Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Science Show

Year 9 students demonstrate the effect of surface tension
to some Year 3 students: VIDEO
Having been appointed the Year 9 Dean for next year, I knew the end to my term was going to be manic. Additionally, having finished exams, I wanted to offer a genuine learning opportunity for my current Year 9 class. What to do...?

Something I have been wanting to do for a while is to get a class to put on a Magic Show or a Science Lesson for a Primary School class. When I visited Camberwell High School in Melbourne earlier this year, a teacher there was doing exactly this. He told me about how successful and fun this was for all. So, I decided this was a great thing for my Year 9 Science class to do.

Having done it now, I have been reflecting upon the success and value of it. In a nutshell, here is what I have identified as some of the key "wins":
  • Students understand what it is like to teach others
  • Fosters a link with the Prep School
  • Exposes younger students to Science
  • Students get enthusiastic about Science
  • Students learn about forward planning
  • Students learn about laboratory safety
  • Students learn (a little) about the Science behind their chosen experiment

While this was done late in the year, it would actually be a great thing to do very early in the year instead (or as well…). Chaos did reign a little in the laboratory with so many students but there was a real “buzz” of excitement and interest the whole time.

Fun with Dry Ice - only one has remembered the
discussion we had about safety glasses, though.
Interestingly, two groups had disasters on the day. One group did small-scale trials for making slushies. When they tried to do it large-scale, their timing for the freezing process was completely wrong. We talked about this afterwards and it was a lesson well-learned. Another group was doing a baking soda and vinegar volcano. They ran out of vinegar during the dress rehearsal, so brought a different brand the next day. For some reason, its reaction rate was totally different leading to a "fizzer", sadly.

What was the planning/preparation process?


One of the most important parts was to establish a relationship with a junior class and its teachers. We are lucky to have a Preparatory School, so I was able to email the two Year 3 teachers and they were wonderful in organising a meeting with me to discuss the timing for them to visit. I was also able to send "previews" to them to make sure the experiments would actually be things their students would enjoy seeing. From the previews, they could also check that the explanations were not too technical for Year 3 students.


Baking soda and Vinegar Volcano. Sadly this was a
"fizzer". Luckily, we have a VIDEO of it working.
My students were given time to find experiments on YouTube etc. that they may want to try. They were told to create a list of required resources/equipment and to be aware of the safety considerations. I warned them that some experiments may not be feasible, so it would be wise to plan for more than one experiment.

Each group had to show me a video of what they planned to do, give me a list of resources and explain to me the safety considerations. If I was happy that the experiment was legal for them to carry out, we then went over their resources/equipment list and I told them which resources/equipment the school would provide and which ones they needed to bring to school themselves.


If, after all of this, they still wanted to do their original experiment (some did change their experiment), they had two lessons to trial it, culminating in a preview in front of another group. The other group was encouraged to ask questions, which would help the demonstrating group prepare answers for what the Year 3 students may ask.

If the trials went well, we filmed a "dress rehearsal" and this was made available on the Class Blog. I sent the link to these previews to the Year 3 teachers and asked for feedback from their expert perspective. If the trials didn't go well, these groups used the rest of their time to get it right, rather than making a preview video etc.

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