The power of a shock-factor

This week has been my first week back since the fellows had classes on campus last week. The way this program is set up has us in rotating between being in our student teaching placement and being in classes, preparing for teaching and digesting what we experience in the schools.

Monday and Tuesday we pretty general days. Monday, my CF and I discussed what I’ve been assigned to do this semester and planned for Wednesday (today) and Friday because he would be absent. Tuesday we set up a volume lab to help the students learn and apply their knowledge of volume and practice their measurement skills. It was fun but it definitely had to be adjusted for each new group of students. We work with so many different learning levels. I am still shocked by the spectrum we have. It is not a simple task (trying to help each of the students learn) but I think this lab has been great.

Since we did that lab and the fellows talked about potential demos and labs the week prior, I decided to try to come up with a lesson plan for explaining density. I wanted to make sure I grabbed their attention and helped them to remember what density is for their exam. I filled out my template provided by the program and gave it a shot. Today, I started out the class with an “organism” to share with the class — sewer lice! It was really Mountain Dew and raisins, but they completely fell for it. I told them that these creatures filtered water, making it safe to drink. Of course they didn’t believe me and dared me to drink it! Obviously, I was more than happy to oblige. Their reactions were priceless as all of them squealed and cringed in their seats! They were shocked as was I! So much so, in fact, that I actually almost lost the Mountain Dew out of my nose in laughter! After the realization set in that it must be a trick, I explained what I had done and why.

I used this shock-factor to begin talking about density because the raisins were more dense than the liquid so they fell to the bottom of the bottle. I also showed them my density bottle with the measurements of density for different liquids so they could see the numbers and the layers and how the numbers increased as you went down the bottle.

It is my hope that this demo helped some of them to make sense of density. In the next week, we will have a test to see if it really did help. I certainly know that it was entertaining and fun. That is what I want science to be for my students.


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