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In The Name of Science – Ignore The Mess!

25 February 2015

As parents, we are very used to reading with our children, supporting them with homework and running around ferrying them to sports events or music lessons. More creative parents might also bake or cook, garden, or do arts and crafts activities. But how many of us make Science a regular part of how we have fun with our children at home?

  • UKS2 Science Evening at BISS Puxi

Children and parents working together at a recent Science Evening 

Probably not many, and certainly not often enough. Yet simple hands on science activities are a fantastic way to get children exploring the world around them and thinking like future scientists and engineers. It is also a great way to engage with your child – stimulating their thinking while having a lot of messy fun!

The great thing is that Science doesn’t have to be complicated and lots of experiments and investigations can be conducted using only common household objects. Simply playing, watching closely, and asking questions is enough to light a spark of science learning at home. Experiments should be about encouraging natural curiosity and investigating the wonders of the science while you play alongside your child. It’s as much about encouraging scientific behaviour as it is about learning — observing closely, recording, and making predictions. It’s also about parents having the confidence to say when a child asks a question: ‘I don’t know, let’s find out together.’

Parents, however, often do not know where to start with making science accessible to children. But, to make life easier, The Royal Institution has created some fantastic on-line video and activity packs to encourage families to conduct hands-on science experiments in their kitchens using household objects or cheap materials. You don’t need to have any existing science knowledge as alongside the videos are info sheets with all the information you might need. The suggested activities include creating a lava lamp, juice bottle rockets, microwave mug-cakes and boats fuelled by chemical reactions to race in the sink. They really are very clear, easy to follow and have all the information that you need.

Parents may balk at the explosive combination of small children with vinegar, milk, cooking oil, raw eggs, food colouring and effervescent tablets, but these investigations really make no more mess than cooking. In one video a mum works with her daughters Viola, six, and Elodie, three and they have a great time with exciting hands on learning. They use the acids in orange juice and vinegar to dissolve the shells of raw eggs. The fact sheet with the video says:

“You should notice that the eggs left in vinegar and orange juice have lost some or even all of their shells. If so, you can try squashing the eggs or even bouncing them from a height of a few centimetres. . .”

Doesn’t this sound like a great experiment? You could try this or you could try one of the others in the ExpeRimental videos such as Colour Quest, Candle Chemistry, Cabbage Colours and Fizzy Fubes.

So, why don’t you make your home a science lab and conduct a science investigation this week. And remember, with all that fun and wonderful learning - just ignore the mess!

- Niki Meehan, Head of Primary