LINCS Online Course: Engaging Adult Learners in Science

LINCS is adding the opportunity for professional development for its members in the form of a series of optional online courses developed by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) Resource Collection initiative. These online courses are self-paced, freely available, and accessible 24 hours a day through the LINCS Learning Portal. The courses will enable users to work at their own pace, at a time that is most convenient to them.


Online Course: Engaging Adult Learners in Science

This course provides an overview of the relevance and importance of science in the adult basic education/adult secondary education (ABE/ASE) classroom and introduces the use of scientific practices in the ABE/ASE classroom. The course is self-paced and features three modules: (1) Understanding the Importance of Scientific Literacy for Adult Learners; (2) Exploring the Scientific Practices; and (3) Observing the Scientific Practices in the Classroom. The modules link to this discussion thread (Title: LINCS Online Course: Engaging Adult Learners in Science) within the LINCS Community Science group to provide opportunities for you to discuss how to apply the course information in your teaching with your colleagues from around the country.


Use this discussion thread to post your responses to the questions below from the LINCS online course, Engaging Adult Learners in Science. Please share your comments to any of the following questions, or post a general comment or feedback on the course.

  •  Who are you?
  • What real-life problems or tasks do your students encounter? Which of these tasks or problems require an understanding of science? How have you have taken advantage of a science-related teachable moment that arose in your classroom?
  • What are some modeling activities you have used in your classroom to teach science?
  • What other ways can you think of for incorporating this practice in your classroom within other subject areas, such as reading or math or in helping students prepare for the GED?
  • How have you engaged students in developing and using models and using mathematical and computational thinking in your classroom?
  • How have you engaged students in analyzing and interpreting data in your classroom?
  • How have you engaged students in constructing explanations and designing solutions in your classroom?
  • Have you applied your newly acquired knowledge to help adult learners become science literate?


COURSE UPDATE: 03-06-2014

The Advancing Science, Serving Society (AAAS) recently migrated their content and updated their search engines. In Session 1: Understanding the Importance of Scientific Literacy for Adult Learners,  on the Getting Answers to Personal or Family Issues screen, there is an Extend Your Learning activity that asks participants to explore the AAAS website to plan reading and writing activities contextualized around the scientific concepts covered in the plain-language booklets on topics like diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS, and high blood pressure. The original link to the plain-language booklet: no longer works. To complete this activity, please use this link instead: Thank you.



This online course was developed under the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) Resource Collection initiative under Contract No. ED-VAE-11-C-0048.


The new LINCS Learning Portal offers adult educators free online professional development courses from a variety of OVAE initiatives. Join today at:


I do not have personal videos, but YouTube has every imaginable permutation of almost every experiment or demo you could want. Good luck!









Several weeks ago, an opportunity arose in my HSE/GED classroom to discuss a science literacy topic. Several of my students work in factories that do not have air-conditioning. One young woman was talking about feeling dizzy at work and that she actually had, for a very short time, lost consciousness. Her friend and co-worker asked if she was drinking water at work. She said that she didn't like to drink water at work because she would have to go to the bathroom too often and that was already a problem. When I asked her what she does drink, she said coffee and soda. This led to a discussion about the importance of drinking plenty of water during the day. She is now proud of the fact that she doesn't drink soda, she reduced her coffee intake, and she drinks plenty of water throughout the day. She hasn't felt dizzy since she changed her habits.

I taught high school Biology for 30 years and I used modeling every week. My favorite activity was making cell cookies. After the students learned the parts of the cell, they constructed models of a typical cell on a 12"-16" cookie. The assignment included using different elements to represent 18 parts of the cell, constructing a key, and verbally identifying each part and its function. The students worked in groups of 3-4 members.

In my AEL class I have been using evidence based arguments to prepare for the essay portion of the HiSet exam. Each student writes an essay expressing his/her opinion about a controversial subject. The essay must present evidence to support the expressed opinion.

I taught high school biology fro 30 years and for the past three years I have been teaching AEL classes. In my biology classes I would use models, math, and computational thinking in the Genetics unit. Punnett Squares are models used to predict genetic outcomes from specific parents. Math and computational thinking are used to analyze the predictions.

In my high school biology classes students analyzed and interpreted data from the experiments. For example, while sprouting seeds at various pH levels, the number of sprouted seeds was higher near 7. Students analyzed the data by constructing data tables and graphs. Based on the outcome and the information gathered during research, the students were able to interpret the data.

Based on the results from the previously mentioned experiment of sprouting seeds at various pH levels, my students were able to construct explanations as to why the numbers of sprouts varied. More seeds sprouted in the groups that were near a pH of 7. Students explained that a pH of 7 is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline. Seeds sprouted in acidic or alkaline solutions did not sprout as well as those in the neutral pH.

Hi Micaela, 

I invite you to join the Science and Math Communities of Practice. We would love to see your ideas and learn together! 

