Friday, February 22, 2008

Science for Small People

In theory, the building blocks of science can be learned in the preschool classroom with such things as bugs, baking ingredients, wooden boards, marbles, straws, and magnetic sand. Oh, a little PVC piping is useful too.

I spent two hours yesterday evening in a workshop put on by Vancouver's Science World called Big Science for Little Hands that is directed at people like me who would like to teach science to small and very, very curious people.

It was one of those free, fun, hands-on events that encourage grown-ups to crawl around on the floor rolling things down ramps, dabble our hands in goop, manipulate marbles around in paint, and blow at things through straws until we're all decidedly light-headed.

I have to say that although I had fun, I didn't come away with any brand new ideas--my workplace is already all over alternative uses for salad-spinners and we know how to make a mean baking- soda-and-vinegar volcano too.

However, I'll have to look into buying some very cool sand that I had fun playing with there. You put it in water where it makes interesting lava-like formations....and when you scoop it out of the water it's dry to the touch.

It's like magic!

Um, I mean, science.

Apparently each grain of sand is coated with some sort of waxy chemical substance that repels water... today's word, children, is "hydrophobic"!

Can you say that? I knew you could! :)

There was some interesting conversation going on in the room too. For instance, one woman recalled being given liquid mercury to play with in the classroom when she was a child, Another person remembered that too. Apparently, this was in the seventies. Er, when exactly did people find out that you probably should not play with mercury? Anybody know?

Anyway, the powers that be in the early childhood licencing world have recently tripled the amount of professional development hours we need to keep our teaching licence from twelve to forty hours. So, when any free workshop comes along to help me get my needed hours, I'm usually there.

Even if it's the most yawning-est academic lecture that can be: sample title "Beyond the Discourse of Quality to the Discourse of Meaning Making". (I didn't make that up, by the way).

If a workshop promises to interesting and even *gasp* fun, and has little bowls of jelly-beans scattered around the room for our sugar-high pleasure, I'm definitely there.

Now if only Bill Nye had been there and we'd gotten to blow something up....


JLee said...

Bill Nye is my hero! ha
I am not a big science buff, but this does sound like a lot of fun...

BostonPobble said...

This sounds great!

And I, too, was given liquid mercury to play with in school with the admonition to "try not to touch it with our bare hands" and then sent to wash up afterwards. Ummm...right. This was 1978 or '79.

How did we ever survive those times?

angel, jr. said...

Science is fun!!

Jocelyn said...

I love that this is your goal. My son is CRAZY for science junk, so we're always doing "conspiriments." Just today I was marveling at how every household needs PVC pipe.

You can make lenses out of Jell-o, you know, by pouring the Jell-o into any ladle or convexy shaped item in the kitchen to mold.

グラント said...

That's what I like about science - figuring out what combines with what to form an explosion. Jellybeans are nice too, except for the licorice ones. They make me want to blow stuff up.

Tai said...

"Beyond the Discourse of Quality to the Discourse of Meaning Making".

I could come over and blow something up. It'll probably be my car.

Ms.L said...

Hee I used to play with mercury too,actually breaking open the thermometer to get at it;p

My kids love Science World,even my too cool for the room 14 year old!
Sounds like a wonderful fun day:)
I need some of that sand just to try it out!

SSC said...

Sounds like so much fun. I sometimes forget how the world must be though a child' view. When I am feeling better I think I might have my children play in goop and other fun stuff and teach a science lesson making cookies.

Pol* said...

Bill Nye - Bill Nye - Bill Nye!!!!

I recorded some of his shows onto VHS off a bad reception TV antenae. Terrible quality, but I still enjoy his outrageous lessons in S-C-I-E-N-C-E!!!! He hits it from every angle until you are sure to understand.

I want to go to that workshop too, ramps, marbles, GOO. It sounds like a grand time to me.