Hands on Science

In 2015-2016 I did this project with a primary school in Alcobendas.  Each week, the four primary 6 classes (6o) did a practical science experiment organised by me.  The students worked in groups of 4 or 5 and they measured/tested/designed during the activity.  We followed the theme of the curriculum and rather than attempting to get amazing results from the experiments, we let the students play, experiment and directly experience the science from their text books.

These are links to my photo journals from these classes and I'd like to say a massive thank you to Jose Luis, Alberto and Beatriz for working with me on this project:

Experiment 1:  Making a Camera Obscura (Craft) 

Each student made their own camera obscura from a shoe box.  The camera functions like the eye and what you see is weirdly inverted in the camera!

Links to PDF documents:
Optical Illusion Slides: To introduce the class
Photo Summary of Camera Obscura Experiment
Worksheet with Camera Obscura Construction Instructions
Youtube video of how to make a really good camera obscura

Experiment 2:  Simulating Digestion (modelling) 

In this activity, the students simulated digestion buy passing noodle soup through an intestine made from tights.  They saw the liquid coming out quickly and the noodles needed to be pushed through the material.  I should have got them to put an elastic band sphincter on the bottom end to stop the solids falling out so easily.

Links to PDF documents:
Photo Summary of Digestion Experiment
Worksheet for Digestion Experiment

Experiment 3:  Acids and Alkalis 1 (chemistry) 

This is an incredible experiment, you can make a rainbow of colours using different pH samples, using the indicating power of the purple water from boiled red cabbage.  Measuring pH is simple chemistry and a new method of measuring - using colour and a colour scale.  The students tested a range of foods and cleaning products. 

Links to PDF documents:
Photo Summary of Acids and Alkalis Experiment 1
Worksheet Acids and Alkalis Experiment 1
Cup Labels Printout 1

Experiment 4:  Acids and Alkalis 2 (chemistry) 

We categorised the sample from the previous activity by lining them up on the pH scale so that the students saw that foods are usually acids or neutral and the cleaning products were alkalis.  They they did some mixing of acids and alkalis to see that the process is reversible. 

Links to PDF documents:
Photo Summary of Acids and Alkalis 2
Cup Labels Printout 2
Hazard Symbols Printout

Experiment 5:  Reflexes (physiology, measuring) 

This is a really simple experiment to measure the students' reflexes using rulers.  I got them to plot a graph to work out a modal average for their reaction times.  There was some serious cheating going on with some very competitive students trying to trick their partner to beat them.  The graphs that they drew were good, but their cheating and messing round gave some very strange distributions - more results would have given better mode graphs!

Links to PDF documents:
Photo Summary of Reflexes Experiment
Worksheet for Reflexes Experiment
Cards for Nerve Signal Demonstration

Experiment 6:  Genes (probability activity) 

I got the students to do a probability game using a dice (I stuck brown and blue spots on a cubic wooden brick, I didn't use the dice in the PDF).  This activity was difficult for the students and I think I am going to look for a computer simulation to replace this activity.

Links to PDF documents:
Text - What is a Gene?
Gene Dice, Siblings Game and Forbidden Combinations
Gene Introduction Flashcards
Worksheets for Genes Experiment
Worksheet for Unhealthy Genes

Experiment 7:  Pendulum (design experiment) 

We talked about pendulums and the groups decided how they were going to try to change the swing rate of a pendulum.  They chose one method and tested it.  They did 5 measurements and drew a graph, however their graphing skills were very poor and if I did it again, I would pre-prepare graphs with axes for them to fill in rather than getting them to plan the axes too.

Links to PDF documents:
Introduction Text - Why are pendulums important
Photo Summary for Pendulum Experiment
Worksheet for Pendulums Experiment
Summary Text for Pendulum Experiment

Experiment 8:  Solubility (chemistry and testing)

The students tested the solubility of different materials like oil, plastic and sugar in two solvents (water and acetone).  Some things dissolved in water and others dissolved in acetone but I foud it difficult to a) stop them adding too much material and b) get them to wait long enough and stir enough to see if the material dissolved.  Scientists usually do tests on small amounts - these scientists liked to put a lot in their test tubes!

Links to PDF documents: 
Photo Summary for Solubility Experiment
Worksheet for Solubility Experiment 

Experiment 9:  Melting (physical changes circus)

I prepared three tables of experiments (x2) and the students measured melting points, observed substances that melted and didn't melt and did an activity with candles.  They spent about 5 minutes at each activity and then changed tables.

Links to PDF documents: 
Photo Summary Melting Experiments
Worksheet for Melting Experiments
Easier Worksheet for Melting Experiments

Experiment 10:  Separating a Mixture (chemistry and planning)

This experiment was from their books - separating salt and sand - but I added lentils into the mix too.  They had already talked about the concept in class except that instead of evaporating the water I got them to boil the water off with burners.  I gave them equipment and the mixture and they had to plan their method first.  I had all the burners on one table so that I could supervise the flames.  It worked fantastically and their pictures of what they did were really creative. 

Links to PDF documents: 
Photo Summary Separating a Mixture Experiment 
Group Planning Sheet for Separation Experiment 

Experiment 11:  Density (measuring and calculating)

This is a brilliant activity because the students measured masses and volumes and then they used calculators to calculate actual densities.  I made Eureka Cans from plastic container and plastic tubes but this activity can be done with big measuring cylinders too (however the students then need to calculate the volume). Items with densities less than water floated and those whose density was greater than water sank.....simple!

Links to PDF documents: 
Introduction Text - Archimedes and the Density of Matter 
Photo Summary Density Experiment 
Worksheet for Density Experiment 

Experiments 12 and 13:  Electromagnetism (physics circus)

I prepared 3 magnet experiment tables and 3 electricity experiment tables and over two days the students did 6 short activities (3 per day).  They looked at building circuits, conductivity, electromagnets, magnetic fields, static electricity and what materials are magnetic.  I only had enough equipment for one table of each experiment so the circus arrangement was useful here.  We had an incredible time! 

Links to PDF documents: 
Photo Summary Electricity Experiments 
Photo Summary Magnetism Experiments 
Worksheets for Electromagnetism Experiments 
Easier Worksheets for Electromagnetism Experiments 
We presented this project (Ciencia en sus Manos) at the Journadas de Innovación at CRIF "Las Acacias" Madrid in June 2016.





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