One of the great pleasures of having kids is being able to contribute to their education which I did last week at “Bring Your Dad to School Day” and ‘Whoopee – we were doing science.
The lesson that morning was about which things dissolve and which don’t and why. The children were given a variety of materials, sand, sugar, salt, cornflour, baking powder, coffee, tea etc and some water to try to understand which ones dissolved and which didn’t. It’s a great experiment, and because it illustrates that how in the real world nothing is binary, and we had great fun discussing how some part of the tea manages to dissolve while other parts don’t. The bits that were liberated were variously described as the ‘goodness’ or ‘nutrition’ – not quite right but along the right lines at least
The kids were also very quick to grasp the idea of reversible and irreversible reactions, and that size and temperature play a part in the rate of dissolution. What made this particularly interesting was that a couple of the dads had a scientific background (ahem) which was a mixed blessing. On one hand we were able to help the teachers explain that some of the materials form a suspension rather than dissolving, and my table managed to illustrate what happens when your hand slips when adding baking powder to a warm mixture of everything, and how to clean up the resulting mess!
Sadly though, I wonder how many of this class of thirty enthusiastic eleven year olds will still be studying science in five years time? Where does the transition from being interested in everything to not caring about science occur, and how do we prevent this? My suggestions would be more experiments, things fizzing, popping, smoking and foaming, and to get the dads involved more!