New beginnings: sticks, hubcaps and bright lights

Leading science sessions in Marrickville was tougher than I had expected. I am glad I took the opportunity when offered, and I have learned a lot for next time. This term I decided to scale back, but nevertheless I couldn’t resist setting up another small group in Manly. It’s aimed at pre-school to about Year 2 but it’s ended up being skewed towards the younger end.

We’ve started off with some fun sessions which involved plenty of sticks brought in from outside. What is it with little kids and sticks? In my family, any walk along the Esplanade usually results in at least one stick being brandished dangerously close to stranger’s heads and later stuffed into the back of Princess’s pram.

For our beginning science sessions I welcomed sticks: the children were asked to bring in between 5 and 10 items to sort into three categories: living or biological (hence the sticks); natural but non-biological (e.g. rocks) and human-made (e.g. a hubcap, which one child found on the way to our apartment). Each child has had at least one turn to present their collection and decide which box to put each item in. They brought along some beautiful items. The children have largely been very patient while their friends were talking and sorting.

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Last session we did a cutting and pasting activity where the children made little folders and sorted pictures into the relevant category. We added on a table for Plant Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and talked about the characteristics of plants and animals.

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I’m still learning the best way to offer these activities. Next time I run these classes, I would add each cutting and pasting session after the relevant activity, to reinforce what they have already learned, and so they don’t get too confused with different categories. But I hadn’t even designed the folders at the start of term! I also need to include differentiation to maintain interest for the one older child in our group.

It was lovely to hear the conversations the children had as they were cutting and sticking. They stayed focussed for a very long time, especially given their age. One child was sad that he didn’t have time for playing before leaving. In previous sessions we have had about 45 mins doing directed activities and 45 mins free play. I think it is important that they get that free time – and clearly they do too! These classes are a work in progress and I am happy to see what works and make changes as we go. We are looking forward to a guided visit to Kur-rin-gai Wildflower Garden later in the term, and I hope we can buy a ‘creature kit’ soon, to observe firsthand the life-cycle of insects such as butterflies.

lightbulbs

Despite illnesses attacking both our families, Drama King and his friend are still just about carrying on with their little science club. These are both Year 3 age who have been working together for about two years, and we are all very comfortable with each other’s interests and abilities. For this term’s topic of Electricity, I got out a kit complete with mini lightbulbs (globes) and wires with crocodile clips. Inspired by a recent article on MindShift, I deliberately gave them very few instructions before letting them experiment with the equipment. Both children found the crocodile clips tough to open and close but persevered. The first circuit they built had the batteries in different alignment. Eventually, and with some gentle help, they were able to build complete, working circuits, and then work out how different arrangements (e.g. series or parallel circuits) affected the brightness of the lights.

Our next session will be making batteries out of food (lemons, pickled cucumbers etc.). We’re going to go on to do various activities with static electricity and we might also get hold of some switches and buzzers and send messages to each other in Morse Code. There’s so much scope, but, as always, I will follow their interests.

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