I have a newfound respect for teachers and educators. Wow. On May 12th, I had my first solo experience in a classroom.
As a member of the Steve Spangler Science family for almost 5 years, I have helped perform science demonstrations on a few separate occasions. All of these were done with training and practice with Steve at the office. This time was different… I was on my own.
I’m recently married and blessed with two amazing step sons, the youngest in kindergarten. His teacher recently asked me if I’d like to help with their kindergarten & fourth grade science day, as she had purchased a substantial number of Steve Spangler Science kits. As if I could turn down an opportunity to play with science gear alongside six- and ten-year-olds.
Excitement filled me over the weekend. Quality time with my son coupled with awesome science and an opportunity to teach? Count me in, one hundred times. Monday morning, however, I felt like my kindergartner. Anxiety had coupled with excitement to create a concoction of nerves like I had never felt. Oh man… I was going to be teaching.
Arriving in the classroom saw my nerves spike to their zenith. All those tiny, little eyes fixated on me and my bag of science goodies. My face definitely flushed a bit, but it was broken by my son’s, “Hi, Dad!” I could do this. It’s just like coaching soccer!
The line-up of demonstrations the teacher and I had planned ranged from Insta-Snow (a HUGE hit) to Dancing Spaghetti, using both household items and Spangler-created kits, but we started with the Energy Stick. An eager volunteer hopped up in front of the classroom to help demonstrate the concept of an open or closed circuit. Eyes lit up and ears perked as the lights and sounds of the Energy Stick filled the classroom. I could TOTALLY do this.
(SIDE NOTE: A good friend’s son was in the 4th grade class. That night, she sent a text to tell me that her son wouldn’t stop talking about and designing open and closed circuits. Science success, I do declare.)
The Energy Stick led into polymer science: Insta-Worms, Insta-Snow, and Vanishing Jelly Marbles. The teacher read Diary of a Worm aloud to the class to help tie literature into the Insta-Worms demonstration. We discussed the ties between Insta-Snow and baby diapers, and we laughed at the squishy texture of Jelly Marbles. I didn’t have to worry about the occasional stutter or awkward pause. This group of kids stared and waited on my words like I was Neil deGrasse Tyson and they were a astrophysicist-filled lecture hall. Oh yeah… I was doing this.
We capped off the hands-on demos with candy science involving Gobstoppers and M&Ms, and the grand finale of Film Canister Explosions. I’ve seen and performed the Film Canister Explosion demo a bunch of times, for teachers and students. Never have I witnessed a reaction like this before. There were screams from some of the girls, “Awesome!” from a lot of the boys, and a massive gasp from the teacher. It was absolutely brilliant. Naturally, we did it twice more in the classroom, before finishing with a rocket launch in the rain. I did it!
Teachers! I get it. I understand exactly why you work for substantially less pay than you should. I know the feeling you get when a complex subject (i.e. carbon dioxide gas from vinegar and baking soda) clicks in a young mind. I can feel what makes you want to work extra hours on your evenings and weekends, just to make sure you can cover all you want to this year. I GET IT! You put so much out there, because you get so much back. It might not always be material, immediate, or it might not even be noticeable. It is, however, so worth it.