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IDEAS PLEASE: Let's make K-12 Science FUN


Lily Valley

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My Community College Physical Science department is going after another grant to support our partnerships with K-12 schools to try to promote a pipeline to STEM fields. For those of you who do not know, I live in New Orleans where most of the K-12 institutions support a much different pipeline.



We have done a lot of good work with the grants that we have gotten. My boss is going after every speck of money available to help New Orleans kids. We just found another grant we want to apply for. This one is a grant to promote research science for K-12 students. There has been much argument within the department on whether or not K-12 students are capable of doing meaningful research.



I think they can. I also think that we can defend the grant request as teaching students that DOING science research is fun through simple, hands on experience. In addition, we can build our current student research programs and expand on them. Our schools are so underfunded, most of our college students have absolutely no idea how to perform a simple experiment until they get to us. We are cleaning up the mess. There's money out there to give our kids a chance to experience the fun side of science before lectures bore them to death.



Anyone have any ideas? Those of you who hated science, what would have been fun? We're working on the main goals of the proposal, the Notice of Intent to write a formal proposal is due on Tuesday. This doesn't have to be long. Any ideas on how to improve the accessibility of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math for K-12 students can be categorized into a "goal".



Give me everything you've got. We're already trying to figure out how much insurance we'd need to let 7th graders make fireworks.



Thanks everyone. If you think of something after Tuesday, that's GREAT. The details don't have to be hammered into a 200 page document until June.



Kat,



By this summer, I should be able to walk you through this for your school if you want to PM about it. Think of it....Lab Equipment. One of our grants paid for 2 campuses worth of new Vernier equipment, software and computers. AWESOME.


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Lily



Here is a link to Scitech, a regular outing when my kids were little - I'm not sure who loved it more, me or the kids!!!



if they want you to investigate in person, you can stay at my place


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The two things I remember from non-biology high school science was making colloidal dispersions and emulsifcations and the lesson where we made shampoo in physics. I'm almost 44 so that was almost 30 years ago and yet they stay with me.



Of course I also spent much of grade 11 chemistry playing cards with my lab partner because we sat at the very back of the class. We also drew a picture of the sun and taped it to the faucet and pretended we were catching some rays, so I might not the best choice in idea gathering. And don't ask me about the mole.



Also, the greatest discovery of my childhood was baking soda and vinegar. Thanks middle school science. I was always trying to clean out the sink drain in the kitchen, for science.


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Some sort of extramural competition? Maybe a STEM based triathlon, with teams competing in separate science, engineering/tech, and maths events for combined school scores. Broad exposure to the various fields, and lots of spots for participants.

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Shotgunning beers

Brewing beers to shotgun?

But seriously... Lily, if you'd like I can ask Mrs Red for some pointers regarding the actual grant-writing/application process. Not sure if you have actual grant writers working on this for you or no, but feel free to text or PM if you have any questions. A few things she suggests is looking at the funders 990 and seeing what other projects they've funded, and reaching out to the program officer to build a relationship...

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Got this in my town. Oriented more towards High School students. Don't know how effective it is.



http://www.challenger.org/learningcenters/challenger-learning-center-network/



None anywhere near New Orleans.



Lily, you do realize that promoting (scientific) literacy amongst the K-12 set in your part of the world is tantamount to treason, right?


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Got this in my town. Oriented more towards High School students. Don't know how effective it is.

http://www.challenger.org/learningcenters/challenger-learning-center-network/

None anywhere near New Orleans.

Lily, you do realize that promoting (scientific) literacy amongst the K-12 set in your part of the world is tantamount to treason, right?

Fifth Column is everywhere.

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The high school I attended, which is in my district, has a pretty awesome science research program that they started with a university. Usually it's the other way around, like you're doing, but apparently they have a much higher rate of participation when it's run through the school rather than purely as an extracurricular activity that students just have to find on their own. Let me see if I can dig up some links. It's something they are now trying to expand into the rest of the district because they found that the students liked it so much.


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Along a similar line to the tennis ball competition, when I was 16 we had a join history/physics project about medieval siege weapons - we basically had to try and build a siege weapon that could hurl a tennis ball as far as possible. Had a whole variety of weapons turn up - ballistae, trebuchets, catapults and a few weird and wonderful spring-loaded contraptions that neither existed in medieval times nor worked in modern times.


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The Egg Drop is a classic one. Give the students three sheets of A4 paper and some sticky tape. Have them design a landing system using only those materials that will allow them to drop an egg from steadily increasing heights without it breaking. Teaches about momentum transfer and air resistance.



The only limitations are that:



[a] You need somewhere to drop them from. Ideal is a spiral staircase where you can start from various points.


You need to be prepared to clean things up afterwards if something goes horribly wrong...



ST


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For some classical engineering/ math, maybe set them to work designing mobiles (the sculpture kind) as a way of explaining transfer of weight, weight distance from fulcrum, moment, balance, beams, etc etc.



Older kids might enjoy learning about bending moments by designing and building bridges out of basswood/ string/ engineering wire, and most importantly, glycerine soap, which can behave like a concrete proxy in model making (so, especially apropos for construction of the bridge's deck). This is of course more involved, but would show the kids how the various types of bridges are constructed, and butters them up to have patience for the blessed world of beam analysis and bending moment diagram making (and I guess the sheer and axial force too while they're at it, but bending moment diagrams can immediately inform the design of the "beam" of the deck-- I think it's Maillart whose bridges are basically mirror images of the bending moment diagram calculations.)



eta: I think these might lend themselves well to some sort of competition too-- like, whoever manages to make a balanced mobile with the most tiers, or whoever manages to build the longest deck span and withstand some sort of added weight wins or something.




ETA2: I was also wondering about the viability of an elective chemistry class that teaches chemistry entirely through everyday science, like cooking. Like, the sort of class that breaks down food into its chemical compositions, then uses cooking to illustrate various chemical processes. Alton Brown's old show, Good Eats, is kind of predicated on the "cooking as chemistry" concept, and I've always thought that it would be a pretty cool idea for kids to learn both though.


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I propose some sort of potato battery competition (warning: do not combine with a 'take your daughter to work day').



Barring that, I remember in sixth grade having a shop class competition where we all had to design and build our own pinewood derby car, with the goal of creating the one that could go the farthest when placed in front of a floor fan. So that's a practical application of some basic physics.


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For actual research, what about things with plants? That is an ongoing project that very young children can participate in and there are a lot of biology lessons there. I also think the questions to start the research process are probably pretty accessible for the very young ones (e.g., what happens if you plant nails with hydrangeas kind of stuff - could plant other things too; different types of soil, fertilizers, etc., plus control groups, pretty easy to demonstrate method).



Same with light. I feel like experiments with light are easy and accessible for the K, 1, 2 age (and, with a bonus, not messy and fairly safe as long as you don't bring lasers into it).



What about distilling? Looking at what is actually in tap water/rain water/bottled water/river water, etc. can be very fun too.


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Lily:



Have you checked out Howard Hughe's PhageHunter project? Link: http://www.hhmi.org/programs/science-education-alliance



Depending on the size of the grant and the expertise available you can maybe model a project off of this. This will be more for 11th and 12th graders, though some of that can be broken down for younger students.



I also think that a successful grant should leverage your existing infrastructure. So if you already have a light bank and just need some microscopes to offer projects on diatom diversity of the Mississippi river, that's an easier sell than if you have neither. Also, play to your strength and find experts willing to contribute time to your school to make your project more attractive.



At any rate, good luck. :)


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