Bringing Science Back!
This post is in response to the Blog Blast on Parent Bloggers Network.
How can you bring science back into the schools when there is so much teaching to the test? That is what a group of parents at our school wondered one day in November. Our answer? Create a science night for the kids at our school to have fun with science. This wasn’t a totally new idea as another school in our district had done one the previous year, but we decided to give it a try.
Our science night (which was actually this past Wednesday – had I known about this, I would have gotten the pictures for you to see!) had thirteen different experiments, fifteen local experts (parents of our students in most cases), science fair winners from the local middle school, a local weatherman with his Stromtracker truck, a representative from the hydroelectric dam, a NASA Ambassador, and a demonstration from the Physics department from the University of Texas. There was also a take-home experiment kit. We spent $675 on the entire event. It was well attended, too, with an estimated 350 kids and families attending (based on pizza sales).
Sound good to you? Give it a shot! Here are some guidelines to help you:
1.Give your group about eight to twelve weeks to plan. This will allow you time to gather your experts and have them commit. Get your PTA and administration on board (ours was a PTA project). Send notes home with the kids. You would be surprised how many parents or grandparents are amateur astronomers, entomologists, scientists, or geologists. Your local college might also have an outreach program that you can tap into. Don’t be afraid to ask! The middle schoolers who came displaying their science fair projects were excited to have another chance to show them off. Your local utility company might be interested in outreach. TV stations like to do stuff like this, too. Be creative!
2.Figure out what kind of volunteers you can get to work that evening and help gather supplies. Parents are always a plus, but don’t forget your local high school. Members of the Honor Society usually have to perform some sort of community service as part of a requirement. How many volunteers you have will have a direct bearing on #3.
3.Select your experiments. Some great online resources are zula.com, Bill Nye, and Steve Spangler. You need to consider cost, level of difficulty, age of the students, length of time (too long and the kids won’t wait, too short and it’s no fun) and material availability. Go for a WOW factor. Create procedure sheets for each one.
4.Choose your night and how long you want it to be. There is a lot to coordinate through your school, so be willing to be flexible. If you are having a demonstration, take that into consideration as it will mean less time for people to visit the experiments. The biggest complaint we had from our night was that the kids didn’t have enough time to do everything in one hour.
5.Gather your materials. Some things needed to be ordered online, so allow enough time for delivery. Most things we could get at Costco, Home Depot, or the grocery store. We anticipated 250 kids, but figured (correctly) that not each kid would be able to do each station. Each of our experiments had three stations to minimize waiting.
If it sounds easy, it really is. We did the bulk of the planning in four weekly planning sessions. Most of the stress came in the last two weeks when we were gathering supplies, but even that was minimal.
This is just a very, very brief overview of what we did. If you are interested in more specifics, I’m working on a mini-blog about it that will give all the details. Check back next Friday! Or leave a comment with an email contact, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
A science night like this is more than just fun for the kids. It brings science down to a level that is easy for them to relate to. It shows the kids that science is all around them everyday. And it shows them how important it is to understand how the world around them works.