Showy Science

I love Science. I even enjoy a bit of showy science now and then – mostly just as a hook or interest point to kick start the engagement process at an open day or orientation event or Science celebration. We’ve been known to do Dragon’s Breath, methane bubbles, dry ice bombs, liquid nitrogen icecream and even explode milo tins inside the classroom…

This is fun, interest-grabbing stuff. But it’s not an every lesson event. It’s the delicious dessert at the end of a hearty meal. And I don’t know how it could be called “STEM” when it is only showy science.

If you want a ‘mind-blowing experiment for STEM learners’ why don’t you try an Australian Curriculum aligned inquiry task like one of the below, that integrates maths, science, engineering and technology:

8 Science: explore energy changes by building a Rube Goldberg machine. Design and construct at least 8 energy changes and calculate the kinetic or gravitational potential energy the object has.

8 Science: design and build your own calorimeter to test, measure and compare the energy content of foods and contrast with the nutritional labels.

9 Science: design and build an earthquake proof building that can survive the automatic shaking provided by a robotic shake table engineered by the class.

9 Science: save the beach from an acid spill by exploring methods to clean up and guarantee the safety of the site. Produce an instructional video for the fire department hazchem team on how to clean up acid spills.

10 Science: explore safety and motion through crash test dummies /egg-astronauts. Calculate the forces and velocities and accelerations, design a safety contracption, test your device and report.

We do all of these with our students in our science lessons. We add to the tasks each year, further integrating mathematical skills, design processes and technological components. Students collaborate, employ problem solving and critical thinking and creativity, are engaged, learn lots and still have fun. They’re not perfect tasks, but like all good teachers we continue to work at them towards continuous improvement – a teacher’s work is never done!

I’ll keep the showy science for later…

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