Carolina Essentials

by carolinastaff

Discover free 3-D/NGSS activities for your science classroom.

Did you know that we offer a series of free, hands-on, NGSS-based activities called Carolina Essentials™? These activities are designed to make implementing 3-D learning easy–just select the activity you want and download it. Hands-on science is important for every student and across all disciplines. It’s how students make sense of the phenomena and concepts they encounter every day. Carolina Essentials™ activities incorporate 3-D learning as laid out by the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012) and every activity is correlated to a specific performance expectation.


Educator's Pick- Best of STEM-Winner 2021Best Freebies for STEM

Carolina Biological won a 2021 Best of STEM award for Carolina Essentials™. Carolina was acknowledged for these free resources that meet the needs of all types of educators and learners in grades K-12. These awards spotlight the innovative products, technologies, and services that are changing the world of STEM education. Best of STEM is the only awards program created for and by teachers, and the winners are determined by specially selected STEM educator judges and by email from fellow educators.

Here’s what you can expect from a Carolina Essentials™ activity.

Essential Features


Each Carolina Essentials™ activity begins with a phenomenon. Sometimes the phenomenon is a quick teacher demo or video, sometimes it is a photograph, or even a data set. The phenomenon inspires students to think about the concept that they are investigating in the activity. Discussion questions help tie activity analysis back to the phenomenon.

Mount St. Helens before and after the 1980 eruption.

Teacher and Student Activity Guides

Every Carolina Essentials™ activity includes complete guides for you and your students. The teacher guide can be used directly from the website or downloaded as a fillable pdf and saved, allowing you to add your own class-specific notes. The student guide is a fillable pdf, giving you the option to print the activity, assign the activity digitally, or save the activity to your class website. Because the student guide is fillable, students can submit their write-ups on paper or digitally, simplifying your record keeping. The teacher guide places the student procedure and teacher notes side-by-side to help keep you and your students on track and model student answers for the analysis and discussion sections.

Teacher and student guides for a Carolina Essentials activity.

NGSS Table and Performance Expectations

Each Carolina Essentials™ activity has an NGSS Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, and Crosscutting Concept, as well as a Performance Expectation explicitly stated to make your selection and planning easier.

Next Generation Science Standards are clearly defined.

Additionally, to help you align the activity to your own state or local standards, an Essential Question and Activity Objectives are included. These also help your students to stay focused throughout the activity.

An Essential Question and Activity Objectives are included with each activity.

For your convenience, Material List and Helpful Links sections are provided in the right column of the web version of all Carolina Essentials™ activities. The Material List lists the materials needed to perform the activity. Many of the materials you’ll have on hand, some you may need to purchase. For those you need to purchase, just use the product link to generate a shopping cart. The Helpful Links section offers additional resources that support the activity.

Easy-to-find information.

Activity Time Estimates

Also in the right column, you’ll find the Time Requirements section that provides a clearly defined estimate of teacher preparation time and student activity time. Another feature to help you speed and simplify planning.

Safety Essentials

Lab safety is essential. To help students know what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, every Carolina Essentials™ activity uses safety icons in the teacher and student guides so that students can identify the required PPE at a glance. Each time a student looks at the activity procedure, the safety icons are there as quick reminders.

Lab safety icons for quick identification.

How to Find the Right Activity for Your Class

To make finding the perfect activity for your lesson a bit easier, you can search by grade level, subject, topic, and even performance expectation facets. The numbers to the right of each facet tell you how many activities are included in the category.

Tip: Bookmark the Carolina Essentials™ page for easy reference.

Find the right activities for your class.

Get Started with Some of Our Most Popular Essentials

We’ve compiled a sampler of some of our most popular activities to help you get started. You can see the complete list of activities on our Carolina Essentials™ page. We regularly post new activities, so be sure to visit often.

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