Science Activities | Interactive Science Teacher

“Letting Go” In Science Activities

Science demonstration-a balloon charged with static mysteriously attracts a ping pong ball! From science lesson 'Interactive Notes-Electricity'.

Science demonstration-a balloon charged with static mysteriously attracts a ping pong ball! From science lesson ‘Interactive Notes-Electricity’.

To your relief, none of my science activities will ask you to do every thing for every student. In fact, you’’ll notice a complete shift of who does what in my science activities. Students, not you, are the ones doing things. Your job is to stand back and make sure people do what they’re supposed to do, and the outcomes are what they’’re supposed to be. Then you can move in with dialogue when their minds are primed and ready. This method may be uncomfortable for you at first. But the rewards are worth it.

By handing over the best part of your science activities to students- the demonstration- you’re showing trust. Most students will respond to this by rewarding you (and themselves) with a higher level of maturity, and now everyone’’s winning. In my science activities your role is to give students enough clear instruction so they know what to do. But always leave some “play” room that they can use to discover things for themselves. Having come upon something amazing with their own hands, they will naturally go further and manipulate variables, enriching the discussion even more. Now that is real science.


This is an excerpt from the lesson- “Distant Forces


Science Activities Without Magic

While all of my science activities were designed to be purposeful and effective, they still won’’t magically teach themselves (but wouldn’’t that be nice if they did?). Teaching science activities is hard work, and there will never be a substitute for good preparation and your willingness to put your all into it. But the neat thing is that all that preparation will lead to something magical- the ability to connect with 30 students of varying backgrounds and ability.


What Busyness Does To Your Science Activities

Do you remember the magician from Frosty The Snowman? He was “busy, busy, busy!! That describes Americans today- always in a hurry trying to accomplish more than we have time for. But things done in a hurry are seldom done well, and that includes the science activities we do in our classrooms as well.

Being busy is not in itself a bad thing, and having more science activities than we have time for should theoretically result in a better learning environment, since we should be choosing to do the strongest lessons and disregarding the weaker ones; we’ll call this natural selection of lesson plans. But sometimes science activities are done just for the sake of doing them, and if most of what we’re “teaching” our students will soon be forgotten, then what’’s the point of even doing it?

My science activities take a more balanced approach. They don’’t try to go all directions at once, nor is it all fluff and fun. There is terminology and concepts, but my goal is also to develop the creative and practical part of each student’s mind. Each of my science activities stays steadily focused on just 1 thing or theme from beginning to end. And they tend to be simple and quiet so that your students can keep a sustained thought and actually have some room left over in their minds to think creatively and to explore.


Science Activities Without Magic

While all of my science activities were designed to be purposeful and effective, they still won’’t magically teach themselves (but wouldn’’t that be nice if they did?). Teaching science activities is hard work, and there will never be a substitute for good preparation and your willingness to put your all into it. But the neat thing is that all that preparation will lead to something magical- the ability to connect with 30 students of varying backgrounds and ability.


Science Activities That Reach Everyone

When you stop and think about it, teaching science activities is quite scary. You’’re standing in front of 30 students. Some are having a good day, others bad. You have varying attention spans to deal with (thanks in part to video games, television, and cell phones, and sugar). There are high and low achievers- a future ivy league student could be sitting next to a soon-to-be dropout. This realization is sobering and it reminds us who our science activities are supposed to serve, and how awesome our task is. And your task is to come up with an activity that will be meaningful to each and every one of these science students. Wow! (Don’t think about this too long because it will turn your attitude negative, and you’’ll convince yourself that you can’’t teach science activities).

So how in the world can you make “Plate Tectonics” or “DNA” meaningful to everyone? Begin by putting a good demonstration in their hands, which will pull them all in. The number of students who enjoy doing demonstrations is about the same as those who enjoy opening presents at Christmas. That leaves a door open for you to follow with a discussion to “hang” ideas and concepts all over that demonstration just like you were hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree.


Be Intentional In Your Science Activities

As you mentally prepare for each of your science activities, be intentional about everything. Nothing should happen by accident or by chance (at least not many things; science class should occasionally reflect real science and encounter surprises).

That’’s the beauty of the Yellow Sheet– almost nothing can sneak up on you. Using this method of planning for your science activities, you’’ll overlook no detail. It may sound like a lot of work and different from anything else you’’ve ever done, but if you often feel frustrated with what goes on in your room, try it for a week and see how it goes. You’’ll find that when you’’re intentional and not accidental, more will get done and the tone will be more positive.


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