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A Source Book of Fascinating Facts, Projects and Activities

Excerpt: You Can't Just Talk About Science,
You Have To Do It

Research has shown that the use of hands-on activities can result in substantial improvements in science process skills and creativity; increased performance on tests of perception, logic, language development, science content, and math; and improved attitudes toward science and science class. It is also interesting to note that children who are disadvantaged – academically, economically, or both – can benefit significantly from activity-based science.

Sometimes, it's possible for children to work directly with "the thing" being discussed. For example, they can experiment directly with light and making shadows. Other times, as in the case of dinosaurs or other planets, direct experience is impossible. In these situations, I have kept the underlying goal in mind: to get children actively involved. So, instead of direct experience, I have substituted activities such as games, stories, and plays.

There are challenges in activity-based science. You have to deal with some dread and anxiety (yours) and/or possible boredom and misbehavior (the students'). I've had the opportunity to discuss these issues with many parents and teachers. Here are some tips helpful for a classroom situation:

  • Start from a point of order. Make it clear that everyone must be seated, quiet, and ready to listen to the instructions.

  • Introduce activities. Put an activity into context, perhaps asking children to draw on their own experiences.

  • Pair children, perhaps a fast-learner with a slower learner.

  • Establish work stations. Everyone should have their own space.

  • Handing out a sheet describing the activity can help children follow the steps and understand the whole. Many teachers have children work directly with pages from Science Is..., while other teachers write up their own activity description.

  • Repeat instructions several times. Give clear, one-step directions. Some longer, more detailed activities can be overwhelming.

  • The materials in Science Is... are inexpensive, so it should be possible for each child or group of children to have their own materials – and therefore be able to work at their own pace.

  • Control materials. Distribute only what is needed when it is needed. Too many materials invites attention being drawn away too quickly and scattered unproductively.

  • Keep everyone busy. If a child thinks he or she has "finished," ask questions to encourage further exploration.

  • When discussing findings with children, it's important to make children wait before they answer any questions you ask. Start with, "Listen carefully to the question and take time to think before answering." Then repeat the question twice and wait several seconds before inviting responses.

  • Conclude activities. Children need a sense of closure. A formal summary also helps children remember what they have learned and reinforces key concepts.

Scientific literacy can begin with a book of science activities. Science activities can give children a sense of control over a changing, problem-filled world. First of all, the activities provide children with an opportunity to do and learn specific things to make the world a better place. For example, activities on the environment demonstrate actions that children can take immediately. Secondly, science activities allow children to see for themselves what works and what doesn't. For example, children can directly compare water and vinegar for their effect on plant growth. Thirdly, science activities help to replace fear and uncertainty with understanding. For example, going up in an airplane and having your ears "plug" can be scary, until you find out why it's happening and what you can do to relieve the pressure. Fourthly, science activities emphasize that the world is a truly fascinating place. For example, why does it hurt when you cut your finger but not when you cut your fingernail? Finally, science activities encourage active participation and personal responsibility to balance the passive observation fostered in a television-dependent age.

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

Science Is...

Excerpt from Science Is...: A Source Book of Fascinating Facts, Projects and Activities by
Susan V. Bosak. This classic bestseller is filled with easy-to-use, tested activities for children
6-14 years.
Click here to find out more, see sample activities, and get online ordering info for Science Is....

Science Is...

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