Kathy Tracey
Science Community of Practice Moderator

I'm an AE teacher in Gulfport, Mississippi. My training is in English, so I'm hoping through this group and this course (Engaging Adult Learners in Science) to find ways to more effectively prepare my students for the Science GED test. I also want to use science to make my class more interesting. I've always said that the teachers in the school having the most fun are the science teachers. Maybe I can join the fun.

One thing I'm already getting from this course is the idea of looking for opportunities to enhance student understanding of the scientific foundations of the world and the life around them. Anything from the weather, sick children, celestial events, the seasons, etc. give us an opportunity to expand of the causes and effects.. I have failed to this point to create memorable science teaching moments, but I hope to change that in the near future.

I have used modeling to teach math and writing. In writing, I have gone so far as to allow my students to watch me struggle to write an introduction to an essay. I had tried it with my intro prewritten, but I think having them see me go from scratch was more effective.

For Math, I could have my students collect Percent off coupons and calculate the dollar amount of discounts for specific products from different stores. I could then have them argue about which stores have the best specials.

Several of my students have had serious issues with mold in their homes (some have had to move because of it and one was even evacuated due to the severity in his rental), so that is one area that we have unexpectedly explored. The students have researched what causes mold, how to prevent it, types of mold, medical issues caused by it, etc. This was also a great way to make sure we understood what was a credible source! One of the students, who was personally affected by mold in his previous home, has become quite knowledgeable about the topic and loves to share helpful information with others.

One thing that I have done with my students is making models of different molecules. We use toothpicks and mini marshmallows, so it is very inexpensive. You can get the multicolored mini marshmallows to represent different atoms. I like that it's hands-on and it really helps the students to see the makeup of the molecule.

One quick way I have had students do this was in during a longer math lesson on data analysis. I posted charts labeled with different types of graphs they're likely to see on the GED (line, histogram, scatter plot, etc.). Each student was then given 2 post-its with different scenarios on them (for example, "the number of times I land on heads or tails in a coin toss game). The students have to place their post it on the chart they think would best represent that data. Then we talk about our choices as a class. The great thing about this is there are many different "right" answers, which gives the students the opportunity to defend their choice (or sometimes to listen to someone else's logical argument and change their mind).

One activity that we did this past year in my GED class was a simple chemical reaction. We used yeast and hydrogen peroxide to create the reaction. We had previously discussed the difference between chemical and physical reactions as well as the characteristics of a chemical reaction. The students could see the reaction by the bubbles it produced, but they also used a thermometer to see the temperature change. They recorded the changing temperature at various intervals. They then chose a type of graph to create to demonstrate this change.

We do a variety of hands-on experiments in my class that require analyzing and interpreting data. One thing we did was on the solubility of water. The students hypothesized which materials would dissolve in water and then tested it out. 

Also, this activity can incorporate the students constructing explanations and designing solutions. One of the students asked why coffee (one of our solutes) dissolves better in hot vs cold water. So, this was a great transition into the next portion of the lesson. They then chose one of the soluble materials (I believe they picked salt) to test whether the temperature of the water would affect the solubility. They discussed and researched their findings.

Good Evening Fellow AEL Community, 

I teach adult education in Kansas City, MO and have for the past two years.  I am one of the few in our program that believes in teaching all five subjects for the HiSet test, but in doing so I am constantly looking for fun ways to get the students to connect with daily science, as well as simple background knowledge they just need to buckle down and learn.  Any ideas and suggestions would be totally appreciated and adapted as much as possible into our classroom.  I like making it things they will not be able to say "why are you going over this, I won't ever use it".  For some reason they don't seem to outgrow that thought process.  I am trying to open their horizons, as they may find a dream job they never anticipated. 

Thank you for all your time, help, and support.  I look forward to getting to know everyone better, and helping where I can too for other questions and debates we might all have. 

Lynn Crowley

Hello, Lynn,

Thank you for your post.  Are there currently websites or other resources you are currently using?  There is a small group of people who will be presenting on SCIENCE at COABE.

Let's start a new thread to discuss resources!


One of my students was looking for the breed of dog that suited them best and wondered how dogs came to develop into so many distinct varieties. Answering this question required a working knowledge of a variety of scientific topics. I took advantage of this teachable moment by discussing genes, genetic inheritance, and macro/micro-evolution with my students. I was even able to use a punnett square worksheet to give them a concrete piece of work connected to the topic.

I have used models to demonstrate how cells are structured. Starting with a paper cutout of a cell the students then fill it with various objects representing different organelle. As they fill the cells I discuss what each cell does and how it connects to other parts of the cell Also by having them make both a plant cell and animal cell the students learned from the model the many ways the two are similar and different.
I used candy for the organelles as the activity took place after halloween so it was thematically appropriate and cost effective but any small objects can work equally well.

