Category Archives: Teaching Moments

Kid City Does Spangler Science!

Bloomington, Indiana’s Kid City had a Spangler Science experience this week at Ivy Tech Community College, and according to a very professional exit poll* it was a big hit!

Kid City Science started off with marshmallow/toothpick towers.  The goal:  HEIGHT.
Kid City Science started off with marshmallow/toothpick      towers. The goal: HEIGHT.

After this project (Prize:  Insta-Snow!) a trip to the restroom to wash all that marshmallow dust off our hands was in order.  Before the students left the room, however, each got a squirt of GlitterBug Lotion to rub all over his/her hands.  They were then told to wash their hands thoroughly.

A casual handwashing will NOT get all the dirt off your skin!

One black light viewing later, and the students decided to go back to the sinks and try again.

That official exit poll* indicated that the hit of the morning was Insta-Worms.  The excitement also indicated that Insta-Worms were a popular activity.  We used Atomic Insta Worms because, well, they’re COOL, and we already had the black light.

They GLOW!

Polymer science is awesome in so many ways, and Insta-Worms is one of those ways.

Insta-Worms!
Insta-Worms!

Kid City students agree:  Insta-Worms rocked.

Both boys and girls agreed: Insta-Worms were awesome!
Both boys and girls agreed: Insta-Worms were awesome!
If it breaks, you can just stick it back together!  Polymers!
If it breaks, you can just    stick it back together!    Polymers!
You can make those Insta-Worms really long, too!
You can make those Insta-Worms really long, too!
The Kid City counselors loved the Insta-Worms, too!
The Kid City counselors loved the Insta-Worms,    too!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you’re NEVER too old to have fun with science – just ask those Kid City counselors up there!

And the QUESTIONS!  All morning, super questions about polymers, and pyramids, and black lights, and more.  When there are lots of questions, there is lots of learning going on.

QUESTIONS!  There were     questions!
QUESTIONS! There were    questions!

And there was tie dye – not the t-shirt kind – the milk kind!

Tie Dye Milk
Tie dye, using whole milk, food coloring, and Dawn dishwashing detergent!
And more tie dye!
And more tie dye!
. . . and MORE!
. . . and MORE!

Color-changing milk is such a simple experiment, and yet the results are beautiful.  All you need is a plate, a cotton swab, a dot of Dawn dishwashing detergent, and some whole milk.  I think it usually looks like tie dye, but some of the Kid City students thought theirs looked like stained glass.  It did, too.

We did a lot more in our three hours together – culminating with some ice cream in a zip-lock bag – but these were some highlights.

The morning with Kid City was a lot of fun, for the counselors, for me, and from the reactions, questions, and laughter, for the students as well.  And, as with most things that create genuine laughter and fun, there was a lot of learning, as well.  I hope much of the morning’s lab ended up at each student’s dinner table, because, as Steve Spangler himself often says, “If it ends up at the dinner table, it was a success.”

As for that exit poll I was referring to up there, I asked each student, as he/she exited the lab, what they liked best.  The Atomic Worms pretty much won, but every experiment we’d done that morning was mentioned, so I count them all a success.

A success.  You know – like each and every one of those wonderful Kid City kids are now and will be for the rest of their lives.

 

1000 Appearances and Counting – Steve Spangler on 9news

Steve Spangler is known for creating amazing hands-on science experiences for kids. Whether it involves kits, toys, or incredible experiments, kids leave an experience with Steve feeling like science magicians.

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Over the last decade and change, Steve has also spent one afternoon a week making adults feel like science magicians on Denver’s local NBC affiliate, 9News – KUSA. News anchors, meteorologists… you name it, if they’ve worked in the 9News studio, they’ve experienced the hands-on hi-jinx that follows Steve wherever he goes. That’s what defines Steve Spangler on 9News.

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If you want a small sample of Steve on 9News, check out this video for a look back at the segments that made Steve popular.

