With Science Fair season just around the corner, I thought I would post about some independent activities that you can use to get your students in the "experimentation" frame of mind.
Each year, my school holds NASA Night, where one scientific strand is highlighted. This year, our theme was "Light", with my particular topic being Light Refraction (sounds fancy, huh??). During this night, parents and students wander the school, from room to room, conducting easy, independent experiments and activities all designed to get them involved in scientific exploration.
While I realize that your school probably is not holding a NASA Night, these 4 activities I am going to tell you about can be done in your own classroom in about an hours time. If you set it up correctly, the students will be engaged and learning, working through the scientific process, and doing hands-on science, without a lot of intervention from you!
The Set Up
recording sheets, which you can see in the corner) were also color coded for easy of access. Of course, you don't have to rearrange your room like this (since you don't have hundreds of families coming through your room) but it did make it very easy for everyone to get to the experiments.
There were four experiments in total (with me doing the amazing "Disappearing Glass Trick" on the side). At each station, I had all of the materials needed as well as a scientific rationale for why each experiment worked. The recording sheets were fairly self-explanatory, so I really didn't have to do much in the way of helping out. If I did this solely with my class (since there *were* parents there), I would have explained them a bit more, but not much. Letting the kids explore the concepts is a great part of the learning here!
On each station, I had the rationale and scientific reasoning for WHY the experiment worked. So after each child filled out the recording sheet and put down their own thoughts, they then read the rationale to get a more scientific explanation.
Turning Arrow -- in this experiment, students draw an arrow on an index card. The, placing the index card behind the clear plastic cup, the arrow seems to turn around!
Rising Coin -- placing a penny at the bottom of a bowl (use a little sticky tape to keep it in place), then backing away, it appears that the coin disappears. If you then have a partner pour water into the bowl, the coin 'magically' seems to rise up so you can see it...however the coin never moves!
Magnification -- objects can be magnified because of the special properties of light and shape. This experiment helps the kids see how water and glass can magnify things.
Bending Light -- sticking a straight pencil into a clear plastic glass of water, the kids are able to see how the light moves through water and appears to "bend" the pencil.
Since many of these experiments use water, I would recommend having some of them (especially the rising coin) inside of a big tub. It will help to keep the water from going all over the place. The magnification one also doesn't need a ton of water, so you might want to just have a VERY small cup of water there.
So there you have it. I hope these give you some inspiration to conduct some simple experiments in your class. I know how intimidating science can be (trust me....it is intimidating for me!) but doing simple little things in your class can get the kids excited and actively engaged in this subject.