Everyday Science with Kids

ruler

I saw a great article over on Forbes by Chad Orzel, a physics professor and author. He reported on the idea of not just talking about science with kids, but actually doing science with your kids. He gives the example of his daughter who read that a person is about 1% taller in the morning than in the evening…so they experimented and measured Chad a.m. and p.m. And guess what! It’s true! They were able to determine a 0.73% difference. He comments,

I mention this not because it’s a particularly impressive experimental achievement, but precisely because it’s not a particularly impressive experimental achievement. It needed a tape measure, a stepstool, and remembering to re-measure my height the next morning. But both of the kids were really excited by the whole idea.

It’s just one example of taking opportunities to measure and experiment with simple things. Noted–a “weird science facts” book for 7 year olds can be helpful. See the full article.

resources for parents on STEM education

science-museum
A visit to the Science Center in Bicycles, Airships, and Things that Go by Bernie McAllister, Illustrated by John Aardema

A few items for parents interested in STEM education:

“STEM-Works, a resource for teachers, mentors, parents, STEM professionals, volunteers, and everyone passionate about getting children eager to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.” From the engineering school at Southern Methodist University

http://stem-works.com

The University of Washington’s Childcare Quality and Early Learning group has a presentation on Infant and Toddler STEM. This document helpfully breaks down what STEM is in terms of early learning:

“Science is a way of thinking. Science is observing and experimenting, making predictions, sharing discoveries, asking questions, and wondering how things work.

Technology is a way of doing. Technology is using tools, being inventive, identifying problems, and making things work.

Engineering is a way of doing. Engineering is solving problems, using a variety of materials, designing and creating, and building things that work.

Math is a way of measuring. Math is sequencing (1, 2, 3, 4, …), patterning (1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, …) and exploring shapes (triangle, square), volume (holds more or less), and size (bigger, less than).”

Finally, this post on Getting Smart is from last year but helpful still, “5 Ways Parents can support STEM learning.” The methods include encourage questioning and visit a science museum–which is exactly what our characters do in the title Bicycle, Airships, and Things that Go!

human circuit game

circuitgame

The London-based group Technology Will Save Us features the human circuit game for kids. Using low-tech stuff, kids simulate sending electrons (such as pieces of fruit or clothes pins) through a human “circuit”

There’s a handy “instructions” sheet and printable resources for the circuit including batteries, switches, lightbulbs, and so forth. Although this is useful for a classroom, could you make it work at a kids birthday party in some form of “pass the parcel”?

New ways to look at the world

Last week we looked at low tech ways to take aerial photographs–creating local maps, if you will. This week we’re looking at a different kind of mapping tool. Worldmapper has a tag line of “The world as you’ve never seen it.” And I’m sure you and the kids will agree. We are all familiar with standard maps of the world, such as the one below:

450 worldmap

map courtesy of Perhelion on creative commons wikimedia

Worldmapper works by distorting this map according to relative sizes of  some specific category. For example, this map shows airline miles travelled according to “the proportion of all kilometres flown around the world by aircraft that were registered there.”

worldmapper-air

So we can see pretty clearly that countries like Africa (red and orange) are contributing very few air miles, whereas the US and Europe contribute the most. What about Japan? India? Canada? Can you spot them?

Here’s another example, people who live in overcrowded homes. In this map, “Territory size shows the proportion of all people that live in overcrowded homes worldwide that live there.”

overcrowding2

In the notes for this map, Worldmapper comments, “Overcrowding is defined here as when there are more than two people for each room in the house. The populations of richer territories experience less overcrowding, than those in poorer territories. Living in large groups is also connected to social and cultural norms. In India 77% of the population live in conditions that are considered to be overcrowded.”

We can see the big statistic for India appear on the map as the bulging yellow area. Meanwhile in the US and Europe there is relatively little overcrowding. What else can you see about overcrowding?

When you visit Worldmapper you can view a range of map categories covering housing, income, transport, health, disease, and many more. The project shows some interesting ideas for how we design our information display.