One of my favorite parts of hosting Science Mondays on KUSA-TV 9News is having guest helpers… and yesterday was no exception. I spent the afternoon with Sophie (6th grader) and Makayla (4th grader) as we experimented with different versions of the Bubbling Lava Lamp experiment.

Since this is live television, there’s no retakes or do-overs, as they call them. As you’ll see in the video, these sisters stole the show. When I watch other television science demonstrators work with kids, one of the things I look for is how scripted and rehearsed the kids are. As great as Mr. Wizard was back in the 1960s, his kid helpers were so overly scripted that it was comical. For example, when Mr. Wizard asked why the egg went into the bottle, little Susie replied, “Is it because the combustion in the flask created a rise in thermal energy resulting in a rapid expansion of the gases?” Mr. Wizard responded, “Yes, that’s very good, Susie.”

Over the past twenty years, my style on television has changed, but my approach to working with children has remained the same. I firmly believe that the kids should…

  1. Kid helps must be more than set decoration… they must contribute something to the segment
  2. They must know the basic science behind the activity, but still have questions
  3. Most importantly, the helpers should not be so rehearsed that they lose their excitement for the activity

Looking at Sophie and Makayla on this segment, you can see the wonder in their eyes, and as viewers we sense that they’re having fun… and they’re still filled with questions. Communicating this authenticity on-air is not easy (and I’m by no means an expert), but it’s a goal that’s worthy of our attention.

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