Compiled by Megan Noonan
Science is all around us and sometimes we don’t even realize we are using it. We take for granted that water comes out of the faucet when we turn it on, that a light switch turns our light on and that the sun will come up in the morning. How do we teach our kids about science and introduce it to them in a fun way? Some local organizations have some great ideas.
Chain Reaction Machines
Young inventors can design their very own chain reaction machines. Known as Rube Goldberg machines, the device is deliberately designed to perform a simple task in a complicated way. The chain reaction machine will always have a task to complete such as popping a balloon. Once a task is identified, kids can develop and draw a design on paper, build their machine and test it. Didn’t work the first time? Not to fret, says Dr. Shawn Jordan, ASU associate professor of engineering. “Failure is not something to avoid, it’s an opportunity for learning,” he says. “Students are able learn what doesn’t work, change their design, and learn what does work.” Let children get creative. Give them a pile of “junk” to build a chain a reaction sequence – candy, marshmallows, wooden spoons, string, straws and bowls, anything that helps them create a reaction sequence to accomplish the task.
Meenah Rincon, Media Relations & Strategic Communications at Arizona State University
Find Science in Everyday Life
We need more women involved with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Of all STEM fields, the “E” (engineering) has the fewest women. Girls in elementary school already have the right mindset for STEM: they’re curious, aren’t afraid to ask questions, enjoy working with others, like to use their imaginations, and love making things. We can inspire girls to explore a future in engineering by showing them how STEM subjects are interesting and can help people lead better lives. Help her see that STEM is everywhere. Play a game to spot science and engineering in our everyday lives. Next time she’s taking pictures, editing a video, looking at the night sky, or even baking a tasty treat, remind her there’s science behind all those activities—and encourage her to embrace her inner engineer and inspire others to do the same!
Heather Thornton, Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications at Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council
Roots and Shoots
By now, we’ve all heard about STEM. It seems to be everywhere we are turn. As a mother of a four-year-old little boy, I am fortunate to have professional experiences working with PBS KIDS and local Arizona Technology Council Foundation – SciTech Festival to help teach me how to bring STEM focused play into my home. PBS KIDS PLUM LANDING is a digital project produced by WGBH rich in STEM based resources to help kids learn about the environment and inspire them to be caretakers of the planet. Their activity Roots and Shoots helps teach kids about how plants rely on their roots, stems and leaves to store water. Just grab a few household materials – sponges, paper and paper plates, and let the learning (and fun) begin. Download the free curriculum and instructions to this activity at http://to.pbs.org/1FSvzyP.
Meg Noonan, Marketing and Communication Strategist at Arizona Technology Council Foundation
With the countless advancements in computer science education in elementary, middle and high schools across the country, it’s likely your child has already started learning to code in some capacity. And getting them more familiar with the way our digital world operates will be extremely beneficial for their future career, regardless of what field they end up in. Though it might not demand as much direct interaction between parent and child, working through an online coding course with your youngster can be a great way to get them more interested in computer science, and they will love showing you their accomplishments. Code.org has some great one-hour programs in the “Hour of Code” section on their website. If your child already likes video or computer games, have them build one from scratch and you can test it (just don’t beat their high score!).
Lauren Witte from Arizona Technology Council + Girls in Tech Phoenix
Kids love to create experiments and mix things up at home. Here are a few easy activities for parents to do with their children at home:
Glop is neither a solid nor a liquid – it’s somewhere in between, and it’s loads of fun! Pour ¼ cup water into a bowl. Measure ½ cup cornstarch. Add the cornstarch a little at a time to the water while stirring. Keep mixing until the glop is mixed together. Add food coloring to give your glop some color. Store it in a plastic bag.
You can make invisible ink with lemon juice. Squeeze juice from a fresh lemon into a cup. Take a toothpick and wet the tip in the lemon juice. Use the toothpick as a pen and the lemon juice as the ink. Write a message. Let the paper dry. Warm the paper over a lamp bulb to see your secret message.
Find out how salt water and fresh water are different. To make salt water, mix 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of salt until the salt is completely dissolved. Do experiments with both to determine which: boils first, freezes first, makes crystal, makes better soapsuds, and makes floating easier.
Marian Frank, Associate Director of Public Affairs for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
Another great way to introduce kids to science is to attend science-themed events. The Arizona SciTech Festival is hosting more than 1,500 science friendly events, state wide, throughout the months of February and March. To find upcoming events in your area, visit www.azscitech.com.