VITAL NY State Test Prep

This collection of educational resources was created for teachers to prepare students for the New York State assessments in Social Studies and Science. The media resources include lesson plans and student activities that focus on the different topics covered on the tests. The materials are designed to be used for whole-class instruction or for group and individual practice. Additionally, the lessons can be differentiated in order to meet the needs of individual students.

  • Earth as a System

    Earth is a complex, evolving body characterized by ceaseless change. To understand Earth on a global scale means using a scientific approach to consider how Earth's component parts and their interactions have evolved, how they function, and how they may be expected to further evolve over time. This visualization adapted from NASA helps explain why understanding Earth as an integrated system of components and processes is essential to science education. This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Unity of Life

    Students learn how classification schemes are used to illustrate the relationships among organisms and, ultimately, the unity of life.

    Grades: 6-8, 13+
  • Curious George: Volume and Shapes

    Students are engaged in a classroom activity that introduces them to volume in this video from Curious George. Using cubes, the students learn that volume is the amount of space that something takes up and that, no matter how they are configured, objects made using the same-sized parts will have the same volume.

    Viewing this video requires QuickTime.

    Grades: K-5
  • Air Is Matter

    Students investigate air and how it is something that occupies space, has mass, and exerts pressure.

    Grades: K-2, 13+
  • Blood Flow and Thermoregulation

    This interactive activity adapted from the University of Alberta explores heat exchange between the human circulatory system and the environment and illustrates how your body adapts its blood flow under different conditions. Animations show how peripheral heat loss, counter-current heat exchange, and selective vasoconstriction help maintain a healthy core body temperature.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Living vs. Nonliving

    In this lesson, students explore the characteristics that distinguish living from nonliving things.

    NOTE: Three of the video resources in this lesson are not available because their rights clearances have expired. We’re looking into making them available again or replacing them. Check back later or search for other great resources on PBS LearningMedia.

    Grades: K-5, 13+
  • How a Dinosaur Became a Fossil

    Remains and traces of ancient life are preserved in rock as fossils. This fossil record is a natural documentation of the evolution and history of life on Earth. In this interactive resource adapted from the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology, see an animation about how organisms, such as dinosaurs, become part of the fossil record.

    Grades: 3-8
  • All Systems Are Go

    In this interactive activity from Kinetic City, Arnold is missing all of his organ systems. The organs of the human body are critical for maintaining conditions that are necessary for life, and must operate in concert with each other to do their jobs. Help Arnold identify these important organ systems and put them back into his body where they belong.

    Grades: 5-8
  • All in the Family

    Are you, your cat, and your lunch related? Since all organisms descended from a single bacterial ancestor, the answer is yes. Of course, some of us are more closely related than others, depending on where in the "family tree" or common ancestor resides. In this updated Evolution Web feature, you'll learn how to assemble accurate evolutionary trees by comparing features of living organisms. Be prepared for some surprises.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Biome in a Baggie

    The distribution of plants and animals around the world corresponds closely to global patterns of temperature and rainfall. This is why two forests half a world away from each other will often have very similar organisms living in them. In this ZOOMSci video segment, a cast member of ZOOM creates a self-contained biome and explores evaporation, condensation and precipitation.

    Grades: K-8
  • Metamorphosis: Change of Plans

    Every butterfly you've ever seen was at one time, early in its life, a very hungry caterpillar. Frogs, too, go through life stages during which they look nothing like the leggy creatures they ultimately become. This video segment explores the developmental process called metamorphosis, in which an animal's body changes form dramatically on its way to becoming an adult.

    Grades: K-5
  • More Than an Image

    Explore how our eyes receive visual information from the world around us, and how our brain makes sense of it. This video segment pieces together the components of human visual perception. Footage from NOVA: "Mystery of the Senses: Vision."
    Grades: 3-12
  • Life Before Oxygen

    Three billion years ago single-celled underwater bacteria used sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into tiny oxygen bubbles. Soon plants were turning an atmosphere full of volcanic carbon dioxide into oxygen. As we learn in this video segment from Interactive NOVA: "Earth," photosynthesis created a good home for animals and humans, though not for some primitive organisms. They had to retreat to where oxygen couldn't reach them. Join researchers as they search for these organisms, now considered tiny time capsules from a time before there was oxygen on Earth.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Journey of the Jewish Americans

    In the 19th century, most Americans had little or no contact with Jewish people.  Jews who immigrated to the United States were met with a mixed attitude of suspicion stemming from prejudice, stereotypes and awe as people associated with Biblical stories and events. For the most part, the early 19th century Jewish immigrants were regarded as outsiders who were both tolerated and sometimes despised. Many began as peddlers, the traditional occupation of Jews in Europe. In this segment from The Jewish Americans, learn how their arrival was well timed to supply Americans with the goods and supplies they would need as the United States expanded west.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Momentum

    Learn about the principle of conservation of momentum in this interactive activity adapted from Wake Forest University. Two carts colliding on an air track demonstrate how momentum is conserved in a closed system. Observe six different scenarios—a moving cart colliding with a stationary cart of lesser, equal, or greater mass in both elastic and inelastic collisions—to see how the motion of the carts changes after each collision
    Grades: 8-12
  • Observe Sunrise and Sunset

    Night and day are determined by the Sun's presence in the sky. As Earth rotates, the portion of the planet that is illuminated by the Sun experiences day while the portion that faces away from the Sun experiences night. As observed from most locations on Earth, the Sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west every day. In this segment produced for Teachers' Domain, observe time-lapse video of a sunrise and a sunset.
    Grades: K-5
  • Aiming For the Basketball Hall of Fame | Using Ratios

    In this video segment from TV411, two professional basketball players plan a trip from Atlanta, Georgia to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Using a road map of the United States and a ruler, they figure out the distance they must travel. To calculate how long the trip will take, they focus on the map’s legend and their predicted driving speed.

    Grades: 5-8
  • Gravity on Earth and in Space

    Most of us spend our entire lives held close to Earth's surface by the force of gravity. For a few days or weeks, however, orbiting astronauts experience their surroundings completely differently -- as if there were no gravity at all. This collection of images compares the experience of gravity on Earth with that of the astronauts' perceived weightlessness in space.
    Grades: K-8
  • Debating Slavery

    This video segment adapted from Africans in America explores the division among the state delegates to the Constitutional Convention about the issue of slavery. Although some states had already begun to abolish slavery, other states held that the right to own slaves should remain protected by the federal government. What resulted was a debate about the right to personal liberty and the right to own property, which for many included slaves.

    Grades: 5-12
  • How Cancer Cells Grow and Divide

    Discover the role of oncogenes in uncontrolled cancerous growth and depicts the journey of cancer cells from where they originate, into the circulatory system, and then on to other parts of the body. This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12