Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mad Science

I've had three kids take part in science fairs. I'm sure they
weren't the only ones to view the process with anything but
unmitigated joy and indulge in, shall we say, a little
procrastination. At least they didn't outsource. Some of their peers
came in with projects so professional looking they practically
screamed "Mom/Dad took over." Excuse me but isn't this supposed to be
like a learning experience?
So how do we get our children motivated by curiosity and
learning that science is a means of answering interesting and relevant
The Time For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments might be a
good place to start. Under the categories of earth science, life
science, physical science, and technology and engineering are over 100
potential projects. Here are just a few:
Which foods get the moldiest?
What's the difference between organic and genetically modified foods?
What is similar about people's fingerprints?
What's so weird about Ivory Soap?
Let's look at the one I gravitated to: which foods get the
moldiest? It's introduced by a discussion of decomposers and their
role in breaking down organic matter. Some neat gross facts are
included like how dog vomit slime mold got its name. Students are
told how to prepare and store specimins. They are encouraged to bring
photographs rather than the actual end product to the science fair.
Variations on the basic theme are offered. Safety precautions are
spelled out. My favorite is to keep the project away from pets and
younger siblings.
So if you get up to science fair time this book can bail your
child out. But why wait until science becomes a subject with
homework? When kids are younger and have intrinsic drives to learn
how things work--that's your curiosity prime time. Yes, discrete
supervision is a good idea. You might want to nix a few suggested
improvisations. But not to worry! My parents gave me a chemistry set
early on and I didn't burn down the house.
On a personal note, in college I took plant kingdom. A non required
activity (with a candy prize) was the my favorite fungus contest. The
student with the most luxurious growth would win. Most entries were
last minute slap dash affairs. With my RA's nervous approval, I
started the day I got the syllabus and created a truly spectacular
work of decay. I remember the prof saying it was the best ever!
A great big shout out goes out to the RSU 26 middle school teachers
and curriculum coordinator who are offering our students amazing
science learning experiences!
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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