Science Toy Maker

This guy is a middle school teacher.  His site has about 40 carefully-selected science toys that can be easily made for cheap or even free.  Each one has instructions, images, and most have videos and animations.   Everything is explained which makes YOU look like the expert!

http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/

Class-opener demos for any age (almost) from the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is literally the mother of the modern hands-on inquiry musems (we have five of them here in Oklahoma!).

They have oodles of resources for science teachers and here is one:  Over 100 quick demonstrations and activities.   Some require advance  preparation and some do not. They call them “Snacks”.

http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/

Toys from Trash – 100’s of cheap and easy activities.

This is a wonderful science education site from India.   There are literally several hundred easy little toys to make from paper and other scraps.   He does not go deeply into the science of each however you, the trained professional, could easily have them modify different variables and you have an instant STEM, STEAM, or EDP activity.

Many of them also have short videos.   Don’t overlook the opportunity to teach cultural diversity as the language, etc are slightly different from here in rural USA.

With several hundred activities you could literally have one per day – as if you had THAT kind of time!

Appropriate ages?  Use your professional judgement.  Most are intended for upper elementary but with the proper presentation I have used some up to grades 9, 10 and even in college!   When working with the little ones though be aware of safety hazards.

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys.html

Make a Fossilized Rainbow ….fast!

You’ve seen rainbows in the water before… for example, a drop of oil on water, or an oily smudge floating near the shore.   Simon Field has a quick and easy way to make such a rainbow permanent – using water, paper and a drop of fingernail polish.   He also has a great explanation for how this works.   Besides the obvious value in the science of light and astronomy this little activity can be used as another bridge between arts and the sciences.  I’d love to hear some comments about how you might use this.

http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/light/permanent_rainbows/permanent_rainbows.html

Fish Prints – Where will gyotaku take you?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the horrible pun.  This is an art activity that teaches science.  Gyotaku is the art of putting ink or paint on a fish and then rubbing the fish onto paper.  You can make the print on paper, fabric or even T-shirts.  You can use it as-is, you can hand-color details, you can add any way you want to and even add schools of fish.

A few minutes of searching the web for gyotaku images and you’ll be hooked.  There are also some great how-to videos on youtube.

You can use real fish or you can buy rubber casts of fish.  In either case you can rinse off the ink or tempera paint and use the fish over and over.  If you use real fish you can simply re-freeze them in individual plastic bags.  A good source for rubber casts of fish is Acorn Naturalists.  They have a great online catalog at http://www.acornnaturalists.com/

Don’s hints:  Use a good grade of paper.  Copy paper won’t take the ink nearly as well as art paper and you want your students to have a good experience!   Practice first.  Try intergrading different colors of ink on the same fish!  Add fins and other details by hand – just use the fish print for the basics.  With some papers and some inks it works better to slightly mist the paper with water first.  Finally, it is usually better to ink the fish and then place the paper on top rather than the other way around.  Gently pat the paper around the fish and then remove, dry and admire it!

You can also use the same technique to add some plants and make a scene, but plants don’t generally print nearly as clearly as the fish do.  Shells work nicely;  they have more texture.

Where is the science?  This forces the students to concentrate on the form and the details.  Now you can talk about the different parts of a fish and the different fins.  You can related structure to function – different body shapes and different mouth shapes for different purposes.  A diagram to label of parts of a fish will make a lot more sense after this activity than if it were before!  A good follow-up activity for younger students is the free sample activity “Fishing Fun”  from Project WILD at http://www.projectwild.org/growingupwild.htm