Monday, June 27, 2011

Communicating the sweetness of science

Finding and doing cool science demos to impress children is not hard. However, the problem is that it is easy to fall into the trap that they become more like a magic show and communicate little about science. A grand challenge is actually performing demos that teach school children to think scientifically and critically. Framing questions and investigating possible answers for oneself is completely different from saying "gee whiz! this is so cool!" and just learning scientific names and mantras.

There is a really nice article in the Journal of Chemical EducationThe Science of Chocolate: Interactive Activities on Phase Transitions, Emulsification, and Nucleation. It describes a series of demonstrations that can be done with children (and their parents). I am going to try this next week! (at a holiday kids club my church is running).

The demonstrations [described in the Supplementary material] focus on answering three questions:
  • Why does chocolate usually melt in my mouth, not my hand?
  • Why does chocolate feel smooth?
  • Why does chocolate snap when you break it and have sheen?
The demonstrations provide a nice way to see in a memorable manner how changes in material composition change material properties.

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