Science Wednesdays

New on my calendar this year — each Wednesday afternoon I am leading a Science Wednesdays group for a group of children ages 7-12, plus teen assistants.  

Our small group meets weekly after school on Wednesdays in the conference room of a nonprofit group.  We enjoy the luxury of having time and materials for experimenting.   For the study of electronics, we have a variety of kits with gears, motors, lights and generators, plus a collection of DIY materials including motors, lights, computer fans, batteries, wire, tape and cardboard.  A favorite moment recently – a younger child used a small motor to spin pretty much everything he could find, including a bit of orange peel that was left over from the afternoon snack time.  “I can smell it!” he declared as he watched the orange peel spinning on the motor.

Similarly, for the study of chemistry we have test tubes and trays with kitchen chemistry materials such as yeast, lemon juice, and vinegar.  Geology is another favorite, with the study of geology blending into the study of chemistry and physics.   Music and sound was another activity, drawing on the physics of sound.

One of my current goals is to use board game design as a method for easily and naturally reflecting on and consolidating knowledge from the hands-on experiments.   A current project is a molecule-building game; a recent project was an “adventures at the science museum game.”

What are the skills that students learn in these early science experiences?  I think that key skills include the ability to ask questions as well as to gather knowledge; the ability to stretch your imagination and think about things that are hard to imagine; but also the ability to build and experiment with things that are very visual and easy to see.   Students become comfortable with the vocabulary of science as well as the habits of minds used in science.

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