Science club

By ClaireMarshall | footprints | June 27, 2013

We are now almost finished running our after school STEM club, so it’s about time that I blogged about it. In that time I’ve learnt not to overestimate children’s ability to read or listen to instructions but also not to underestimate the tricky questions they will ask or the genius answers they can occasionally come up with!

It all started at our STEM ambassador training day when it was suggested we run after school science clubs for our footprints time during our first secondment, the Derby grads split into three groups and each group were given the contact details of one school. Unfortunately the first school that my team were given by STEMNET to contact was very non responsive and no contact was ever made, so then much later than we would have planned we got in contact with another school. They turned out to be really enthusiastic, we had a number of meetings with them before agreeing that because of the large perceived interest we would try and run 2 concurrent clubs in two classrooms for years 7-9; capping the numbers at an extremely scary 60 children.

We went into the school to publicise it loads, to get the kids really excited and put up posters so everyone would know it was happening. We got really good interest and since then our numbers have levelled off at about 45 kids each week and we run hands on activities with them. So far we have held 10 weeks of different as well as taken them on a trip to the Rolls Royce Learning and development centre. They always have to work in teams and there is always competition involved and prizes of sweets to get them motivated. We generally start with a brief PowerPoint and explanation of the science before setting them loose with the challenge.

The first week we did the ever popular and simple, spaghetti and marshmallow towers which taught the kids about structures and which shapes are strongest while allowing us to gauge if we were pitching the science at the right level. Considering some year eights immediately snapped all their spaghetti into small pieces we decided that was complicated enough. Since then we have made bouncy balls, cleared up oil spills, launched chicken colonies on the moon, created aeroplanes and built balsa wood bridges amongst others.

Some learning points; no matter how simple the instruction sheet NO child will read it, then they will wonder why mixing all the ingredients you gave them together all at once didn’t work, every activity will be around 6 times messier than you ever anticipated it could be (sorry Murray Park cleaners), no matter how much time you give them most of the work will happen in the last five minutes and when losing they will come out with some pretty creative excuses about aliens/invisible bridges/injustices done to their team.

For me some of the highlights have been getting involved in a heated discussion with some year nines about Harry Potter vs The Hunger Games, seeing the kids really engaged with Chris’s steam power demonstration and hearing them give really intelligent answers to how steam power works, and coating a science classroom, and a lot of children in corn flour and water. Whereas the low point would probably be the number of children who thought (even after us explaining the methods that they could use) that they could clean up an oil spill by sticking their hand in and lifting the oil out.

The next two weeks we are doing a rocket extravaganza! Five rockets in two weeks, what could possibly go wrong?

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