January 12th, 2010[Video] Games with Memory

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In this episode Cathleena teaches how to play a game that uses your memory. This game is not only fun but it also teaches you how to remember better and gives students an insight into how memory works.

December 1st, 2009[Video] Funnel Gravity Trick

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Roll funnels up hill with this great gravity trick that teaches about how forces work.

November 16th, 2009Can Crush

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Crush a drink can using just air pressure and learn the science of why it works!

November 8th, 2009Why should I care?

800px-Sleeping_studentsI don’t think there is a teacher in the world who hasn’t heard this question in one form or another. As cheeky as it ‘may’ have been intended, I still think it is a fair question. There are many reasons people are motivated to learn, but most can be boiled down to either interest or need. Children are no different, though whether or not they will need the information in the future is a little harder for them to determine.

Teaching interested children is easy but for those that are a little harder to crack, relevance is the key. If children can see that the subject matter relates to their life, it may increase their interest and if not, at least it will help them to see its usefulness. Try to embed your lessons in a real-life context whenever possible and preferably in the context of a child’s life. Children work on a different timeline and trying to get them to appreciate that they will need this info 15 years from now doesn’t mean much. Let’s be honest, would that mean much to you?

Even as adults after we have been trained to think into the future, do you really plan 15 years ahead? We are all busy with our lives and no one wants to take on more than we have to. Again children are no different, though their idea of busy may include computer games, jungle gyms and soccer training rather than lesson plans, yard duty and what to make for dinner (when you’ll have time to make the kids lunches)!

Incursion So, you’re planning a trip to the museum or you’re having someone come to the school to talk about astronomy. How can you make the most of this experience for your students? You have been very busy organising, booking a bus and getting parent permission but don’t forget the most important thing. This is still a learning experience. It may not be what you or your students are accustomed to, but informal learning situations have real advantages when combined with regular teaching. And this is the key, this is not a replacement for your skills as a teacher but an exciting environment for students to experience and explore their knowledge. Here are a few hints on how to get the most out of an excursion or incursion.

1) Know why you are doing it – You should approach an excursion/incursion differently depending on why you are doing it. Is it to get them excited about a topic, as a follow-up on a unit or as a reward for a term/year well done?

2) Prepare – This is where the ‘knowing why you are doing it’ part comes into play. If it is an introduction to a topic, try to discuss students’ prior ideas about the subject, then after you can discuss what was the same or different to what they previously thought. If it is a follow-up, then perhaps give the students’ a opportunity to delve deeper into the subject by asking some directed questions that they can explore during the session. And if it is as a reward, let them know that so they can feel a sense of accomplishment. Make sure you speak to someone about what will be happening in the session so you know what to discuss with the students. Also, it will help you be sure you are well equipped for an incursion and/or your students’ have everything they may need for an excursion.

3) Keep them informed – Make sure you spend some time with the students before the excursion/incursion to let them know what will happen. It is nice to have a surprise but if there are too many surprises the students can often focus too much on the differences to their normal routine rather than on the experience. This also avoids 30 children asking you the same questions over and over throughout the day!

4) Follow-up – This is very important! Your students have had some great experiences and this is a wonderful opportunity to talk about them so students can learn from each others experiences and so you can help them realise the day to day importance of their studies.

5) Breathe – It will all be over soon but your students will be talking about it for weeks, months and hopefully years!

October 28th, 2009Floating Bag

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An exciting way to demonstrate static electricity and charge with a balloon and a plastic bag.

October 25th, 2009Robots in the classroom?

Well, it seems that’s exactly where they need to be if they are ever going have the ability to learn and function on their own. New research into machine learning has pointed out a few important points about how children learn and how they do it better and faster than current robots. This research together with past contributions from the fields of psychology and neuroscience can help us to evolve our teaching styles. The main focus of the research (The paper is entitled ‘Foundations for a New Science of Learning’ by Meltzoff et al.) was on the social context in which humans learn. Within that social context humans are able to accelerate learning through imitation, empathy and shared attention. (Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c0/Animation2.gif)

Learning is social and it turns out that the social context of learning is one of the ways in which humans accelerate the learning process. By imitating others’ behaviours children learn faster than with individual discovery by trial and error. Empathy allows children to use observation to create first person knowledge, by observing a person “like me” they can learn from their actions instead of directly. This also works in the other direction as well where children can interpret behaviours and experiences of others by using themselves as a model.  Neuroscience has identified that links in the brain occur between perception and action, perhaps allowing this process or as a result of it. Either way there is a close coupling between self and others wired into our brains. Social learning also requires shared attention on an object or task, which allows for communication and social learning and teaching.

But what does this mean for our classrooms?

Make learning social and try to incorporate a social aspect into individual tasks. For example, a discussion or question period.

Demonstrate tasks to help students grasp causal relationships more quickly.

Children are empathetic and understand that their behaviours and actions are similar to others. Having children discuss their experiences will help them gain insight from their classmates. Also, having children work together on a task gives them the shared attention and social outcomes that allow them to learn from each other.

Face to face tutoring is the most effective way of teaching, but no teacher has this luxury. Try pairing students up to achieve a similar outcome (put more advanced children with those that might be having difficulties understanding concepts).
Find ways to incorporate informal learning into your lessons. Informal learning is often highly social and harnesses children’s natural curiosity to enhance learning

Many multi-disciplinary research can have a profound impact on seemingly unrelated fields. Turns out there is a lot of science in teaching too!

October 21st, 2009Building Blocks Video

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In this episode Cathleena talks about atoms and molecules as the building blocks of chemisty using play dough atoms to illustrate the structure of molecules.

With Halloween just around the corner why not channel some of their sugar fuelled excitement into a creative science lesson!

Use your pumpkin as a science lesson!

Use your pumpkin as a science lesson!

Children are imagining all manner of monsters and goblins that they could be to scare the treats out of their neighbours. All you need to do is give them a little structure and you have an instant biology lesson that you can easily cater to any age group from kindergarten to Yr 6.

Have your students brainstorm monsters.

Whether real (Komodo Dragon) or imagined.

Discuss with your students what it means to be a living thing.

What do all living things do?

Have your students create their own monster. Tie it into your art lesson and have them, draw, cut, mold or paint their creatures. But be sure that their monsters are living, ie. they need to be able to describe/show you how their creature can eat, breathe, poop etc.

And don’t forget about plants, there are some scary monstrous plants out there too, not just the Venus Flytrap!

Click here for some other great Halloween lesson ideas.

October 13th, 2009Protein Origami

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This episode we show you how to create a origami frog and how it can be used as a model to explain how protein folding works.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

© 2009 What is the Science?