Scientists in Schools – Term 3 2012

I had another visit to my partner primary school this week which was loads of fun. The lead up however involved quite a bit more thinking and planning than I anticipated. I was visiting the prep class and the teacher told me that their science topic for this term was ‘animals’. I’m finding it quite difficult to think of experiments and demonstrations that are appropriate for 5 year olds, especially related to animals. They really need hands-on learning at this age. My first thoughts for a science experiment related to animals was a dissection, in particular a squid dissection. I thought this would be a good choice, given that squid don’t have blood, and very few organs, yet still have interesting features like the beak and ink sac. It’s also likely that many of the kids would’ve eaten squid before. Anyway, as great as I thought this idea was, it was vetoed by the teacher because of the paperwork required to do a dissection at the school (really, Education Department!? DISAPPOINT).

So moving on from the dissection idea, I’d seen some footage of a science class on Catalyst, of a demonstration of how yabbies breathe underwater. You place some food dye in the water in front of them, and can then see the dyed water filter through the yabby’s gills. Great idea, right? WRONG. Turns out it’s not yabby season and there are no yabbbies to be found. Thankfully I can say that the old cliché ‘third time lucky’ came through for me this time. My colleague recently acquired a couple of spiny leaf insects as office pets. I managed to get hold of an adult female, and took her in for show and tell. The kids loved it, and I let them keep her as a class pet – although they already have a bird – so I hope they keep them apart! After a Q&A session about the insect, most of the kids wanted to have a hold (there were a couple of resisters) and I was really impressed with their bravery. I have to admit that when I first picked it up, I thought it was pretty creepy and weird. After everyone became acquainted with the insect (who has since been christened ‘Sticky’) we did a bug walk around the school grounds, looking for insects, spiders and other creepy crawlies. At first it surprised me that the teachers were happy to let 30 or so preps run wild around the school looking for bugs, but I guess they’re not going to go anywhere. Can’t wait to go back next term when I’ll be visiting one of the older classes.

postscript. I’ve always had a small (or large) amount of disdain for children, but damn, these preps are adorable. I can’t resist when one of them comes up and holds my hand, it melts my cold, cold heart. Stupid biological clock.

New Directions

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, so I’ve decided that it’s time to take things in a new direction.

Over a year ago now, one of my colleagues gave a presentation at work about his volunteer work with CSIRO’s Scientists in Schools program. It’s something I had been interested in for a while, and now that I find myself in a permanent job, with a boss supportive of such endeavours, I decided to sign up on the spot. After much to-ing and fro-ing and several delays, I have now been partnered with a primary school in Melbourne’s inner south eastern suburbs. This week I’ll be making my first visit to the school, on World Science Day.

So my plan is that this blog become a journal of my experiences in the Scientists in Schools program, and a record of any experiments and activities that I might do with the kids. Stay tuned for an update at the end of the week.