math learning experiences in a real-world context, as students plan and expand menus, determine ingredients, analyze costs, set prices, and design a restaurant floor plan. Students work with data organization and analysis, explore aspects of statistics, and strengthen their sense of numbers, math, and money. 

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Quadice  

Grade level: 4–8  
Duration: Five or more 35- to 45-minute sessions.  

Mental Math, fractions, and teamwork are the keystones of this kit. Students work in teams of 3 to solve problems in mental math, manage fraction, use strategy, and consider probability – all in an exciting game format. Teams use a set of 4 dice to play 12 rounds involving any mix of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication problems. To promote teamwork, there is a cooperative-learning option that rewards a high group score. Donor: SD 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. 

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Treasure Boxes  

Grade level: Kindergarten–3 
Duration: 6 sessions  

This guide builds on children’s fascination with collections of small, everyday objects to introduce discrete mathematics, statistics, numbers, logic, and language in a cooperative learning environment. Graphing, sorting, and classification activities also encourage appreciation for recycling. 

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