Posted in Hands-on activities, Science, Shifting gears, STEM

Chapter 24: She Blinded Me With Science

Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

I’m a science teacher now. Sort of. Ish.

A couple of weeks ago, our science teacher resigned. As one might imagine, STEM teachers are a bit hard to come by in the middle of a semester — especially in rural New Mexico — so instead of trying to find somebody new on the spur of the moment, my boss transferred the students into an online distance-learning program that would allow them to earn class credit without having a science teacher physically in the building.

The program is pretty good, but it is entirely computer-based. As someone who grew up dissecting frogs, looking at ditch water under a microscope, and traipsing through the woods in Southern Illinois in search of plants we’d covered during our botany unit, I couldn’t really get my head around the idea of a virtual science class. How were the kids supposed to learn science without blowing stuff up and making messes and sticking their fingers into things to see how they worked? It didn’t seem right to me.

Fortunately, we already have a half-hour enrichment period built into every day, and it didn’t take a lot of effort to persuade my boss to let me use it for hands-on science projects. The trick was to find something interesting and easy to understand that we could set up, complete, and put away in the span of 30 minutes.

A student adds food coloring to a jar of water to see how the molecules move.

We did our first project this week. Our topic was how heat affects molecular movement. I based it on this little demonstration, but instead of two glasses, I brought in three Mason jars. We filled one with ice water, one with room-temperature water, and one with hot water before dropping in liquid food coloring to see how it behaved.

It went over pretty well. The kids seemed interested in what was happening, and they understood the underlying concept, so I’m calling that a win. We’ll definitely do another one next week.




Raised by hippies. Aging and proud of it.

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