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


Lily Valley

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Blowing stuff up will get their attention. ;)



OK, seriously... Building Rube Goldberg machines. They could use any of various means for energy transfer...mechanical, chemical reaction, electrical. Let their imaginations run amok.


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Give them a brief introduction to coding in Java and let them use the Arduino Due microcontroller (or something similar) to play with small electronics kits (LEDs, potentiometers, resistors, buttons, light sensors etc)

It is a cheap, easy to use reprogrammable piece of hardware which you can connect to a computer with a USB, and they even have a version aimed at younger children, the Arduino Esplora, although I'm not sure if this product is out yet.

(http://blog.arduino.cc/category/kids/)


Alan Yorinks shared on Arduino Community on Gplus a physical computing environment he created to make it easier for 10 and 11 year old’s to start playing. He picked up an Arduino Esplora, and wrote some software so that it could be controlled from the Scratch and Snap! graphical programming languages. According to Alan, the Arduino Esplora has on-board integrated sensors, actuators and make it a perfect match for the graphical programming languages that the kids love to use.

Teenagers as young as 14 have begun to come up with viable prototypes to marketable products with the aid of Arduino kits https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1787

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along the lines of my "chemistry through cooking" suggestion, I was thinking about the idea of introducing physics to elementary students via exercise and kinesthetics (not sure if this happens now, but it definitely was not when I was in school). Deconstructing body movement to illustrate and explain physics principles would probably make the concepts really clear and get kids active and engaged with the lessons (for instance, learning how to release a ball at a certain time with a certain motion to get the optimal distance and force might be something a lot of kids would find cool and useful). Plus, I think it could give kids who might not have immediately excelled at gym class some confidence to understand the underlying principles and know how to adjust to get the desired result. It might not require much in the way of new equipment and the like either-- it's probably more in the reframing of gym class as a kind of laboratory (or science class as a studio I suppose).



Anyway, teaching physics to elementary students as a gym class is something I wish I had back in the day.


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In my undergrad physics department at UCSB, there was this program called "physics circus". We'd go to elementary schools and do demonstrations on Electricity (van de graff generator), magnetism, or explain freezing points of gases with a liquid nitrogen demonstration. At the end we'd let them have a frozen banana or frozen marshmallows as a treat (they were dipped in liquid nitrogen).
There's even a book called The flying circus of physics that teaches basic physics concepts through demonstrations. I'd start there, the kids would get really excited about the demos, and then even want to know how and why they work

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In one of my highschool math classes (maybe precalc?) where we had to do an applied maths project, most people did normal stuff like orbital mechanics, queuing theory, ballistics, etc (think mine was redshifts) one of my classmates did the physics of music (he's now a music teacher) - it was cool, he did demonstrations of harmonics - showing both the physics and the math (proportion of string length, resonant frequencies, etc)... seems like it would be an easy thing to do with materials that the school might already have in another department. Not sure how that translates to grant dollars but it's got to be a better sell than hallucinogenics.


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