SENSATIONAL SCIENCE: DO IT YOURSELF
By Bernadette Verzosa
Eager eyes follow Judy Matthews around the classroom. “The kids look at me like I’m a magician,” she says, holding ping-pong balls and a hair dryer. Her other intriguing materials include toilet paper, a beach ball and a leaf blower.
Matthews is a preschool science teacher at Houston’s Westminster Weekday Schools. This lesson is on wind movements. Instead of opening up a textbook, she suspends the ping-pong ball mid-air with puffs from the hair dryer. Instead of drawing diagrams on the chalkboard, she keeps the beach ball afloat with gusts from the leaf blower.
Her grand finale: shreds of toilet paper blown up above. “It’s a big mess and the kids go absolutely bananas,” Matthews says. “I’ll use big words and I’ll tell them about Bernoulli’s Principle. It’s a big concept but I’ll throw it out there. One day when they’re older they’ll get it. Right now, they’ll just say â€˜That is so cool! That is so awesome!’ They’ll just take away that wind moves air. They’ll take away that science is a blast, that science is not boring,” Matthews says.
She seems to be getting her message across. 4-year-old Gemma Huang says, “It’s fun. The air helped the balls float in the air,” she says. “Miss Matthews says science is everywhere.”
Asked about science, 4-year-old Leo Hanson says, “I love it!”
His mother, Theresa Hanson, elaborates, “Leo rarely talks about school, but he is always ready to discuss science and how much he loves it. All these kids love her. She really makes a big impact on them!”
Kellie Dietert, Director of Westminster Weekday Schools, continues with praise from her perspective. “Judy Matthews is an amazing teacher. She is able to captivate children with hands on experiments about nature, solutions, mixtures and so much more,” she says.
THE STEVE SPANGLER SCIENCE REVOLUTION
Matthews is using techniques conceptualized by the world-renowned science author, teacher and professional speaker Steve Spangler. Matthews trained to become an ambassador of Steve Spangler Science, a hands-on teaching approach that’s creative, interactive and fun.
Spangler began his career in the classroom. As a teacher, he demonstrated an extraordinary knack for explaining science concepts in exciting, unconventional and unforgettable ways. At first, he travelled around the country presenting student workshops. As his popularity grew, he started hosting teacher workshops that focused on inspiring students. “I came to the realization that I can show teachers these techniques to engage kids, and we can have a bigger impact. Their enthusiasm is what transfers over to the kids,” he says. “Judy Matthews is passionate about science. That’s the contagious part. That’s what makes her so good.”
Today, Spangler has millions of followers around the globe. Educators, parents and students have instant access to his science projects from their homes, thanks to the Internet. He is so popular, YouTube gave him his own YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/thespanglereffect.
He has appeared on many television shows, including the Ellen DeGeneres show.
“Never before have parents been so involved with their children’s education. It’s a personal challenge for them. Parents are hungry for fun ideas to stimulate their kids’ interest in science,” he says.
SCIENCE PROJECTS AT YOUR HOME
Courtesy of Steve Spangler and Judy Matthews
Matthews starts each science experiment by reading a story. “What I like to add to Steve Spangler’s science experiments is a book. What I do differently is I like to connect literature with science especially at young ages. Literature needs to be included in every aspect,” she says.
Matthews also engages students in conversation during the experiments. “This gets their minds working. They are thinking. No one has a right or wrong guess. I tell them scientists also guess,” she says. “I try to make them feel comfortable in the scientific method. I try to make them feel free to make predictions and make estimates. I’m doing everything I can possibly do to help them become innovative thinkers. That’s the basis of who I am as a teacher.”
Here are five science experiments you can do at home. Materials can be found in local grocery stores, hardware stores, or online at www.stevespanglerscience.com.
SCIENCE EXPERIMENT #1: SPINNING PENNY or SPINNING HEX NUT
(1) BOOK: Where do balloons Go? by Jamie Lee Curtis
(2) Latex Balloon
(3) Hex Nut or Penny
Science Concept: CENTRIPITAL FORCE
(1) Insert the hex nut or penny inside a clear latex balloons
(2) Blow up the balloon.
(3) Swirl the balloon in a circular motion.
(4) Observe how the penny or hex nut spins in orbit inside.
(5) Listen to the sound it makes, and how the pitch varies with the speed of the object inside the balloon.
SCIENCE EXPERIMENT #2: QUICKSAND GOO
(1) BOOK: Quicksand BY Tomie dePaola
Science Concepts: VISCOSITY & NON-NEWTONIAN FLUIDS. The mixture has special qualities. It sometimes acts like a solid. But like quicksand, when there’s a stressor force applied, it will act like a liquid.
(1) Mix a 16 oz. box of cornstarch with 1-2 cups of water.
(2) Use your hands to play with the mixture.
(3) Observe that if you try to pick up the mixture, it will run through your hands. If you rub it between your hands, you can make a ball.
*Dispose in the trash. This mixture could clog up the drain.
SCIENCE EXPERIMENT # 3: POLYMERS
(1) BOOK: Little Blue and Little Yellow By Leo Lionni
(2) Polymers (Absorbent Colored Crystals)
(5) Baby Soda Bottle or Test Tube
Science Concept: SUPER ABSORBING POLYMER
(1) Put polymers in a bowl.
(2) Add water.
(3) Observe the size of polymer crystals.
(4) Check after 4 hours and observe how much water has been absorbed, and the size of polymers.
(5) Check after 24 hours, observe how much larger polymers have become.
(6) Place enlarged polymers in baby soda bottle or test tube to observe.
SCIENCE EXPERIMENT # 4: COLOR MIXING
(1) The book, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
(2) Primary Color Gels: Yellow, Red and Blue
(3) Zipper lock Sandwich Bag
Science Concepts: COLOR BLENDING & RAINBOWS
(1) Mix the color gels in the sealed plastic bag.
(2) Squeeze and squish gels to make different shades.
(3) Observe the colors created by swirling and squeezing the shades, and how the mixture often ends up BROWN in the end.
SCIENCE EXPERIMENT # 5: ENERGY STICK
(1) BOOK: Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire
(2) Steve Spangler Energy Stick
(3) You, your child, friends
ELECTRICTY, CONDUCTORS, OPEN & CLOSED CIRCUITS
(1) Have one child hold one end of the stick.
(2) Have another child hold the other end of the stick.
(3) Observe how the energy stick lights up, and makes a noise when the children hold each other’s hands, making a closed circuit.
(4) Observe how the energy stick does not work when the children do not hold hands, breaking the circuit.