It has the potential of being the most popular science fair project of all time. The Mentos Geyser is definitely fun to watch, but some teachers are missing the opportunity to use the activity to teach science. Over the last few weeks, I’ve received emails from students explaining that their teachers are forbidding them from doing the Mentos Geyser as a science project. Why? The common response is… “there’s no science to blowing up pop.”
What? How did these teachers miss the rich science content that oozes from the bottle with every eruption? Combine the strong science with the student’s motivation to want to use the scientific method and you’ve got an amazing activity.
Brian Rice, a math teacher at Gwinn Middle School in Michigan, recently used the Mentos Geyser as a great teaching opportunity. As one of the experiments, the middle schoolers measured how high pop would spray when a Mentos candy is dropped into the pop bottle. In one day, eighth-grade classes and some seventh-grade classes conducted the Mentos and pop experiment with the objective to see whether different types of pops have greater eruptions. They ended up testing a total of 44 different varieties, ranging from Diet Coke to root beer.
This is a great example of science in action. Here’s to Brian Rice – a great teacher who gets it! Instead of forbidding the activity, Mr. Rice uses the Internet sensation to grab his students’ attention and put the scientific method to the test.
Steve… you’ve got a call on line 4 from a person who says she’s from the television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Do you want to take it?
Hello, this is Steve…
The person introduced herself as a producer for the television show who helps research all of those perplexing questions. You’ll never guess what kind of question she was researching… something to do with Mentos and exploding soda. After a few emails and some clarification, the question and the four choices were finalized. If you want to know how well the contestant did, tune in to watch the show on November 22nd. I bet you’d know the answer if you were sitting in the hot seat.
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?
Continue reading Mad About Science Magic – Should Magicians Be Responsible for Teaching Science?
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.
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.
Listen to my podcast on Don Herbert, my hero
(File size is 1.3 MB) (Show length 5 minutes 20 seconds)