Help a science teacher, o mighty hive-mind

By Carl Zimmer | November 1, 2010 11:17 pm

Chris Farnsworth, a seventh-grade science teacher with an awesome tattoo, has a question for which I’d also like an answer…

Do you know of a good place to find popular science writing for middle and high school students? I wind up using the same places, like Discover, or The Best American Science Writing, but I feel like I am in hit-or-miss mode. Any ideas?


Comments (25)

  1. Nature publishing group has a great collaborative learning website, Scitable. There are “science spotlights”, background material and links to articles–very user friendly. I also like ScienceDaily for breadth of topics and level of material for middle school and high school students.

  2. Once a week u should have them listen to radio lab from wnyc
    Ignite their science minds with the fire of wonder

  3. jack

    How about National Geographic? Granted it may not be the hardest science writing of all, and it leaves the physical sciences alone, but it is oriented toward laymen (which most 7th graders are), the writing is not very technical (so most 7th graders won’t be overwhelmed by jargon), most of its features are written in a narrative style (which means most 7th graders won’t automatically fall asleep after 2 sentences), and it rocks a genuine enthusiasm for science. Which a lot of 7th graders won’t ignore.

  4. Jim Hutchins

    Eric Chudler’s site, Neuroscience for Kids, has good writeups on brain science for all K-12 levels. I can’t reach the URL right now, but it should Google.

  5. Jason A.

    I’ve always been a fan of The Why Files:
    Also, the NYT’s Learning Network (helpfully marked with grade-level) may be helpful:

  6. Rupinder

    I would recommend the following:
    – Scientific American, Psychology Today, Wired
    – TED Talks,
    – Excerpts from latest Popular Science books (hint hint: Carl Zimmer, Sean Carroll, Stephen Hawking, Matt Ridley and countless others),
    – New York Times Science Section,
    – BBC News’ Science in Action, Podcasts from Nature and Science, including Carl Zimmer’s podcasts,
    – Guardian’s Alok Jha

    Hope that helps.

  7. A couple spring to mind – very good sci comm and the author uses a pirate pseudonym – some stuff is aimed above high school students but most of the posts contain or link to all the relevant info – in the interests of full disclosure this is my own blog but our aim is to write informative but entertaining material
    Otherwise I would look up the blogs associated with the major popular scientific magazines. In Australia we have Cosmos which is pretty good but there are many others.

    Hope that helps :)

  8. Lu Ann is a great resource for brief info with top ten lists that might appeal to the age group.

  9. Matt

    I always liked reading when I was in highschool. They keep it very up-to-date and have concise articles and always give a citation to the primary literature.

  10. Monkey

    I, too, use Science Daily, but I feel that even for the 8/9 students I had to edit it downa bit. Add a bit of jazz, translate any arduous science terms to kid-speak. It would take me about 3 minutes per article, and at about 1 article or 2 articles a week, it was nothing. I would add at the end of the citation that it was edited for school use or something of that manner….just in case. But, they had a great wealth of stuff, wide range of topics and pretty to the point.

    me likes.

    SciAm also has expedition blogs and similar more “wow” style blogs of scientists themselves, if you want to focus at some point on the life of a scientist (I liked to show them the excitement of science and doing research and not just the facts).

  11. Muse, a science magazine, for 9-14 year-olds, would serve well for middle schoolers. First-rates material from top writers. A recent issue had Maryn McKenna writing about microbes. Frans de Waal has been in there. Wonderful magazines that charms top writers into writing for them (often adapting their own material for younger audiences). I highly recommend. I often end up sneaking it away from my 8-year-old to read it.

    They do not put their stuff on the web, but the magazine is well worth a subscription for any classroom.

  12. Aurora

    Science in School ( usually has nicely-written science spotlights (with links to background information) and suggestions from teachers on how to use the articles in the classroom, as well as classroom activities and scientist profiles, so it might be an interesting place to look – and to find other teachers who might have other suggestions for you.

  13. I try to keep the CoolScience blog accessible to kids and parents: /

  14. Jason R
  15. Of course I think they’ll find lots of great reading material at Discover! But Science News also has a special section for kids:

  16. Your school or local public library may have a subscription to Today’s Science, a database of science stories written for middle- and high-school students ( The stories will be linked to national science standards.

  17. Erin is aimed more toward the gifted and talented teen but has lots of little articles on scientific topics/breakthroughs and aggregates interesting articles from many of the mags others have listed.

  18. Farns

    Thank you to all who replied. I have found your input very helpful. One Best Science Writing volumes made the suggestion in the intro. of teaching a science class purely through popular science articles. I’d love to give that a try, maybe in another life, if I don’t come back as an ant! JK. I find Vital Signs very helpful teaching the human body systems, the format is always the same; what the patient is presenting, the trial and error of the doctors, a couple paragraphs worth of nitty-gritty on whatever organ is the “star of the show”, then a diagnostic and pronostic (is that a word??) ending. My 7th graders love it, I just have to spend the time to break it down for them. Thanks again.
    ps- Thanks Carl.

  19. David

    I am trying out kids’ non-fiction science picture books with some 9th graders. The material is often new and always very accessible and quick. One of my recent favorites: Gravity is a Mystery.

    At the other end, I like sharing vignettes from (and an occasional entire book) some of my favorite science books:
    Bryson: Short History of Nearly Everything
    The Melting Spoon (stories from the periodic table)
    Why Size Matters
    Your Inner Fish

    I’m very interested in reading to pass on to my current 9th graders.

  20. Leslie

    check out this blog Christie Wilcox write very well about all sorts of science in a very readable manner.

  21. Jill Mason

    There is a very good website run by a British science writer called Ben Gilliland.
    He uses strong visuals/graphics and fun writing to explain some (often) complex science.
    Well worth a look at
    The ‘old cosms’ section is good place to start

  22. Julie Rehmeyer

    If I may toot my own horn, I write a mathematics column for Science News, and many of my columns would be fun for young people:


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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