Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Do Spring Scales Work?

Did you know that the spring scale got its name because it uses actual springs to measure mass/weight?

Okay, I'm not the most mechanically inclined person. Uh um...actually even the thought of visiting the furniture aisles at IKEA makes me shudder. But, I am interested in learning how things work. Chances are you and your kids are, too. ;)

So, here's how the spring scale works:
The more weight that is placed on the scale, the more the spring stretches. Up inside the scale's casing, a needle is attached to the spring. So, when the spring S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S, the needle also moves, and points to a particular weight reading. Basic mechanics that have served classroom science activities--and the whole world--well for ages!

Teachers, in your next simple machines lesson, whip out your old spring scale and talk about how it works!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hands-On Problem Solving Skills

Without hands-on problem solving skills, kids will never be able to get what they want in life.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Everyday Science Inquiry: Ask HOW Things Work

We don't need to be Einsteins to teach science inquiry to our kids. And, it doesn't even take much time. We can teach children to think like scientists by simply building smart science questions into our everyday conversations.

While shopping for a kitchen appliance at Target Saturday (yeah, that's how exciting my weekends are), I overheard something wonderful. A mom was pointing to each blender, slow cooker and food processor and asking her son "...and how do you think this one works?"

Wow, such a simple thing to do once in a while, and this question yields big benefits! It gets kids to wonder, think in terms of HOW and WHY, and get curious enough to figure out things for themselves. Plus, this is no ordinary thinking. It's the holy grail of thinking--that higher-order, critical thinking that all educators and parents dream they can inspire!

Even very young children are capable of beginning to think critically. (They can definitely manipulate stuff strategically to see how it works, too). The boy answering his mom's questions at Target was probably only 4-years old.

The same is true for my family. Like most toddlers, my 20-month old loves to take everything apart and try to put it back together. (This is why you should never visit my house unless you call ahead. We need time to shovel a path for you through the building blocks, bricks, Tupperware containers and unidentified objects.) And, believe it or not, my grandmother told us that when my dad was only 2-years old, he found a screwdriver and took off EVERY door knob in the house! (Hmm, insert family jokes here about screws being loose.)

Seriously though, kids of all ages are typically capable of more than you think they are. Keep your expectations lofty. Teach them to constantly ask themselves HOW and WHY. Then, their curiosity will take over, and they'll be begging to do some hands-on learning!