this Daily Classroom Special:
Science to Go provides easy yet meaningful
science activities for grades k-8. Science to Go was written
by Barbara Smith, Magnet Coordinator at Harvard Elementary, Houston
(TX) and former Teachers Network web mentor.
Science With Toys
One of the more interesting
ways I teach science (particularly physics) is with toys. If you search
through educational science catalogs, you will find a few there, but
I have much better luck looking through the toy departments in local
stores. Make it a habit to walk through the toy department of any store
you visit! If you see an inexpensive or interesting toy, try to determine
the principle behind how it works.
Look in the section of the store where they keep party favors. These
toys are small and inexpensive. A few are directly related to scientific
principles, and many can be used to teach basic experimental skills
Pop-up Disks are great for testing variables of temperature, surfaces,
flexibility/age. In addition, the kids love the sound and predicting
Stores will often run seasonal toys on great sales, nearly giving
them away. Watch for water toys, beach supplies, gardening kits, sports
equipment, and holiday games.
Once, at the end of summer, I found colorful plastic sand buckets
with shovels for 15 cents each. We use these now for equipment holders,
carrying water, collecting samples, preparing stream beds for erosion
modeling, and they look bright and attractive in the classroom.
Solicit broken toys from students and parents. If this doesn't net
enough good samples, go to the local thrift store or donation center.
Unfortunately, they receive many of these, and you should be able
to get them to save some for you. One donation center I know of has
a monthly auction, and you can easily get a truckload of toys for
one or two dollars.
examine toys for characteristics, take them apart to see what makes
them work (electronic toys are especially interesting), or see if
you can fix them. If they have moving parts, can you identify which
"simple machines" are involved?
Toys I use
- balls - for
teaching astronomy, transfer of energy/motion
- marbles -
for ball bearings, weights, density/buoyancy study
- model cars
- for friction studies, speed, motion
- erector sets
- cause and effect, motion, model-building, constructing simple
- balloons -
buoyancy, model rockets, volume, cushioning for models
- motion, aerodynamics, potential v. kinetic energy, variable testing
toys - circuits, circuit boards, electricity, radio waves, switches
- bath toys
- motion, variables, conservation of mass, energy, characteristics
Institute and Museum
of the History of Science in Florence
Museum in Italy has interpretive displays of artifacts in the museum,
multimedia applications, a library, bibliographies (useful for science
project research!), archives, news, research, and a good list of other
Learning Network (SLN)
A national project between the National Science Foundation and Unisys
that paired science museums with schools. The website has links to 11 outstanding partner museums.