Hey, Gang - I have summers off from teaching and, to make a little extra cash for Baby's college fund, I spend some of that time working with a local youth program. The program does clubs every Friday and I volunteered to lead a Science Club for three, 2-hour sessions. The dilemma? My background is in the humanities and my professional focus is Student Development - science is always just kind of a "Hey, neat, Mythbusters is on!" hobby for me.
I'm hoping for a few ideas on fun (and cheap!) projects that could work for about a dozen kids, ages 5-10. I would say we have a shoe-string budget, but that would insult shoestrings world-wide, and it just seems extra cruel to do that to them during flip-flop season.
My first session is going to be a few basics:
So, any project or lesson recommendations? I figure I'll skip the Google Fu and come right to the experts.
Side note: I do realize that there's an entire projects section on the site here - I'm just hoping to get a bit of a conversation going regarding what works well with groups
A few cool ideas that you might be interested in:
1.) A moon journal_record weather conditions, location of moon at given time(s) in the late evening/early night for a month. Sketch the phase. Then use the journals at key points to discuss what they think is happening. Why it's moving from one night to the next, why the phase is changing, etc.
2.) Go on Galaxy Zoo website together_there are some remarkable projects on there you could participate in collectively.
3.) Design robots_function first, then form. What research do they want the robot to do? Then blueprint/paper concept. Then scale model time as fancy or low-budget as you want with the materials.
Hope those get you thinking!
I run a makers club at my son's school. We do many things including, appliance disassembly, building Legos, convert rc cars into battle bots, and learn to cook. Last summer we built a Rube Goldberg Machines and a large stage. This year we had a lego camp and next year we are going to build potato cannons slash tshirt cannon, take apart a dryer, convert an overhead projector and a old monitor into a lcd movie projector. We will build desktop computers, and take apart a lap top.
Other projects we are looking into are a building a Thing Box based on the peppers ghost magic trick, a computer controlled domino layer, and joining the Lego competition.
We might also design and build a Haunted house for Holloween.
If you want to check out our site its http://olphmakersclub.blogspot.com/.
A GREAT summer activity, depending on where you live, would be to make solar ovens. I did this with sixth graders before, but could easily be simplified to your age group. Cardboard boxes, tin foil, clear wrap, and a few other items, and you have a great "Solar Energy" activity. If they have their journals ready to go, you could transition to application of knowledge by having them do the entire process through that activity. You could also do some prediction activities with how long it would take for water to evaporate on a sidewalk, an inexpensive lesson on evaporation and condensation, etc...
I also did a ton of lesson's on Newton's laws, and there are many that you could do with that. Those could also be modified to be able to catch the attention of the age group that you are working with. With that age group, it would be a fun idea to discuss fulcrum, load, effort. Get a long 2x4 and a short 4x4 block. Have the older students try to lift you with the fulcrum far from you and they realize that it is difficult. Then pick up the board, have a discussion, and then when you set the board down, make sure that the fulcrum is close to you, and then have a smaller student lift you. The kids' loved that one!!! Again, to coordinate with summer activities, you could continue the discussion with fishing poles, bats, flyswatters, etc... Anything that relates to summer.
It would be exciting to see some pictures posted of what you decide to do with them! Good Luck!
For the 5-10 crowd my favorite thing was non-newtonian fluids. The basic formula is corn-starch and water. Very easy to make. A little green food coloring and you have the stuff from "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" and then all the crazy stuff you can do with it... As you're a Mythbusters fan you'll probably remember it from the episode where Adam attempted to walk on water. You CAN run across Oobleck, if you have enough, but the moment you stop running you'll sink like it's a liquid. Also if you can get an old speaker, or a cheap one, you can create some really interesting effects... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwrel&NR=1&v=3zoTKXXNQIU
Tie in to a Dr. Suess book, easy to make and clean, cheap, and lots of science to learn. It's a win from all angles.
Projectiles and percussion are often winners with kids and science, I know they got me interested as a kid and again as a teen. As well as marshmallow cannons you could use baking soda and vinegar to shoot corks from bottles, which also has a chemistry element that you can link through to light and fluffy muffins.
A waves lesson might be a winner as you can make standing waves with skipping ropes, which you can also link to water waves showing diffusion and constructive and destructive interference. I'll have a look this evening for some more solid lesson ideas and plans on fun themes. Would be good to have some in stock for my daughter to fill rainy days!
A belated thanks on all the feedback here, fellas. Science club ended up being a big hit, even with some pretty rudimentary projects. To recap how it went:
Week 1 - Physics and "cannons". They worked...well enough. Hampered by budget, we ended up building them out of dixie cups, rubber bands, and craft sticks (aka Popsicle sticks without the fun of eating a Popsicle). We tried a variety of projectiles to see what would shoot best/furthest. Highlight: smallest little girl in the club choosing the tiniest projectile and having the best launch.
Week 2 - I missed this week because of some obligations I had back at the University, so I had the club start the classic "pennies in a variety of liquids" experiment. Because the club is based out of a YMCA, there was a nice health-related tie in here in seeing water-vs-cola's effects. As the weeks progressed we checked in on these to observe changes. Lesson for me: forgetting about evaporation.
Week 3 - Our time was limited with this session, but I had the perfect project courtesy of The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science (hooray, local library!). We combined baking soda and vinegar - classic but a bit trite, right? The trick here is that the kids combined them in simple sandwich bags, thus making "bombs" that popped. Incredibly simple and a project I would recommend time and again for a cheap way to teach. Highlight: One bag didn't pop, but was full of gas. I stomped on it, and the kids acted like I threw myself on a grenade.
Week 4 - Another classic: Mentos and Diet Coke. I wanted to carry on the theme of reactions that we had started in Week 3 and explain exactly why this reaction happened. We used every variety of bottled Diet Coke I could pick up (for under $10) and predicted what bottle size would produce the largest geyser (Spoiler Alert: bigger bottle=bigger reaction). To carry on the pop theme, we attempted the glowing Mountain Dew trick. Two words: Total Bust. In all fairness, Baby was under the weather this week so my personal investment in researching how to do this right was limited to a 2-minute Youtube clip. Total Redemptive Moment: The two oldest girls in the club told me they were having a sleepover that night and would work on the project to figure it out.
Again, I appreciate all the ideas that have filtered in over the last few weeks. It's a real treat seeing how many other people are working on projects like these with kids; gives me great hope that Baby will cross paths with a Geekdad (besides the one she lives with) in a youth group, classroom, or other club!