Activities & Lessons

Learning by Doing: The Importance of Hands-On Science Activities

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Learning by doing the importance of hands on science hero

Learning about science through listening to lectures and reading about it, though valuable, isn’t always enough to truly engage students. Learning by doing science through hands-on science activities and experiments lets students see what they’ve learned in action and develop a deeper understanding of the subject.

An engaging science curriculum also allows students to connect it to other disciplines, such as English language arts, and an ELA-based science curriculum can save educators time on instruction.

Reading and ELD Specialist Marjorie Frank further explains why science and ELA are connected:

Science is a language-based endeavor. Scientists read journals. They write articles. They collaborate to do research by speaking and listening to one another. They make presentations and listen to others do the same. Within the course of a single day, a scientist may be involved in all these areas of language usage. The same is true for science learning. In this way, science is intimately connected to English language arts, and English language arts experiences could readily involve science.

HMH Into Science links two disciplines—science and ELA—through tools such as Activity Guides and FUNomenal Readers. The Activity Guides consist of hands-on science activities that allow students to explore their understanding of science and make connections to the real world. Additionally, the guides feature informational text and workbooks to help students develop their ELA skills.

The FUNomenal Readers featured in the program are Above-, On-, and Below-leveled, standalone reading experiences that explore a lesson’s anchoring phenomenon. HMH Into Science’s careful Lexile leveling and a commitment to maintaining the same content across levels result in all students possibly participating in Reader-based class discussions and explorations.

Here’s a deeper dive into how the Activity Guides and FUNomenal Readers featured in the program develop ELA skills:

Activity Guides

  • Writing
    • Prompts and sentence starters allow students to record what they observe and wonder about.
  • Speaking and Listening
    • Prompts lead individuals and small groups to discuss ideas, present approaches to others, and analyze communication among themselves.
  • Reading
    • Hands-on Activities begin with a paragraph of background information; explorations consist of one or more paragraphs of explanatory text.

FUNomenal Readers

  • Writing
    • Three Science Stretch activities offer opportunities for students to respond to ideas in the reading in writing.
    • Some prompts ask for simple or straightforward responses, such as creating a list; others ask for more elaborate responses, such as writing a diary entry.
  • Speaking and Listening
    • The fourth Science Stretch activity prompts students to connect with one another through conversation.
  • Reading
    • The topical focus of each Reader is science; however, the treatment of the topics spans ELA-recognized genre, from nonfiction to biography, narrative nonfiction, fact-based realistic fiction, and sometimes, fact-based fantasy.
    • Anchor Charts, referenced provide added support for using knowledge of genre and text structure as aids to comprehension.

Hands-On Learning in Science Activities for Students

Curious about trying hands-on science activities paired with leveled readers meant to enrich your students’ science and ELA skills? The following four hands-on activities and three leveled readers are ready for you to download and use in your classroom!

Grade 2 Hands-On Science Activity

This Grade 2 activity will get kids thinking about how the body parts of animals are shaped to move pollen (for example, hairs on the body, legs, and antennae). After conducting the activity, students write about what they learned and now understand about how animals help plants.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grade 2 Leveled Reader

In this Grade 2 leveled reader, students will read to learn even more about pollen! Each reader featured in HMH Into Science contains a three-part, Read-to-Learn strategy:

  1. Students are guided to preview the text and look for words that may be new to them.
  2. They are asked to skim, look at the pictures, and make predictions about the selection.
  3. Students are prompted to read to learn about the main science idea of the selection.

Grade 4 Hands-On Science Activities

Grade 4 students can use the hands-on activity “Flower Power” to learn about the parts of a flower and the plant experiment “Slurp!” to discover how water is transported through a plant’s stem system.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grade 4 Leveled Reader

Using the three-part, Read-to-Learn strategy, students will learn how tree sap becomes syrup in this Grade 4 leveled reader.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grade 5 Hands-On Activity

Students will use glow sticks in this Grade 5 science activity to determine why the sun looks brighter than the other stars in the sky. Afterward, they will write the answer to the question: Based on your investigation, what might be true about the sun that would make it appear much brighter than other stars?

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grade 5 Leveled Reader

How do scientists study the sun, our closest star, without damaging their eyes? Students will discover the answer to this question in this Grade 5 leveled reader while using the three-part, Read-to-Learn strategy.

Use engaging hands-on activities in your science classroom so students can apply their knowledge and truly understand the subject. Additionally, help students develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills by integrating science with ELA.


Did you miss us at #NSTA22? No worries, review these decks from our Exhibitor Workshops to learn how to use phenomena-based, hands-on learning to successfully engage students in doing science. Explore HMH Into Science for hands-on science lessons and activities for Grades K–5 and 6–8.

The information in this blog post originated from a white paper by Marjorie Frank, Reading and ELD Specialist.

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