Wow! That's cool

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
Rosemary Feasey suggests some activities that can increase the fun in your science lessons

Is science in your classroom "Cool and Fun" (the title of a recent Association for Science Education booklet) or is it, as Ofsted recently reported, dulled by using the QCA schemes of work?

Get children thinking and behaving imaginatively, generating original ideas (NACCE report, 1999), puzzling, making connections with their personal knowledge and experience, and taking risks in suggesting ideas - the hallmarks of a creative person. Lift your own spirits.

For instance, get out the Intel computer microscope (every school was given one in Science Year). It can be used by children from nursery to secondary age to look at, capture and store images as digital photographs or video clips.

If you have an interactive whiteboard, show time-lapse photographs of a wilting daisy. Photograph the inside of someone's nose or their skin pores.

Becta research suggests that the computer microscope increases children's interest and motivation, and that they engage in more discourse of a higher quality.

Use microscope pictures as a stimulus for poetry and stories; eg images of the inside of a sponge to develop descriptive writing on the lines of "Honey, I shrunk the class!" - an activity for any age group.

Placing different fabrics and other everyday materials on the microscope can support children in making connections between the theory of properties of materials and the reality of what they see. For example, it can help key stage 1 children to understand waterproof materials. Imaginative questions can then lead to investigations, with children taking ownership of their learning.

Try having a six-minute science session every other day. For example, put some water in a film canister, add an Alka-Seltzer, put the lid on, shake, place it on the table and then stand back and watch as it explodes. This will surprise children of all ages and make them think. It's the WOW! factor.

With KS1, create an ice hand by freezing a rubber glove filled with water.

Put it in front of the class, explore language and discuss how it was made.

Ask how they could make other ice objects and challenge them to find out if all liquids freeze in the same way.

Take a trip to a toy shop and see what you can buy for pound;5. Buy some Splob (like Play-Doh) to throw at the wall at the beginning of a Year 4 lesson on forces or as a revision exercise with Years 5 and 6. Mould the Splob in your hands, then suddenly throw it across the classroom so it sticks to the wall. This guarantees lots of creative questions - why does it stick? Would it stick if you didn't throw it so hard? Could we make our own? Would Plasticine or Play-Doh do the same? What if we left it overnight?

Touchable Bubbles can be caught and stacked on top of each other. The question "why?" gives food for thought: what has been done to the bubble mixture? What are the properties of the bubbles? How could we make bubbles like these?

For Years 5 and 6, place cans of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke into a tank of water and ask the class to predict how the cans will float. The Diet Coke cans float higher because the liquid is less dense than the sugar-filled variety, but the answer is not the most important thing.

Next time you take a science lesson, ask yourself: "What will I do that will make children sit up, take notice and think creative thoughts?" As the Russian writer Kornei Chukovsky said: "The future belongs to those who do not rein in their imagination."

Rosemary Feasey is a science consultant


36mm film canisters; Alka-Seltzer; Coca-Cola and Diet Coke; Various fabrics; Intel computer microscope; Splob; Sponges; Tobar Touchable Bubbles

Further reading

* Chukovsky in Bernadette Duffy, Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years (OUP).

* Ginn New Star Science, Six Minute Science series (Harcourt Education)

* National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCE), All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education. Available from: www.artscampaign. org.ukcampaignseducationreport.html

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