Teacher's Guides

by  topic by grade Handbooks Activities

GEMS guides are listed below alphabetically by title. Scroll down to review the list. Detailed descriptions are available by selecting "more" after each title.

GEMS Teacher's Guides are clearly organized, easy to use, and do not require any special background in math or science. Each classroom session includes an overview, materials list, and preparation steps, followed by clear, step-by-step instructions for effective classroom presentation. Background information is provided for the teacher, along with photographs, illustrations, and, often, examples of student work. Throughout each guide are comments on presentation strategies and practical advice to help the teacher, many suggested by teachers who tested the units. Professional development workshops are also available for those who want to learn more about GEMS Teacher's Guides and how they can be made a part of a comprehensive science curriculum.

Looking for literature connections and suggestions for further reading? Look for the "Literature Connections" button below the cover illustration on the detailed product page. (Some do not have literature connections; in those cases, you'll find the literature connections in the printed guide itself.)

See also the recommended sequences of GEMS units by grade and subject.

Where you find the PEACHES logo in the list of titles below, you will find products appropriate for preschoolers and other young children. Just scroll through the list to find these GEMS for early learners.

You can also search by grade level and general subject area.

Need to know what materials you'll need to present a unit? Check here.

Acid Rain    Grades  6—8; 8 sessions/176 Pages
(see online orientation video)
This unit fosters substantial scientific inquiry skills as students learn about acids and the pH scale through a number of hands-on activities. Students analyze sophisticated environmental issues and consider the complexity of environmental decisions. A great companion guide to Global Warming & The Greenhouse Effect. More.

Algebraic Reasoning: Professor Arbegla Introduces Variables and Functions Grades 3—5; 6 sessions/140 Pages
Professor Arbegla's "Fabulous Function Machine" helps build a foundation in algebraic reasoning. Students gain essential algebraic understandings, learn about equations, and apply what they've learned. Makes strong connections to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics principles and standards. More.

Animal Defenses   Preschool–K; 2 Sessions/52 pages
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. More.

Ant Homes Under the Ground   Preschool–1; 5 Activities/116 pages
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. More.

Aquatic Habitats     Grades 2–6; 5 Activities/136 pages
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. More.

Bubble Festival   Kindergarten–6; 12 Activities/176 pages
These captivating, bubble-centric tabletop learning stations are packed with math and science content. The unit (a natural lead-in to Bubble-ology) includes detailed teacher assistance with classroom logistics, writing and literature extensions, and tips for setting up an all-school bubble festival. More.

Bubble-ology   Grades 5–8; 10 Sessions/80 pages (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Build It! Festival     Kindergarten–6; 9 Activities/224 pages
This unit’s wealth of learning-station activities help students make real-world connections as they focus on construction, geometric challenges, and spatial visualization. Geometry background is provided. Requires pattern blocks and polyhedra, but patterns for shapes and tangrams are provided. More.

Buzzing A Hive    Kindergarten–3; 6 Activities/146 pages (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Chemical Reactions    Grades 6–8; 2 Sessions/40 pages
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. More.

Color Analyzers    Grades 5–8; 5 Sessions/88 pages
Why does an apple look red? Students investigate light and color, experimenting with diffraction gratings and color filters. An updated and enhanced version of the classic GEMS Teacher Guide, this makes a great complement to More than Magnifiers and Microscopic Explorations. More.

Convection: A Current Event   Grades 6–8; 3 Sessions/60 pages

Students explore this important process by observing and charting the convection currents in a liquid, discovering one of the ways in which heat moves. They learn that convection affects the Earth’s crust and volcanic eruptions, the weather, the wind, and many other natural events. Connects nicely to Discovering Density. More.

Crime Lab Chemistry  Grades 4–8; 5 Sessions/91 pages (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Discovering Density    Grades 6–8; 5 Sessions/80 pages
Why does ice cream float in root beer? Exploring real-life connections, students delve into the concept of density with secret formula sheets, a number of Puzzling Scenarios, and a liquid-layering activity. The mathematical equation for density is also introduced. More.

Dry Ice Investigations   Grades 6–8; 4 Activities/212 pages
The intriguing behavior of dry ice ushers students into understandings of inquiry and essential concepts of matter, gases, and chemistry. Provides compelling experience in scientific investigation while introducing the particulate theory of matter, phase change, the nature of gases, and the history of science. (See also Chemical Reactions.) More.