May 22, 2015 marks a special milestone for Steve – his 1000th 9News appearance. That’s 1000 times that Steve has brought fun science, incredible young scientists, or crazy experiences to televisions all around Denver and the region.

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Steve’s 1000th appearance was always going to be special, but the presence of his entire family made it even more so. Give it a watch here.

We also put together an album of our favorite #SteveMoments over on our Flickr, so give that a look, as well.

Keep making science fun, Steve.

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Plagiarism, Compassion, and the Dinner Table

Plagiarism.  Compassion for plagiarism?  It was his third strike for the same offense.  Last Wednesday morning, after class,  I had to play “Plagiaristic Confrontation” again, and it was no fun. It’s never fun. All throughout my career, I’ve listened to teachers brag and purr about ‘bringing a student down,’ and I’ve sat there shaking my head in amazement, wondering what kind of people were in charge of classrooms these days. “Bringing a student down” was never a goal of mine; I am frankly horrified that anyone would do so happily, and that anyone could gloat about it afterwards. I always thought that one of my functions was to help students UP, not bring them down and brag about it to others who sat there applauding.

plagiarism

Maybe I’m just an old softy (although there are those who would argue that point!!) but I just can not even imagine being happy about a student who was in trouble. Even when that trouble was the student’s own choice and fault, I’m still sorry, not gleeful. I might think things like, “Well, too bad, but life is full of choices and choices bring consequences, etc. etc.” but I couldn’t clap my hands and laugh because someone who is supposed to be the adult in charge gets off on bringing someone who is SUPPOSED to need help, down.

I might cry, but I wouldn’t laugh.

compassion, kindness

Wednesday, in the hallway after class, talking to that student, reminding him about all the previous reminders, explaining the consequences of his choice to him, watching him wilt and lean against the wall and then cover his face with his hands and weep, did something to me that day. It made me want to write a post about younger students, and how we as the adults who are in charge need to do everything in our power to help them attain the skills they so desperately need in order to care for themselves and others as they grow up; we need to help our children appreciate culture so they might understand music and art and allow them to enrich and soothe their souls and give them something positive to do with leisure time; we need to help our children learn and understand everything we can possibly expose them to in the short amount of time they are entrusted to us; we need to show them how to figure things out all by themselves, and to appreciate those things that have no explanation at all, and to help them see that these are often the coolest things of all. We need to teach them compassion by demonstrating compassion; even more importantly, we need to teach them about empathy.

Empathy goes further than mere sympathy.  Sympathy feels for someone; empathy feels WITH someone.
Empathy goes further than mere sympathy. Sympathy feels for someone; empathy feels WITH someone.

THIS is the job of the parent-school team. Not drilling for ISTEP, not months of reviewing so a school will look good on paper and get more money, not sitting for seven hours in a classroom  for thirty minutes of enchantment and a list of vocabulary words, not going over the same stuff again and again and again because two kids still can’t do it, not hanging posters that say “Zero Tolerance” all over a school that publicly advertises its refusal to give second chances. . . . .

Here at Spangler Science, we want our students to learn.  We want them to learn science.  We want them to love to learn science.  We want them to love to learn science and apply it to the world.  We want our students to be so excited about science that they overflow with enthusiasm at the dinner table.  Science helps students understand that just because an attempt doesn’t work the first time they try it, that doesn’t mean it won’t work the next time.  And the next.  Persistence.  This applies to all of life, and getting their hands dirty with trying is a wonderful memory booster.

We make science fun!
We make science fun!

Good schools are not all about more money. You can throw money into a pigpen all day, and the pigs won’t care. Good schools are all about education. Education has been defined as “A change in behavior.” I want to qualify that statement by saying that to me, education is a POSITIVE change in behavior. And if we have to do a little tweaking to get the students’ attention, then so be it. And if we have to do a little strong -arming to get some parents to cooperate, well, so be that, too. Let the tweaking and strong-arming begin.

