How do I make the most out of my students’ time in school? I’m a substitute teacher!
On Friday afternoons, I am responsible for supervising a group of fifth grade students waiting for their buses to be called. We usually get about 25 minutes together, and I was often looking for ways to keep this period of time productive, fun and manageable. I am a lover of science, and I knew my students were too, so this seemed like the best direction to head in. But, I had a problem; as a substitute my days often involve moving from class to class with only a bag. This meant my science plans had to be small, flexible and accommodating for little set-up or clean-up time. So, after using a couple of Educational Innovationsscience products in my college class, I had a plan. On-the-go science with one Boi!nk.
What is a Bo!nk?
Bo!nks are plastic woven tubes about five inches long. When compressed on a surface, such as a desk or your hand, and then let go, the Bo!nk shoots through the air!
How did I use it?
I started off by displaying the Bo!nk to one of my students. I demonstrated how they could use it and encouraged them to experiment with it. Students who were usually consumed with conversation began to take notice. Slowly, one by one, my students were pulling up their chairs to figure out what this thing was. They each took a turn with it and experimented with the ways they could shoot it up in the air, who could make it go the farthest, what would happen if they compressed it this much or that much, and so on. Conversations began to arise with investigative thinking and I started to fill-in some of their questions. I was able to discuss the concept of potential elastic energy with my students and relate it to the Bo!nk they were all so fascinated with. Despite it being a short activity, it was incredibly rewarding to see my students engaging with introductory levels to NGSS standards such as 4-PS3-4 & 3-5-ETS1-3 action-reaction concepts and MS-PS3-5 presenting their own experimental evidence on why their methods of compression worked the best. It is exciting to know that if I bring this Bo!nk back to their classroom, they will have the prior knowledge of potential energy to discuss energy conversion, in this case to kinetic energy. And, they had fun! My students, who often sat in small, separated groups, antsy to leave school, had gathered with me due to their own interest. What may not be traditionally seen as a science lesson became a great groundwork to build on.
I keep this Bo!nk in the front pocket of my backpack and have a Reaction Rocket packed for our next mini-lesson. I appreciate how something so small can make such a difference, both engaging and providing hands-on activities for my learners. In 25 minutes, and with one plastic tube, my students began to build their knowledge in energy. My on-the-go science bag is ready for the next opportunity, no matter how short or small.
As anyone in the culinary world will tell you, presentation is everything. World famous restaurants with multiple Michelin stars put as much effort into presentation as they do in preparing the food.
Science teachers could learn something from chefs. I’m not talking about adding flashy multimedia and explosions. The goal isn’t to entertain… but to take a few extra steps that will help our students stay involved. How do we do that?
A great place to start is integration. Science teachers think about science. What if we begin to think of ways to bring in social studies, reading, writing, and math to help with the presentation of our science lessons? What if a meaningful project could allow students to apply their new learning in myriad areas? Let me give you an example.
The movie Star Wars relied greatly on a mystical ability called “the Force.” You can’t see it. It’s an invisible energy that interacts with everything around it. A little green guy named Yoda uses this mystical “Force” to move objects around. Intriguing, sure, but it’s just Hollywood special effects. However, thanks to science—and Sir Isaac Newton—we know that force is a real thing in our world. In fact, we use it every day. (And we don’t even need to summon Yoda!)
Science really is everywhere – even in a strawberry patch! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
I’m afraid of lunch ladies. They’re intimidating. I guess you need to be if you’re dealing with hundreds of hungry kids in a small cafeteria. As a kid, I usually kept my head down and brown-bagged it (unless it was pizza day). I didn’t want to do anything to upset the ladies who ran the lunchroom. I carried that fear with me even after I became a teacher.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: students retain more when they can see, hear, and touch what they’re learning about. And when the topic is science, there’s PLENTY of opportunities for hands-on exploration! That’s the essential nugget of why we created our Surprising Science for Kids series: to give students a learning experience they won’t forget.