Many people like to make resolutions about what to do in the new year. It might include eating more vegetables or buying less candy. But why not make a resolution to add a little bit more science to your diet?
Each year, I gather information on science, technology, engineering and math-themed days, weeks and months. Each event promotes awareness of important STEM subjects, from insects to agriculture, snakes and the need for more toilets.
These STEM celebrations are great opportunities to learn something new. During the year, I’ll highlight some of these events. So mark your calendars and remember: There’s always something going on in science.
Welcome to 2015, the International Year of Soils!
Soils are much more than dirt. The ground beneath our feet helps to clean our water and nourish plants — including those that animals and people eat. This website offers a full set of resources for use in classrooms at all grade levels. From learning the characteristics of soils to getting a soil scientist to visit the classroom, the International Year of Soils will make sure you get your hands dirty.
2015 is also the International Year of Light!
No one wants to be stuck in the dark. Light is crucial to everything from walking around our houses at night to the glow of screen you are using right now. The website for this celebration offers science stories, sections where you can learn more about light and options for hands-on activities.
National Mentoring Month
All students can use mentors, whether to guide them into STEM careers or to help them in their daily lives. Now is the time to check out what the National Mentoring Month website has to offer, including its accompanying resources on how to become a mentor. Teachers may also want check out my feature on how to find and become a great mentor.
World Wetlands Day
Wetlands help to filter our water. They also are homes for many of the animals and plants on which people depend. So this is a great day to learn what a healthy wetland looks like and why we should protect these important ecosystems. The site offers a teachers guide, handouts and posters to help people of all ages learn about wetlands and the value of protecting them. You also can check out this feature on wetlands, with a word find and question sheet.
Discover Engineers Week
February 22-28, United States
DiscoverE holds a weeklong event every year to “bring engineering to life.” From the bridges and roads we drive on, to the smartphones in our pockets, we all have good reasons to thank an engineer. Their site offers a series of educational activities to let students do their own, hands-on engineering.
National Nutrition Month
Many people know they need to eat healthier. But it’s often hard to know exactly what that means. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics take the whole month of March to teach everyone how to make their eating habits and food choices healthier. This year they have online quizzes and games to teach students about nutrition. Science News for Students (SNS) also has several features on nutrition, including eating out, and choosing food for life (based on the older food pyramid).
National Groundwater Awareness Week
March 8-14, United States
When you’re filling up a class of water, washing a car or watering a lawn, it’s hard to remember where all that water comes from. Many areas of the United States use groundwater. The National Groundwater Association takes this week to focus public attention on this important natural resource. They have a page for teachers with classroom materials, lesson plans and ideas for hands-on activities. Keep in mind that some groundwater sources are stressed. You can read more about water resources, including those underground, in this recent SNS feature.
British Science Week
March 13-22, United Kingdom
Formerly the National Science & Engineering Week, this is the United Kingdom’s celebration of all things STEM. It’s a 10 day program with teachers’ guides, citizen science projects, quizzes and more. There are even opportunities to win an award if you create a relevant event.
Brain Awareness Week
March 16-22, United States
Your brain is letting you read this sentence. But many people don’t know much about this important organ. The Society for Neuroscience and the Dana Foundationsponsor this weekto teach the world more. Scientists leave the lab and visit classrooms around the country to teach students about the brain. The websitefor this celebration of our white and gray matter also has booklets and other resources for teachers.
National Agriculture Day
March 18, United States
If you don’t think farming is a science, think again. Farmers rely on many areas of research to provide the world with food. The website offers contests for videos and essays (deadlines January 30). There even is a large section for teachers and students with links to fun facts and careers in agriculture.
March 18-24, South Africa
This annual event is held each year throughout South Africa. It offers more than 500 events, including exhibits and workshops. There’s even a math sleepover. This year’s theme is the international year of light.
National Wildlife Week
mid-March United States
Each year the National Wildlife Federation sponsors this week in March, a chance to understand more about the wildlife in your area. Stay tuned to the website for 2015 dates.
International Day of Forests
There’s never a bad day to fete our forests, but this is the day the United Nations has declared a special celebration. There is no dedicated website for this event, but Science News for Students has information on forest-related jobs, tracking forests from space and even fossil forests.
World Water Day
There would be no life on Earth without water. This is a great day to learn about what water does for us and how we use it in our daily lives. The website has a section for students focusing on how water is used in the production of fuels and energy.
