Tag Archives: Science

Mad About Science Magic – Should Magicians Be Responsible for Teaching Science?

Should magic tricks be used as a way to teach science in today’s classrooms? This question and about a dozen more were asked of me during an interview for an international magazine for the Society of American Magicians. The author of the article, Lindsay Smith, wanted to know my thoughts on a current trend in science assemblies and before-and-after school science classes being offered in many elementary schools throughout the U.S. The issue for magicians is one of exposure – teachers or science demonstrators who are exposing secrets of magic in an attempt to teach science.

What are your thoughts on this? You can read an excerpt from the interview that appeared in the September issue of M-U-M by clicking on the “more” link below. Should science demonstrators / teachers use tricks from a magic shop to teach science?

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Apply for the Christopher Columbus Award

The Christopher Columbus Awards Program combines science and technology with community problem-solving. Students in grades 6-8 work in teams with the help of an adult coach to identify an issue they care about and, using science and technology, work with experts, conduct research, and put their ideas to the test to develop an innovative solution. Eight finalist teams will receive an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World to attend National Championship week plus a $200 grant to further develop their ideas. Two gold medal teams will receive a $2000 U.S. Savings Bond and the winning team will receive a $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant. Teams do not need to be affiliated with a school to enter. The application deadline is February 13, 2006. This opportunity is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation in conjunction with The National Science Foundation.

My Inspiration… Don Herbert – The “Original” Mr. Wizard

A popular guest on the Johnny Carson Show, Don Herbert was truly an inspiration to an entire generation of science enthusiasts. I remember watching him as a kid and being impressed by the fact that while he was amazing, he didn’t have a laboratory or wear a lab coat. He just looked like a friendly guy who did amazingly cool science experiments in his garage… what a great neighbor!

In contrast to television today, I was struck by the fact that he would allow an experiment to fail. Why didn’t they edit it out? Because he believed that failure was so important for children to see.

In 1991 I was approached by NBC television to host a 3½-minute science spot in a program called News for Kids. Remember, this was pre “Bill Nye the Science Guy” or “Beakman”. As we planned the look and feel of the segment, something inside told me to call Don Herbert and get his advice… so I did. Here’s what Don Herbet said, “Don’t’ let them put you in a lab coat if you don’t want to look like a doctor or research scientist… just be yourself… and “… never let the ‘gee-whiz-factor’ overtake what you are trying to teach”.

In my 14 years on TV, I can’t let the “gee whiz” overtake what I am trying to teach. And television has changed my teaching greatly – to truly create an edutainment experience.

Read more about Don Herbert and his place in television history, or visit the official Mr. Wizard Website and discover why he continues to influence a new generation of science teachers.

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Listen to my podcast on Don Herbert, my hero

(File size is 1.3 MB) (Show length 5 minutes 20 seconds)

When the tie dyed lab coat comes out, it’s time for science

You’re in for a treat today, because I’m posting my very first podcast interview.

Listen in on my discussion with Julie Gintzler, kindergarten teacher extraordinaire and instructor at the Hands-on Science Boot Camp as she shares one of her secrets to teaching science.

Julie doesn’t do diagrams on the board or long dissertations. Her secret is her lab coat. After 18 years of teaching, Julie has finally found something that sparks the kids’ imagination right off. The first time she introduces a science experiment, she wears her tie dyed lab coat. From it she pulls out a gem of the day. It might be a test tube. It might be a magnifying glass. It’s a great way to introduce the tools in a fun and exciting way. The kids know the minute her lab coat goes on, science is just around the corner.

Most lab coats are white. One of my teachers in high school had one with burns all over it. Julie tried a plain white one and the kids were frightened. They thought “doctor”? or “nurse”?. So Julie’s is tie dyed from head to toe in primary colors.

Not only is it a cue that it is time to talk about science, but the children get excited about science. Get them excited when they are young and while their minds are open.

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Listen to my podcast interview of science teacher superstar Julie Gintzler

(File size is 1.2 MB) (Show length 5 minutes)

What’s your secret? Is there something you use like Julie’s lab coat to let your students know that they’re in for something special? Click on the comment button to share your ideas.

Home schooling – make science come alive

One of the benefits of home schooling is you can take time to wonder, discover and explore. Science instruction can be a really difficult area, however, because you may have limited resources such as chemicals and equipment.

So why not go to the local school and talk to the administrators about the possibility of working with some teachers as they create these science experiences. Tell them you would like to talk about combining some of these experiences and participate in things other kids can do.

For parents who don’t feel comfortable teaching science, go into the community. Science museums are open to home schooling groups. Scientists in the field in your local area are more than happy to help out. All you have to do is ask. As someone who gets a lot of these requests, the best groups are organized clusters and where students have some background — because we can create experiences that are as meaningful as possible.

Be organized and understand you have information and resources available out there to ensure science is an important part of your child’s daily learning experience.

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Listen to my podcast on making science come alive in home schooling

(File size is 1.8 MB) (Show length 3 minutes 49 seconds)