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The Fear of Becoming Invisible – How Great Teachers Use Science Demos as Object Lessons

We salute and thank all of those great teachers out there who find engaging activities to get their students back in the seats and ready to learn for another school year. If you’re a teacher, you know all too well the challenges we face keeping our students engaged and interested. If we’re not careful, it’s easy for some students to disappear into their surroundings and become that “invisible kid.” This segment featured two demonstrations from our Science of Leadership workshop for teachers that use elements of the science demonstration as a metaphor for learning. Oh, by the way, teachers shared their best first days of school activities on our Facebook Fan page this week.

Take a look at our First Days of School Kit with ideas for getting your students excited about the year after the first bell.

One of the most popular activities is Mentos and Diet Coke Geysers to ring in the new school year. There are many teachers who use hands-on science activities to get kids excited about learning and bring it home to the dinner table. Read the experiment page for more information on these Back to School activities.

Here are two science activities to use to welcome students back to school and learning. The first is a lesson in refraction that teaches kids about being an invisible student. The teacher demonstrates how students can be invisible using Vanishing Jelly Marbles and the index of refraction. By just changing the background by adding a little food coloring, a good teacher can help their students stand out.

This demo teaches us how to become invisible… just blend in with your surroundings. But it’s equally amazing to see how invisible objects become visible by just changing the surroundings. Add a few drops of food coloring to the bowl of water and stir. The once invisible Jelly Marbles now stand out again the different colored background.

Over the years, there’s been lots of talk about the dangers of “invisible students.” This is an amazing way to get students to talk about the dangers of just blending in… becoming invisible… seeming insignificant or believing that no one cares.

The following poem is offered by a wonderful friend and a well respected authority in student leadership development, Dr. Earl Reum. Earl often used the Jelly Marbles as a way to get students talking about the “Invisible Kid.”


[An open letter from the “Invisible Kid” to graduating seniors]

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time but never seemed to have the right words. I am a “nobody.” Some people might think of me as an Invisible Kid. I have never thought of myself as a “leader.” I know who the leaders are in my school. I know all of the “popular” kids. I even have lunch with them once in a great while when I’m invited to join their table.

Sometimes people call us “nobodies” the silent majority. We just sit back and let everyone else make decisions for us. It’s not that we don’t want to get involved. We just don’t know how to get involved. We timidly raise our hand in class to volunteer to help on a special project, but we usually get passed over for someone who is more of a “leader” type. But sometimes we do get picked! I cannot tell you how special that makes us feel. We don’t get picked very often, but when we do, we’re supposed to feel privileged… and we generally do.

When we get the courage enough to actually participate in an activity, we kind of feel out of place and uncomfortable. Those who do try to make us feel more at ease and human-like will forever have our deepest thanks.

I guess I don’t mind being a nobody. I stay out of the way of the popular kids so they don’t have a chance to make fun of me. I’ve never been elected to anything. I’m not a trouble-maker in class, and I even get pretty good grades. I’m only special to me and to those few who are close to me. The spotlight never shines on me – I can only watch it glimmer from afar.

I want you to know that even though I’m a nobody, I have important things that I want to tell everyone. I really do want to share my hopes, my dreams, and my special talents with anyone who is willing to receive what I so desperately want to share.

I hope that by telling you this you will take a moment to stop and think about us nobodies. I think that there are lots of nobodies in the world. Maybe the two boys who killed the students and teacher at Columbine High School thought of themselves as nobodies when they were younger. Maybe they didn’t feel like they belonged to anything. I think they probably felt alone, not loved, and certainly not needed. Maybe that’s why they made up that gang and wore black trench coats and wrote poems about hate and death. Maybe that was their way of trying to reach out and belong to something. I don’t know why they did those terrible things, but I know that the sadness in my heart has caused me to take another look at my life.

That’s why I don’t want to be a nobody any more. Last night I made a promise to myself and my family to think of myself as a “somebody,” even if it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am going to raise my hand more. I am going to volunteer more. I am going to share my hopes, my dreams, and the things that make me special with anyone who will listen… even if it make me feel embarrassed. Please help me to be a somebody by continuing to invite me to be on your team, to sit at your lunch table, to get more involved in school activities. I might say “no,” but please keep asking. Someday I will have the courage to say “yes.” You can make a difference in my life.

– The Invisible Kid

(Written by Dr. Earl Reum)

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