World Meteorological Day
Every year, the World Meteorological Organization sets aside a day to celebrate and teach the importance of understanding our atmosphere, weather and climate. This year’s theme is “climate knowledge for climate action.” It focuses, as you might expect, on understanding the impacts of climate change.
Mathematics Awareness Month
It isn’t STEM without the M. Mathaware.org encourages teachers to use this month to showcase careers that rely on math. The site offers outreach activities at local institutions and profiles people who use math in their jobs.
Environmental Education Week
April 19-25, United States
This celebration takes place during the week surrounding Earth Day. The website has tools for teachers on how to link environmental education with the Common Core Language Objectives and the Next Generation Science Standards. There’s also a game called SimCityEDU, where students get to manage their own virtual city — and deal with all the environmental problems that might occur.
No science list is complete without this day. In 2015, Earth Day’s theme will be “It’s our turn to lead,” with activities focused on making a difference locally and globally.
National Physics Day
April 24, United States
Take this opportunity to learn how central physical processes are to our lives. For inspiration, educators should check out the many links available from the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Migratory Bird Day
May 9, Western Hemisphere
This day is for the birds. The huge journeys many birds take every year will impress almost anyone. The website for this day offers virtual bird tours and a quiz to test your bird knowledge. Materials are available in English and Spanish.
World Fish Migration Day
(Postponed until May 21, 2016)
International Day for Biodiversity
As the climate changes and humans settle over more and more of the globe, we threaten the biodiversity of plants and animals on Earth. This year’s theme is “biodiversity for sustainable development.” It’s a good occasion to explore how people can live in harmony with an environment, not just by stomping all over it.
National Get Outdoors Day
June 13, United States
June is a great time to get outside. The website will be posting locations of outdoor activities so that everyone can spend time in a nearby natural environment.
National Insect Week
(Postponed until June 20-26, 2016)
Festival of Archeology
July 11-26, United Kingdom
The rich history of the United Kingdom offers many chances to learn about how scientists study the distant past. This event offers activities for all ages. Participants can watch experts at work and even get their own hands dirty.
The Big Butterfly Count
(Mid-July) United Kingdom
These beautiful bugs respond quickly to changing conditions. Tracking them can inform scientists about how the conditions in local environments might be shifting. A website lets you download a butterfly identification chart. Record your sightings using their website or smartphone app, and contribute some butterfly data to science.
National Moth Week
July 18-26, United States
Why let butterflies get all the attention? Warm summer nights are just right for finding and learning about moths and their important role in Earth’s ecosystems. The website offer educational resources to find and identify moths. You can also submit your data to the website to help scientists better track these shy creatures.
World Snake Day
The warm days of summer in the northern hemisphere are when snakes are most active. It’s a great time to learn more about these cryptic creatures. There is no central website for this day, but Science News for Students has many articles on snakes. Check out articles such as how snakes might control their venom when they bite or how pythons are invading the Florida everglades. You also can read about how you might slither into a snake-studying career.
National Forensic Science Week
Mid-August, United States
People who study forensics bring science to the scene of the crime. This event is heading into its third year, in some places with tours of crime laboratories. Keep an eye on the website for specific 2015 dates. You also can check out our blog post on ‘The Poisoner’s Handbook’ or the SNS Cool Jobs profiles of crime-scene investigators.
National Honeybee Day
August 22, United States
Honeybees spread pollen from plant to plant. We have them to thank for many of the foods we eat. The website for this event promotes beekeeping. But even if you don’t raise and nurture bees, you can get a buzz from learning about them and the threats they face.
Pollution Prevention Week
Mid-September, United States
The Environmental Protection Agency holds this event. It’s a great time to learn about the harm we all do to the environment — and how we might be able to lessen that. Keep an eye on the event’s website for 2015 dates.
World Space Week
There’s always more to learn about the vastness of space. This website is now accepting links to 2015 events. You can also look at the Science News for Students section on “Earth and Sky” to see plenty of space news for ages 11 and up.
October 10-17, United Kingdom
Sponsored by the Society for Biology, this week celebrates how we study life. The event’s website has quizzes to test your knowledge of organisms. There also is another website and app to learn about famous biologists and their work.
October 10-11, United Kingdom
There’s a fungus among us. The British Mycological Society runs this event, and its website offers links to help you identify local fungi. You also can follow the Society on Twitter. The SNS site has articles on how scientists study fungi and the important things they do for our ecosystems and the recycling of Earth’s natural resources.
Earth Science Week
October 11-17, United States
The American Geosciences Institute hosts this weeklong event. Its website offers activities on subjects from climate and maps to fossils and soil. All are categorized based on the Next Generation Science Standards. There also are student contests for visual art, photography and essays.
