Any teacher who can inspire a group of students to get up at 4:30 AM in order to be on live television is an amazing person. But it didn’t take long to see why his students like him so much… “He’s just a cool teacher who makes coming to class fun,” says one of his students as she launches a rubber bug across the room. Mad About Science is a television news series that we created at 9News KUSA-TV in Denver almost ten years ago as a way to recognize science teachers in Colorado who are getting their students excited about learning science. Tom Andrews hits the mark as an amazing science teacher at Goddard Middle School in Littleton, Colorado.
When you visit Mr. Andrews’ classroom, you can see that he practices what he preaches. “Science needs to be hands-on and engaging for the students to take an interest… and it doesn’t hurt if you’re a little funny too,” Tom told me as he put on a lab coat tattered with burn marks, giant stains and remnants of yesterday’s classroom adventure (okay, it was a big chunk of owl poop). The big take away for me was the respect his students had for him during all of their interactions. Yes, he’s a cool teacher, but Tom Andrews also expects a great deal out of his students. You can choose to teach the concepts of force and motion using a standard textbook or you can use that content to teach the kids how to shoot rubber bugs across the room. Tom chooses the road less traveled because he understand the importance of creating experiences.
During today’s Mad About Science segment on 9NEWS – KUSA TV in Denver, Mr. Andrews soaked one of his student’s lunch money in a flammable solution and then lit it on fire. The student yelled out, “Hey, that’s my lunch money!” When the flame vanished, the five dollar bill was perfectly safe. When Mr. Andrews said that it was “magic” his students corrected him by yelling out, “It’s science!”
“It’s really important to use each of the activities to help teach kids how to think like a scientist. It’s so important for students to use the scientific method,” according to Mr. Andrews who designs experiments using simple, household materials like old shirts, scrap paper, plastic spoons and a few rubber bugs.
Each of the experiments featured during the television segment are easy for the students (and viewers) to recreate at home. In the You’re All Fingers Experiment, two students wore one of Mr. Andrews’s favorite shirts – one tried to button up the shirt with the use of all their fingers (control) and the other student attempted to button the shirt without the use of their thumbs (variable).
Twirling Helicopter Blades were next up. Students dropped paper helicopters, one is the control and the others were changed in some way. Drop times were recorded and the students made simple changes to their design to alter the twirling performance of the helicopter.
Mr. Andrews wrapped up with his Bug Launch Experiment. The students stood behind specially designed spoon catapults, perfect for launching fake bugs. One rubber beetle served as the control and the other bugs played the role as the variable in the experiment. The measurement team recorded the distance each bug flew while the crowd cheered on the flying bugs… and I offered extra credit if the kids could hit our photographer.
Congratulations to Tom Andrews and his students for teaching us how to make science fun.