At last June's AllAffiliate Network meeting, the handson science and math sessions provided me with insight into a variety of activities that promote youth's interest in science, math, engineering and technology. Thanks to the Network's handson science and math grant and to Kelly Wedding, the Network's online activities consultant, we developed a series of eight workshops on the theme of electricity and magnetism. Kelly helped us engage youth in developing their own projects, allowing them to be active in the learning process.
The Electricity and Magnetism workshops were given in two different sites during the summer of 1995 and, in October, at three new sites: an afterschool program at the Beacon Independent School (IS) 8, another at a Saturday program at IS 92, and the third at a homework helptutorial program at Walton's Pond, a local community agency developed by Senator Walton.
The IS 8 group was very diverse, first through six graders. We found that Kelly's recommendation to try to work with a more homogeneous group was a good one, but despite our difficulties with the age range, the group did give a direct affirmation of how good, challenging, and fun handson activities can be.
At first the IS 8 group was not at all enthusiastic about doing science. They had been in school all day and prior to my arriving were in a homework help and tutoring class. Did I mention that I began at 4:30? "Wow! what a day," (this is what their facial expressions and body language were communicating), "and now science! You gotta be nuts!!" Under these conditions especially, "fun" is key to learning. The simple project I introduced ¾ making a miniature light bulb light with battery and wire ¾ fascinated them and totally captured their attention.
The goal of Reap & Keep's SMET workshops is to stimulate interest and awareness of science, math, engineering and technology in the context of everyday life. What can be more stimulating than doing something and having fun doing it? We try to involve our youth in "doing" and "exploring." In our workshops, based upon discovery and investigation, youth formulate their own questions and answers, and engage in critical thinking and problem solving. Reap & Keep has always been more concerned with what a child can do than with what a child knows. Although telecommunications was not an integral part of the workshop content (in fact, the yoth didn't use computers at all), the series could not have been developed and implemented without the CTCNet telecommunications support, so I see this as a real benefit of being in this network.
The work that we undertook with help from Kelly and CTCNet is continuing. By early March we hope to have developed more sets of thematic materials, each consisting of eight workshop sessions. All workshops are handson and in the great majority of them, young people make something that they can take home. We expect to be reporting on the SMET project at the CTCNet AllAffiliates Conference in June, and will be happy to share our materials with any other affiliates interested. The themes are:
SOUND To investigate and understand sound, youth make a loudspeaker, hearing aid, model eardrum and vocal cords. Grades 3-6.
FOOD CHEMISTY Using physical and chemical tests, participants determine some of the major nutrients found in eight familiar foods. They test for starch, glucose, fat and protein. Grades 4-6.
LIFE CYCLE OF BUTTERFLIES Participants observe how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly and learn how transformation is a characteristic of living things. Grades 2-4.
LIGHT, VISUAL OPTICS, KALEIDOSCOPE Youth explore the properties of light, its relationship to color, and learn to shape light. Grades 3-6.
GLOBE KIT Using an 8" globe, students calculate Earth measurements, solve astronomy problems, and investigate seismology. Grades 4 and up.
BALLOON PHYSICS Balloon activities demonstrate gravity, density, static electricity, propulsion, sound, friction and air pressure. Children use straws to make bridges, spaceships, vehicles. Grades K-4.
TECHNOLOGY Activities designed by the Children's Museum of Boston use common materials for designing and building amazing structures. Children experience force, inertia, and gravity. Grades 5-8.
LOGIC CIRCUITS Logic circuits are built and embedded in a range of toys. Kids use materials such as aluminum foil, batteries, and an LED (Light Emitted Diode). Grades K-6.
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