Science is a global and universal subject. The curriculum is to a large extent the same all over the world, independent of religion and culture. The joy children experience when doing a scientific experiment is also universal. Maria Litlehamar, who studies teaching at NTNU, Norway, saw this first hand when she brought a little of Scientist Factory on her travel to Zambia for an exchange program. In this article Litlehamar elaborates on her experiences from the travel.
On the 5th of February 2017 seven NTNU students and myself traveled to Zambia. Our bags were far heavier than the airline accepted without adding extra cost because they were full of equipment from Scientist Factory. They were stuffed with lab coats, protective goggles and everything we needed to do experiments with slime and colors. We had a strong desire to show children the joy of scientific experimentation in a country with far fewer resources than Norway. But our first encounter with the teachers at Livingstone, their way of teaching and subject books left us somewhat worried.
Kids love hands on experiments
They didn’t usually do experiments. On the other hand, the teachers insisted that we follow the books and standard curriculum to prepare the students for a big test. We had to use all our convincing abilities to get them to change their minds. Luckily our attempts were successful and we were allowed to do experiments in all the four groups we were responsible for. Six of us were with the fifth graders, while the remaining two were with the sixth graders. There were forty students in each group.
The first experiment was a slime experiment with a group of fifth graders. Only two of us teachers were available and naturally some chaos occurred. The students were extremely excited, and it was challenging to calm them. This lead us to do the experiment step by step, which made it easy for them to pay attention. Every single one, independent of preconditions, successfully completed the experiment. It was obvious that they had a fun and joyful time as well. The same activity was also conducted at a different school with a different fifth grade, and was also there greeted with same level of admiration and happiness.
During our five-week stay we also conducted an experiment called Amazing Colors, and the students found it enchanting. We let them paint plastic cups with paint that changed color depending on the temperature of the water in the cup. Surprised and amazed, the children spontaneously applauded and their faces were glowing. See their reaction in the video below:
We also tested glasses that slit white light to all the colors of the rainbow. The students found this incredible, and applauded once again. We saw science’s potential of creating joy. They were smiling throughout the entire lesson, and were proud to have been able to do this with only a little guidance.
The lab coats and protective goggles were also very popular. Just the sight of them was enough to ensure the students something fun was about to happen. They were eager and happy to take something home to show their parents what they’d done at school.
Personally I believe that the children benefited very much from the time we spent with them and that they will remember it for a long time. They got a new understanding of what science is and what can be gained from experiments. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to go deeply into the theory, but I believe the practical part of experiments is just as important. Over all, I am confident they had memorable and joyful experiences.