William Glasser

We must help our children learn, that they might become educated, that perhaps the behavior of the entire world might change..

If we do these things, then our children will never have to stand out in the hall with me, faces crumpled in horror, leaning against the wall and weeping because of the consequences of their own actions.

And I won’t have to go home and do the same.

The 4 Elements of a Memorable Science Demonstration

Since starting at Steve Spangler Science in 2009, there’s one question that gets asked of our team more than any other: how do you create a memorable science demonstration? And the truth is, from our customer service team to our production team to Steve Spangler himself, we’ll all give you a different answer. So which answer is right? All of them!

Nobel Prizes for everyone!
Nobel Prizes for everyone!                             (Source: Wikipedia)

No matter who is supplying the formula for a memorable science demonstration, they’re correct. Every demonstrator uses the same 4 elements to create the perfect demo for their group, family, kids, or audience, though their methods may be different. They happen to correspond very well with the 4 classic elements. Most people start with…


DirtEarth – Research
Earth is the most familiar of the elements. We spend every day traversing its dusty, dry surface, but we have no clue what’s actually going on inside of it. For all we know, the core of the earth is a big, bubbling vat of baking soda and vinegar waiting to erupt with dyed carbon dioxide bubbles.

Science fair basics aside, it’s good to reacquaint yourself with the science behind the demonstration you’re going to perform. Even if you’re confident in your answer as to why you can create a teeter-totter by with two candles, it will be beneficial to get a refresher. Who knows, science could have uncovered a different answer!

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The world’s most sinister seesaw results from a children’s demonstration.

Researching your demonstration is also a great opportunity to discover ways of taking your experiment further. Find ways to spin off of your initial demonstration. This is your chance to really find ways of driving your lesson home.


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Water – Practice
More often than not, mysterious happenings come from the water. Flesh eating river fish, mythical monsters, and giant snakes make sure that no human (scientist or otherwise) ever gets too comfortable within a triple-jump of water’s edge.

You shouldn’t be too comfortable in the performance of your demonstration, either. No one (read: actually, literally no one) likes having their demonstration, presentation, slide show, or what-have-you fail to perform. Geysers that don’t explode, launchers that don’t launch, and paper airplanes that don’t do the “plane”-part are all sure-fire ways of winding up red-faced in front of your audience.

IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!
IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!

Now, this is science, so there’s always a chance that things just won’t go your way. THAT is what makes practicing your demo so valuable. Practice gives you the chance at troubleshooting possible issues with your demo. From setup to procedure to clean up, practicing makes sure you’re ready for anything that science throws your way.


air-19227_640Air – Application
Without air, we’re dead. That’s just a fact of life, and YES I intended that horrible pun.

We all require air to run our body. While you never forget how to breathe, we don’t think about it very often, unless we’re really USING our breath. Runner, yoga instructors, midwifes… these people know what it means to really use our breath, because they learned to apply it.

The same goes for so many science demonstrations and lessons. When our minds learn new information, like that hot air has low pressure and rises, we are much more likely to remember it with a direct application. Talk to them about how the downstairs of their house probably feels cooler than the 2nd story or talk to them about weather, wind, and pressure.

Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know... it's science.
Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know… it’s science.

When demos don’t match up with a solid application, you create the dreaded, “When am I ever going to use this?” You need earth and water to be ready for that one!


fractal-22188_640
Fire – Passion

Earth is solid, water is liquid, and air is gaseous. Fire is plasma? Fire is flame? Fire is part of a grouping of things called “intangibles” by sports coaches everywhere; just like passion.

Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.
Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.                           (Source: Flickr)

Passion may not be absolutely required to pull off a memorable science demonstration, but it definitely aids in the effort. People of all ages can tell when someone is passionate about what they’re doing. The more genuinely excited you are about the demonstration you’re doing, the more excited your audience is going to be. Your energy is contagious.

Now just go and do it!

 

541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.