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Teaching Science Without Any Scientific Equipment

I once had a chemistry teacher who sometimes used to run around to teach scientific concepts, such as acting out the part of electrons to demonstrate different kinds of chemical bonding. I think I actually learned more from his little skits than from doing experiments with actual chemicals! When you do experiments with chemicals, you can see the results of the chemical processes, but not the chemical process itself.

Using actual scientific equipment is a better way of learning how to use the equipment, but for learning concepts, I think skits and models are much more effective.

This is good for homeschoolers, who need to to teach science without access to all the fancy, expensive equipment and supplies that can often be found in traditional schools. In fact, not having scientific equipment can even be an advantage! I think sometimes it's possible to confuse learning with simply playing with scientific stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with playing -- that's a great way of generating interest, which is important too. But there are less expensive ways of getting kids interested in science, and better ways to teach it.

One of my favorite science projects, that I've used many times with kids, teaches how a TV picture is transmitted, without using a real TV or transmitter. It's done with graph paper. I like to use either a very large paper or board, or a blackboard if one is available, with grid lines drawn on it, along with a regular sheet of graph paper.

It takes 2 people: one to play the part of the TV transmitter, and the other to play the part of the TV set. (If there's only one student, then I play the part of the transmitter.)

Before the lesson starts, a picture is made on the graph paper by coloring in the squares. The number of squares on the big paper or blackboard must be the same as the number of squares used to make the picture on the graph paper.

The one who is the transmitter gets the graph paper with the picture on it. It is kept hidden from the one who is the receiver!

The child who is the transmitter calls out the color in each square, one by one. As he does that, the child who is the TV set colors in each square on the "TV screen" (the big paper or board with the grid lines) in whatever color he says.

After the whole picture has been transmitted, I then explain that, in a real TV, a lot more dots are sent, and they are sent very, very fast. It keeps receiving whole pictures like that one at a time, one after another, so fast that it looks like the picture on the screen is moving.

I believe that kids can learn a lot more by acting out processes or equipment like that than by using or even making the real thing. There is no need to spend money on scientific equipment to teach science. All it takes is imagination to come up with ways for kids to act out scientific concepts or make simple models that show what things are or how they work or what they do.



Richard K.

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