National Fossil Day™
October 14, United States
Fossils are a fascinating way to get in touch with Earth’s past. This celebration offers an art contest, a kids page and stories from working paleontologists around the world. The activities are generally geared toward younger children, but fossils are fun at every age, as this SNS story shows.
National Chemistry Week
October 18-24, United States
This year’s theme is “chemistry colors our world.” Take the chance to explore how. The American Chemical Society website offers lesson plans and activities for elementary, middle and high school classrooms.
Geography Awareness Week
November 16-22, United States
The natural features of our local environment can impact everything from the water we drink and the food we eat to how we get from place to place. The National Geographic Society sponsors this week. There are resources to help teachers include geography in their curriculum.
Geographic Information Systems Day
November 18, United States
Find out just where things happen. As a part of Geography Awareness Week, this event teaches us that every map has a story.
World Toilet Day
Some of us might find a day dedicated to the toilet silly. In fact, more than 2.5 billion people around the world do not have a safe place to relieve themselves. Bad sanitation is very dangerous and can spread disease. That’s why this celebration of sanitation can offer a great teachable moment.
National Tree Week
November 28 – December 6, United Kingdom
World Soil Day
It may be the Year of Soils, but there’s also an annual soil day, full of events and celebrations. In 2014, we included a list of SNS articles that you might read to learn about the many important things that soil does.
Computer Science Education Week
mid-December, United States
The 2014 Hour of Code was a project that encouraged everyone to spend at least an hour trying to write small programs for a computer. For many, it proved a fun and educational introduction to computer science. Keep an eye out for the 2015 dates, and bring computer programming to your school.
agriculture The growth of plants, animals, or fungi for human needs, such as food, fuel, medicine or other uses.
archeology The study of human history, performed by analyzing things that previous humans have left behind, from houses to clothing to footprints.
astronomy The area of science that deals with celestial objects, space and the physical universe as a whole. People who work in this field are called astronomers.
biodiversity The number and variety of organisms found within a geographic region.
biology The study of living things. The scientists who study them are known as biologists.
chemistry The field of science that deals with the composition, structure and properties of substances and how they interact with one another. Chemists use this knowledge to study unfamiliar substances, to reproduce large quantities of useful substances, or to design and create new and useful substances.
climate The weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.
dietetics Things related to the diet or changes that adapt the diet for individuals with special nutritional needs.
ecosystem A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra.
forensics The use of science and technology to investigate and solve crimes.
fossil Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils.
fungus (plural: fungi) Any of a group of unicellular or multicellular, spore-producing organisms that feed on organic matter, both living and decaying. Molds, yeast and mushrooms are all types of fungi.
geography The study of Earth’s features and how the living and nonliving parts of the planet affect one another.
groundwater Water held underground in the soil or in pores and crevices in rock.
habitat The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to many different organisms.
marine Having to do with the ocean world or environment.
mentor An individual who lends his or her experience to advise someone starting out in a field. In science, teachers or researchers often mentor students, helping them refine their research questions. Mentors can also offer feedback on how young investigators prepare to conduct research.
meteorologist Someone who studies weather and climate events.
migration Movement from one region or habitat to another, especially regularly and according to the seasons.
neuroscience Science that deals with the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Researchers in this field are known as neuroscientists.
paleontologist A scientist who specializes in studying fossils, the remains of ancient organisms.
physics The scientific study of the nature and properties of matter and energy. Classical physics An explanation of the nature and properties of matter and energy that relies on descriptions such as Newton’s laws of motion. It’s an alternative to quantum physics in explaining the motions and behavior of matter.
physiology The branch of biology that deals with the everyday functions of living organisms and how their parts function.
pollinate To transport male reproductive cells — pollen — to female parts of a flower. This allows fertilization, the first step in plant reproduction.
pollutant A substance that taints something — such as the air, water, our bodies or products. Some pollutants are chemicals, such as pesticides. Others may be radiation, including excess heat or light. Even weeds and other invasive species can be considered a type of biological pollution.
sanitation The protection of human health by preventing contact with our bodily wastes through hand washing, use of toilets or latrines, separation of wastes from drinking-water sources and disinfecting foods and materials that may be ingested or otherwise enter the body.
sustainability To use resources in a way that they will continue to be available in the future.
wetland A land area that is covered in water, either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are a specific type of ecosystem, with its own plant and animal life that can live nowhere else.