I taught convection the other day in a 6th grade (urban classroom) . The inquiry activity was to design a house with passive ventilation. If the windows and doors were placed correctly, the hot air (from incense sticks) would gush out, allowing cool, fresh air to enter the house and generate a steady convection current.
Surprisingly it was extremely hard for the students to understand why hot air rose and cold air sank. They could parrot the sentences out, but couldn't explain why.
I was slightly taken aback and at the spur of the moment came up with an analogy that didn't really work too well.
Later I realized that I really needed a resource I could quickly go to and grab an analogy for the concept I was going to be teaching. Sometimes, in the thick of things, its hard to keep a clear mind and unless you have these explanations completely internalized, its not always possible to draw on them.
If we had a wiki of simple, real-world, analogies, then on the day before the class, I could just go to it, search for the topic, print out the relevant analogy and teach it correctly.
So, I started one! If you are interested in contributing, improving or using it, please go to this Wiki (Analogies for teaching Science).
Saturday, June 14, 2008
There have been a few momentous events in Iridescent’s history. June 6th was one of these. Thanks to one dedicated volunteer, Srikant, we got together 20 (very brave) volunteers (10 from SolidWorks) to concurrently conduct hands-on science lessons for an hour for 240, 4th and 5th grade students.
This event was part of a bigger corporate social responsibility event conducted by our partner, L.A Works.
We conducted a brisk, training session two days before (at SolidWorks) , during which volunteers were introduced to Iridescent's misson, given a demo lesson and requested to choose from some prepared lessons. The topics were Biomechanics, Aeronautics, Renewable Energy, Heat Transfer and Sound.
The two goals were i) to get children excited about science and ii) to provide a reference point for engineers interested in teaching science to children. Many times we get so used to our colleagues' level of understanding that we forget how foreign our language may sound to a 4th grader. Through this relatively low-commitment approach, volunteers could quickly get a sense for what teaching in an urban classroom was like and whether they would like to participate in our longer, more intense courses.
The sessions achieved the above goals. The children enjoyed interacting with fresh, new people from different walks of life and of course, doing the actual activities. The volunteers quickly realized how challenging teaching can be, how dynamic the classroom environment is and how rewarding it is to inspire young minds.
This model works. On one side we have a huge pool of intelligent, highly qualified professionals and on the other we have an equally huge pool of children in need of mentorship and guidance.
You have the ability to inspire a child and change her life; to show how hard work, critical thinking, perseverance, curiosity and a love of learning are the ingredients for success.
SPREAD THE WORD!