Earth, Moon, and Stars
   Grades 5–8; 6 Activities/100 pages
(see related activity) (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Early Adventures in Algebra     Grades 1–2; 9 Sessions/123 pages
Designed to build a foundation in algebraic thinking for students in the early primary grades. Students learn the important role zero plays in our number system, solve for unknowns, explore equality and inequality, and are introduced to algebraic symbols. Builds crucial scaffolding for more complex algebraic reasoning in later grades. More.

Eggs Eggs Everywhere
    Preschool–1; 4 Activities/84 pages
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. More.

Electric Circuits: Inventive Physical Science Activities   Grades 3–6; 11 Sessions/264 pages
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. More.
Elephants and Their Young     Preschool–1; 4 Activities/112 pages
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. More.

Environmental Detectives     Grades 5–8; 8 Activities/264 pages
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. More.

Fingerprinting     Grades 4–8; 3 Sessions/72 pages   (see online orientation video)
Students explore the characteristics of fingerprints in these “fingers-on” activities, devising their own classification categories and applying their skills to solve a “crime.” (The technique uses pencil and tape, not ink.) Makes a good “partner in crime” to Crime Lab Chemistry and an excellent opener for Mystery Festival. More.
Frog Math: Predict, Ponder, Play     Kindergarten–3; 6 Sessions/112 pages
In an artful interweaving of math and literature, this unit begins with free exploration of buttons and leads to age-appropriate sorting, classifying, and graphing activities. The children develop strategic-thinking skills and are introduced to the concept of probability. More.

Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect    Grades 7–8; 8 Sessions/184 pages
This guide’s hands-on activities and experiments investigate a crucial environmental issue and help students see environmental problems from different points of view. Students also play simulation games and hold a “world conference” on global warming. Acid Rain makes a good environmental partner. More.
Group Solutions: Cooperative Logic Activities for Grades K-4    
Kindergarten–4; More than 50 Activities/151 pages
Group Solutions Too!: More Cooperative Logic Activities for Grades K-4
Kindergarten–4 More than 50 Activities/216 pages More.
The activities in these popular guides are designed for groups of four. Students receive clues to share with their group, then have to work cooperatively to find the solution. The guides provide help with cooperative learning and logic in the classroom, and include sections on bilingual presentation.

Height-O-Meters    Grades 6–8
A prerequisite for Experimenting with Model Rockets this unit introduces students to the principle of triangulation (measuring angles) to determine heights and trajectories. Now out of print, it is available for free download. More.
Hide A Butterfly    Preschool–K; 3 Sessions/44 pages
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.) More.

Hot Water and Warm Homes from Sunlight    Grades 4–8; 5 Sessions/80 pages
In this environmental unit, students build model houses and hot-water heaters to focus on solar power. They determine how windows can affect heat, and conduct controlled experiments. Connects well to Global Warming & the Greenhouse Effect. More.

In All Probability: Investigations in Probability and Data Analysis Grades 3–5; 13 Sessions/140 pages
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. More.

Investigating Artifacts: Making Masks, Creating Myths, Exploring Middens   Kindergarten–6; 6 Sessions/120 pages
This rich unit introduces children to the concepts of inference and evidence with activities relating to anthropology, archaeology, and diverse Native American and world cultures. Students sort and classify natural objects, make masks and create “myths,” and excavate a shoe box midden. More.

Invisible Universe: The Electromagnetic Spectrum from Radio Waves to Gamma Rays   Grades 6–8; 5 Activities/116 pages
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.” More.

Involving Dissolving  Grades 1–3; 4 Activities/72 pages (see online orientation video)
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.” More.

Ladybugs   Preschool–1; 5 Activities/99 pages (see related online activity Aphid Eater)
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. More.

Learning About Learning   Grades 6–8; 10 Activities/220 pages
These unique, multidisciplinary activities focus students on their own learning and how other animals learn. The unit also explores related social issues, including occupational health, drug use, brain research, and scientific ethics. More.

Life through Time
   Grades 5
–8; 7 Sessions/358 pages
Through time-travel activities, students grasp the mammoth scale of geologic time and the major benchmarks in evolution, from the earliest single-celled organism to the most recent mammals. Evolving dioramas chronicle life-forms and habitats from five evolutionary ages. Ten color backdrops included. More.

Liquid Explorations   Grades 1–3; 5 Activities/80 pages (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Living with a Star   Grades 6–8; 6 Activities/170 pages  
Students unveil our dynamic relationship with the Sun through a space-weather mystery, a mock mission from Earth's atmosphere to outer space, ultraviolet experiments, and more. This NASA-inspired unit focuses on the impact of electromagnetic energy and solar particles on Earth. CD-ROM included. More.

Math Around the World    Grades 5–8; 8 Games/200 pages (see related activities Shongo Networks and Tower of Hanoi)
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. More.