One way you can incorporate engaging in argument from evidence in your class is to gather two articles about a topic yourself and present them to the students. The students will read the documents and then be asked to write an essay that discusses the arguments both sides made and which argument they found to be better argued. By providing them with material, the focus switches to understanding the points of others and by making them write an essay it lets them practice synthesizing their thoughts into an essay. It also mirrors the format of the essay portion of the GED.
Additionally by presenting the students with the arguments of others it gives them a distance from the material that allows them to have a freer discussion. Instead of asking them what they believe or have researched, you narrow the scope to specific material. Instead of debating the larger topic at hand, which can often stir strong feelings in students, they are discussing two specific arguments that can be determined to be strong or weak without commenting on the status of the larger issue.

In the past year I've used models and mathematical/computational thinking in the classroom by performing a kinetic energy experiment. The students had toy cars with strings attached to them on different surfaces. They then put weights on the end of the strings and measured how, by letting the weights fall off the table, far each car moved. By assembling the data into a chart they were able to find out how the difference in weight and surface impacted the movement of car.
Thus mathematical thinking was used both in how the data was tracked and measured, as well as by having the student find averages and ranges of the data after the experiment was concluded.

I had students analyze and interpret data by observing the growth of two separate plants in the classroom. One plant received more direct sunlight while the other received less. Over the semester the students measured the plants and observed how the differed in qualities such as leaf size and overall healthiness. Thus they observed both mathematical data and visual data over the course of the experiment. They found that even when given similar care otherwise, the plant that received less sunlight was smaller and less robust than its well lit counterpart.
Note that both plants went onto receive the same amount of sunlight after the completion of the experiment. No plants were harmed during the making of this experiment.

When the topic of why different breeds of dogs differ from one another came up in my class I first asked my students why they thought they differed. They raised several explanations and theories while I added more information to their points and suppositions. They also engaged with each other, with one student mentioning they got their dog from a breeder and the dog looked quite like the archetypal representation of the breed while another had gotten puppies from a friend and the puppies looked like a mix of the two different breeds of dogs. As I introduced topics like genes and recessive characteristics their explanations became increasingly more correct and fleshed out until finally the class had arrived at a satisfactory solution to the initial topic.

Hi! I'm Diane and I am taking this course to get an idea of how to integrate science into our classroom. Right now, we mostly have students work out of books on their own, and I am looking to change it to a more interactive classroom. I am looking  forward to learning how to integrate science into the classroom more often and make it more interactive. 

I am in session 3 and it is asking me to share some modeling activities that I have used in the classroom. Since I am new to this,  I don't have any specific modeling activities that I've used in the classroom  yet. 

Real life problems- Pandemic

Teachable moment -Read- Upfront article"Are We Prepared for the Next Pandemic?"

                             Write the GIST of the article and watch a video about the coronavirus

Integrate - Math-Make bar graph of Deadliest Pandemics' deaths, using the sidebar, to compare and contrast

                Technology -  research/discuss the differences between bubonic plague and influenza virus

                Reading - Read primary source excerpts from Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and...


Incorporate Practice 7 in the math classroom - Debate: Should Financial Literacy Be Taught to Inmates?

survey, analyze the data, share the results, discuss/debate and list the pros and cons -w/claims and evidence, and analyze the views for biases 

Writing- Write a persuasive essay, evaluate and analyze each sides argument.

I engaged students in developing and using models, Science Practice 2, by having them create paper airplanes out of different weight paper with and without clips 0, 3, & 5.

Science Practice Math and Computational Skills 5 - After flying the plane with and without clips, students used rulers/tapes to measure the flight distance.

Science Practice 4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data- Then record the distances; compare and contrast data to indicate which flew the farthest...




Analyze -Students look at the data and determine which paper airplane flew the farthest or least distance.

Interpret- The class will discuss what cause one airplane to fly or not to fly a certain distance (clips or no clips and weight of paper)

I will then explain drag or resistance (to move through the air) and gravity or pulling (by keeping the planes weight to a minimum to help fight against the downward pulling)

The Covid-19 pandemic is a constant point of discussion among my students, especially since our class has moved from in-person to virtual. It has created a number of teachable moments and lessons that I am preparing to share in the near future. Many students don't understand why antibiotics can't treat this virus. Thus, it is important that we contrast illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria. It is also important to discuss preventative measures using in fighting this pandemic. This also provides a great opportunity to incorporate social studies into science by discussing how this illness affects the economy. Math and statistics come into play as well as we look at the number of cases, number of deaths, and how things get over and under-reported.

I work in a correctional facility and one of the things that is available to my female students is the news via television. Therefore, they are up to date on current events as the TV is on a majority of the time.  Before I was laid off, we were discussing the Corona Virus and the effect it was having on Italy. When I return to the classroom, I plan to use this topic to teach research and have students explain what the Corona Virus is and how it spreads so quickly and easily. I will also be incorporating graph reading as there are numerous types of graphs available in our state. I can easily add writing assignments on this topic which is catered to their specific levels. I am excited to show them how this real-life problem can be understood easier when applying their science knowledge.