Teaching science to children is an absolute passion of mine. It was my specialist subject at university, where I was taught by an amazing lady called Hellen Ward. Her interactive lessons were a total inspiration and have formed the basis for my beliefs about teaching science.
Science is all around us, we are made of science, the cells that form us, the air that we breathe, the food we eat, the transport we drive…all science. If we use this ‘every day’ context to teach science to our children, then it is no longer viewed as a scary world of scientists in white coats, making experiments and explosions and it becomes accessible and easy to understand.
By starting from the point that the learner is at, with things that are familiar to them, we build on their knowledge and avoid many of the misconceptions that even adults hold, because they were not allowed to explore science for themselves. The best way to find out where a child is with their knowledge of a concept, is to ask them! Write it down so that you can identify any misunderstandings and gaps in their knowledge, as well as seeing for yourself what they already know. You might be surprised!
One of the best things about science is the questions it generates, and, by its very nature, it will often generate more questions than answers. The beauty of science is that we don’t have all the answers and by empowering children to investigate science and observe for themselves, we are encouraging a generation who are not only confident in questioning how things are, but also able to offer ingenious and useful solutions to problems.
As you have probably guessed, science is a common theme in the work we do at The Do Try This at Home School and narrowing down a selection of experiments for this page has been tough, so I have asked the children to do it for me. There are plenty more things to try on my social media pages, so why not look there too.
Sweets are always a good medium to use when trying to engage people in scientific enquiry! The skittles experiment is a simple and pretty experiment to start with and offers opportunities to talk about how the sweets are made, where the colours are coming from, why sugar dissolves and why the ‘S’ remains floating on the top of the water.
Other things you might talk about is how real rainbows are made, how we see colour, what happens when we mix colours, the importance of a balanced diet and the effect sugar can have on our teeth.
You will need:
White bowls or plates with high sides to prevent flooding!
Packets of Skittles
Place the skittles onto the plate or into the bowl. You can place them around the edges or in whatever arrangement you wish.
Pour on cold water until the sweets are just submerged.
Watch what happens. Be careful not to knock the experiment.
Talk about what is happening.
You can repeat this experiment with different types of sweets, we tried Smarties and M&M’s too, to see which types of sweets made the best rainbow.
You could also see if the temperature of the water has an effect. In warmer water the molecules are moving faster as they have more energy, therefore the rainbows should appear more quickly and the sweets should dissolve faster.
Popping candy balloons
Another sweet shop science experiment for you!
You will need:
Small bottles of fizzy pop (Diet coke works well)
A funnel (You can make one of these by carefully cutting the top off a plastic bottle. Ask an adult to help you.)
Using your funnel tip a packet of popping candy into your balloon.
Unscrew the lid of your fizzy pop bottle and carefully place your balloon over the opening without tipping in the popping candy!
Once you are sure that your balloon is securely on the bottle neck and its not going to fly off, hold the balloon upright, tipping the candy into the fizzy drink.
Watch what happens in the liquid and then to the balloon.
What reactions are happening? What is the gas being released called? What would happen if you did the same to a bottle of water?
You could try this experiment with all sorts of fizzy drinks to find the one which is most reactive. (Which one makes the biggest balloon?)
Don’t forget to recycle your bottles!
From popping candy to popping corn. This experiment is one that needs adult supervision!
You will need:
An empty metal drinks can
Craft knife or scissors
Wire to suspend the can from or a metal tripod that you have in school science labs
3 tea lights
Ask an adult to carefully cut a door into your metal drinks can. This should be cut on three sides to leave a flap attached at the top. (See video for how it should look).
Make your suspension cable or metal tripod. We hung ours from a hook in our kitchen.
Place three tea lights on the plate.
Into your can add a knob of butter and a table spoon full of popping corn.
Suspend the can over the tea lights.
Use a match to ignite the tea lights.
Stand back and watch what happens!
Ask an adult to gather the popcorn in a bowl and sprinkle on a little sugar.
Eat your delicious popcorn.
Film Canister Rocket
This is an experiment that was sent to us in a brilliant box of goodies from Professor Bubble Works. It’s quite an explosive reaction, so once you have set it up, stand clear and maybe wear some goggles! Adult supervision recommended.
You will need:
1 film canister or pot of similar size with easily removable lid. (Not a screw top).
Paper/ pencils/ scissors and sticky tape to decorate.
Turn your film canister upside down and use paper and pencils to decorate your rocket and make a cone for the top, (which is the bottom of the canister!) See video for example.
Find a plate to use as a launch pad.
Half fill your canister with water.
Blue tac ¼ of an alka-seltzer tablet to the inside on the lid and carefully place the lid on the canister.
Stand your canister on its lid on the plate and STAND BACK! Do not be tempted to touch it now.
Wait for your rocket to launch into space!!
There are lots of scientific ideas you could discuss with this experiment, including looking at the forces acting upon the canister, the gas which is released during the reaction, what would happen if you tried again with warmer water? And how do real rockets launch into space?