Investigating Science

This semester’s Elementary Science Methods class brought a highly interactive presentation to the University Day mix early Wednesday morning. In accordance with Next Generation Science Standards, the group had put together some six “investigation stations” intended to introduce core scientific concepts to elementary students. The morning presentation was used less as a time to monologue and more as a trial run of each station, meaning all attendees were encouraged to engage in as many stations as time would allow, and to ask any questions they thought a young scientist might have.

The class intends to actually present their investigations to the students of Easton Elementary School at their Family Science Night on April 27. The aim of the investigations is to find “creative and engaging ways to engage students in their learning,” according to the class instructor, Wendi Malenfant. “My goal is to get all my methods classes into local schools to practice what they’re learning about.” Hands-on experience is, of course, one of the best ways to learn and retain information. By directly engaging with the students they may one day teach, the class is able to both get and give hands-on teaching experience with introductory science.

Each station dealt with a different scientific principle, boiled down into demonstrations and language so as to make it easy for elementary-age kids to grasp. One used raisins, Sprite, and  the carbon dioxide which was produced to illustrate density. Gas bubbles forming on the raisin’s surface as it reacts with the Sprite grow large enough to overcome the pull of gravity and drag the raisins from the bottom of a cup to the surface. Another station showed various components of chemical reactions by using Borax, glue, and water to make bouncy balls. The timing of each ingredient’s addition was stressed, and while the finished product wasn’t breaking any bounce records, it was still round enough to show how different compounds can react together to form something new. The final station showcased the traditional ‘erupting volcano’ reaction, only without the volcano. Instead, the vinegar and baking soda were combined in a sealed plastic bag to demonstrate how the gas produced would expand the container to its maximum size (or in some cases pop the bag).

Making science into a tangible activity rather than just describing it and writing formulas on the board brings a whole new level of understanding to kids in the classroom, in primary and secondary schools. The various learning methods of kids warrant appropriate teaching methods from their educators; making the lessons interactive is one way to do just that. The EDU 361 class’s presentation on April 12 showcased an important skill needed throughout all levels of learning; the ability to tailor a lesson to fit any kid’s needs.