Bloomin’ ‘eck! I’m totally cream-crackered!!!
I’ve just finished doing a two day science workshop for my school’s holiday Academy programme.
We had around ten kids aged 10-12 with a science teacher supported by me doing the stuff with them, and I can honestly say it was far more tiring than normal school science lessons. Why? Because there was no sitting down writing up results, drawing diagrams, thinking too much about answers in between experiments. We had to be full on fun science for two days! We did include explanations and gave them lots of scientific information and full handouts to go home with, but there is no respite to having to be very hands on from 9am to 4pm. During breaks and lunchtime, we had to clear up, prepare the next items and do our turns on duty watching the kids at play…
So – how did we fill our two days?
First up – the chemistry of fireworks. Flame-testing metal salts to see what colours they produce when burned. The bright red of Strontium (Sr) is our favourite. (Note: we didn’t do Barium as Barium salts are toxic). We also burned iron filings which give the sparkle and fizz, magnesium metal to get the bright white, and we demonstrated the dragon’s breath to them (dissolve metal salt in a little water, add a good slug of alcohol and spray carefully through a Bunsen flame using a mister – (we used strontium again).
Next – we made mini air-zookas. This is a project that takes about ten minutes to make and then gives an hour of fun. Cut ends of Pringles tubes and cut in half. Glue flat end onto an old cd with a glue gun. Put an extra layer of glue around the outside too. Then cut down a balloon and stretch over the other end of the tube and tape in place. Then you can pull on the balloon to force air out through the hole to knock over plastic cups, card houses, blow out candle flames etc.
After lunch – it was pump rockets made from 2l drinks bottles. The children customised their rockets with fins, nose-cones etc, weighted them a little with modelling clay. Then we went onto the field, filled them 1/3rd with water, attached to the pump and soon WHOOSH! Luckily we got through three launches each before the pump broke!
Day two and we went all CSI – a full day of forensics-related activities with a murder mystery to solve. Fingerprinting, footprint casting, fibre examination, pen chromatography, mystery powders to test and plenty of going through all the suspects’ statements to work out whodunnit. We also squeezed in extracting DNA from soft fruit – which is a lovely and messy little experiment.
The teacher and I were really happy that we’d entertained them royally, got some good science into the mix, and given them loads to take home and talk about and show to their parents. I just hope if we do it again next summer, we get some different students so we can use the same programme!