Math on the Menu    Grades 3–5; 5 Activities/144 pages
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. More.

Matter: Solids, Liquids & Gases    Grades 1–3; 5 Activities/128 pages
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. More.

Messages from Space    Grades 5–8; 6 Activities/192 pages

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. More.

Microscopic Explorations  Grades 4–8; 10 Learning Stations/168 pages
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. More.

Moons of Jupiter   Grades 4–8; 5 Activities/112 pages
Observing and recording moon orbits over time, students reenact Galileo’s historic telescopic study of Jupiter’s moons and learn why his observations contributed to the birth of modern astronomy. Students experiment with craters, create scale models, and take a tour of the Jupiter system. See also Earth, Moon, and Stars and Messages from Space. A set of overheads must be purchased separately or downloaded as a PDF file. More.

More Than Magnifiers    Grades 6–8 4 Activities/68 pages
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. More.

Mother Opossum and Her Babies   Preschool–1; 3 Activities/100 pages
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.” More.

Mystery Festival    Grades 2–8; 10 Sessions/268 pages
This extremely popular forensic science unit features two imaginative and compelling mysteries, one for younger and one 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. More.

Ocean Currents  Grades 5–8; 7 Activities (11 Sessions)/184 pages
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. More.

Of Cabbages and Chemistry   Grades 4–8; 4 Sessions/88 pages (see related activity)
In this unit (an excellent lead-in to Acid Rain), students explore acids and bases using the special indicator properties of red cabbage juice. They learn that chemicals can be grouped by behaviors, and relate acids and bases to their own daily experience. More.

Only One Ocean Grades 5–8; 3 Activities/202 pages
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.” More.

On Sandy Shores  Grades 2–4; 5 Activities/212 pages
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. More.

Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do? New GEMS Version!   Grades 4–8; 4 Sessions + 2 optional/104 pages (see online orientation video)
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. More.

Paper Towel Testing   Grades 5–8; 4 Sessions/48 pages
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. More.
Penguins And Their Young   Preschool–1; 4 Activities/80 pages

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. More.

TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE Plate Tectonics:  The Way the Earth Works   Grades 6–8; 8 Sessions/224 pages
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. More.

The Real Reasons for Seasons   Grades 6–8; 8 Activities/140 pages
Sponsored by NASA and carefully developed to help students overcome persistent misconceptions about the causes of the seasons, this unit features modeling and hands-on activities. Includes a CD-ROM with a wide selection of photographs, films, Web links, simulations, and software. Earth, Moon, and Stars would make an excellent introductory unit. More.

River Cutters   Grades 6–8; 7 Sessions/120 pages
This popular unit explores the concepts of erosion, pollution, toxic waste, and human manipulation of rivers. Students create river models, acquire geological terminology, and begin to understand geologic time. More.

Schoolyard Ecology   Grades 3–6; 5 Activities/120 pages
This guide is designed to nurture curiosity about patterns and interactions in nature, beginning with students’ immediate environment: the schoolyard and its inhabitants. Students develop sampling, mapping, and related math and environmental-writing skills. A great life science companion to Terrarium Habitats. More.

Secret Formulas    Grades 1–3; 9 Sessions/160 pages
In these compelling physical science activities, children investigate the properties of substances as they make their own personal brands of paste, toothpaste, cola, and ice cream. Like Involving Dissolving and Liquid Explorations, the unit provides real-life experiences with chemistry and conveys key science/math skills and concepts, including cause and effect. More.

Sifting Through Science      Kindergarten–2; 4 Activities/104 pages
This unit’s three free-exploration learning stations integrate math, graphing, and data analysis as children investigate various physical properties of objects. In a culminating whole-class activity, students separate materials using the knowledge, tools, and techniques they’ve learned. More.

Stories in Stone    Grades 4–8; 8 Sessions/164 pages
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. More.

Terrarium Habitats   Kindergarten–6; 5 Activities/92 pages
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. More.

Treasure Boxes     Kindergarten–3; 6 Activities/102 pages
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. More.

Tree Homes     Preschool–1; 6 Activities/92 pages
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. More.

Vitamin C Testing     Grades 4–8; 4 Sessions/64 pages
Students are introduced to chemistry experiments, nutrition, and consumer science in this complement to Paper Towel Testing. Students perform a simple chemical test to compare vitamin-C content of different juices and graph the results. Older students can investigate the further effects of heat and freezing. This title is available as a free PDF. More.

Lawrence Hall of Science    © 2014 UC Regents. All rights reserved.    Contact GEMS    Updated April 10, 2013