After restarting the blog last time, lot of changes happened including us moving back to bayarea, CA.  We moved back summer of last year and then took time to figure out things.  After a settling down, started ground work to start a new enterprise with the intention of providing ways to bring more hands-on science and enquiry based science activities to children.  I did a few “Science shows” in our son’s Kindergarten class and have been very well recieved by teachers and children.  We did a hands-on science activity (phosphorescent slime) in 3rd grade class in local elementary school and became a big hit.  So, the new venture ScienceIsFun is well on the way with meetings set up with SCORE to figure out the nitty gritty details of starting the business.

I will update and post pictures of the science fair we had last week in the next post…..

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Sorry about missing in action for a few weeks.  We moved to Espoo recently and have been travelling a bit but I am back full time to SciFun:)  Yesterday we had a great day with two solar cooker projects with Tampere IB high school students as well as IEEC (formerly known as English Playschool) preschool kids.

I had 5 different solar cookers done of different complexity levels with my family’s help (including my 5 yr old applying glue)… A panel solar cooker, a parabolic solar cooker, a box cooker from a old box that I left to throw out, a hot dog cooker out of shoebox and a pizza cooker out of….yes, a pizza box.  It was lot of fun making them and I tried most of them (The Sun is still not that regular and hot in Finland yet).  I took all 5 of them for display to the schools.

After a 10 minute presentation basically giving them intro about Solar cookers and where they are used most widely today and the three main principles involved in it, I showed them the designs and encouraged them to create their own designs using the three principles.  Since I gave the material list needed beforehand, the student groups came prepared.  There were 30+ students from France visiting the Tampere IB school and ofcourse they were also invited to participate.  The student groups started designing rightaway and it was awesome to see each group working on a different design just glancing at the traditional designs once in a while.  I didn’t get a chance to see the final designs but they do have time till next friday (April29) to finish and test their designs.  We did make this into a friendly competition and pick the most creative solar cooker that works efficiently.  I will try to post some pictures from yesterday and the final designs soon.  I caught one group calculating the focal point for their solar cooker while another group were using industrial strength stapler on their cooker:)  I saw some art work going into one of the solar cookers and definitely saw lot of discussions all through the project.  It was truly a great example for team work in that room yesterday.  They genuinely seemed to be enjoying the project and most definitely were thinking out of the box..

In the afternoon, I went and talked to the 6-7yr old children at the level they would understand.  It was fun hearing their explanations about why black pot would be better to use than others, what does Sun give us etc.  They all listened attentively when I told them they could build a hot dog cooker with just a little help from their teachers and then cook hotdogs when we have more Sun.  One of the kids wanted to surprise the parents by building one and cook a hot dog for them:)  There wasn’t enough time for them to build them yesterday and I returned back home to Espoo.

Today I got the following note from the preschool teacher Liliana:

“So we made the solar cookers today. We made 3 normal box ones, one pizza one, one hot dog one… and then we got creative and we made a FRENCH FRIES one, with a plastic container plus opening on the top to add salt and oil… designed by the kids… and then we have an egg cooker as well. I hope you don’t mind that we broke away from the norm… they understood the concept behind the solar cooker so they asked if they could create their own… I said why not?

My response to her – Mission accomplished:)  They had fun and learnt about Solar cooking and probably even more about energy and heat and the best part is, they now think Science if Fun not just theory and hardwork:)

The picture below shows the Tampere IB high school teacher Kaarina who is the main person behind the project.  Their Chemistry teacher Johanna was also involved with the project from the beginning.


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My visit to Tieteen Päivät was nice.  I attended a few presentations.  I hoped it had a bit more practical demonstrations and/or hands-on but I realized its more academical meant for high school kids and adults.  For me it was interesting but was glad I didn’t take our son.

I attended the presentations on Nano technology by three professors and the more I hear about it the more fascinating it gets.  Especially when they tied such an advanced topic to every day science and where we see Nano technology around us.  The other interesting one I attended was on kitchen science.  The presenter showed how regular things like salt on salmon helps/creates chemical reaction in cooking salmon to perfection, what chemical actions happen when a steak is cooked to perfection and what’s in the fluffy dessert made of whipcream etc.  Fun and fascinating…I was thinking how much more fun it would have been to actually see them cooking right there with all the aromas:)  Yesterday was supposed to be for children so probably they have more hands-on activities or demonstrations yesterday but I couldnt’ go again.

In Tampere, this year the Tiedesuunnistus is going to be 5 days instead of regular 2 days and will have lot more programs.  I will post here again as soon as I know more about it.  Every year The Tampere Summer University (Mr. Mikko Mattila) arranges with local companies to give a tour/explain what they do to the high school students of Tampere.  This helps the students to see what exciting opportunities are available out there.

On an off topic from the above, today we did a small toothpick race experiment at home and thought I will share that here.  Its -25c outside here in Tampere at our home and although there are lot of fun things to do outside, we stayed home in the morning and so ofcourse we had to do some experiments.  We saw some toothpicks so thought how about a race for them.

In a big bowl of water, place 3 toothpicks in the center in the shape of triangle (4 toothpicks in a square).  Take another toothpick and dip it in dishwashing liquid and pace the end with the soap in the center of the triangle (or a square).  What happened to the toothpicks?  answer in the next post on monday…

have a great weekend and stay warm,

Sheela

I suddenly remembered today that a 5 day science forum  called “Tieteen Päivät”  roughly translating to “Science Days” is  starting tomorrow in Helsnki.  The events are at Helsinki University.  It is open for everyone.

The first Science forum was organized in 1954.  But the current format of 5 days and one night has been happening since 1977 and is a biennial event.  Different topics and events are organized for each day.  Seminars, talks, demonstrations…..Five full days of exciting things.  And all the events are connected to the theme of that year.

The theme of the 2011 Science Forum is Science and Everyday Life - My most favorite topic.  I couldn’t believe I get to observe and enjoy the same topic I am working on promoting here everyday.  I am joining Tampere Lukio students and teacher to go visit it on thursday.  Although I wish I could be there for all 5 days, I am glad to be able to visit one day this year.  Perhaps next year?

The Science Forum is from 12.1.2011 till 16.1.2011.  It includes both saturday and sunday so if you get a chance, please go visit atleast for a few hours.

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Wish you all a very happy new year.  I meant to post this question earlier today but thought maybe start the new year with it instead.

If you happen to open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate or planning on opening one tomorrow, think about this.

How can you open the Champagne bottle without touching the cork?

Please post the answer in the comment section…and have a wonderful holidays.

-Sheela

Today our son had a friend for sleepover and after playing for a while both of them disappeared into the bathroom with words like “science experiment”, “water”, “soap”, “salt” etc lingering in the air.  Ofcourse it piqued my curiosity and I was listening to their conversation when I can…I heard comments such as ” watch out its going to explode”, “watch out the rocket is going to go way up, we need to wear protective glasses” and then heard a big sigh with a comment ” huh! that was not a good idea, rocket didn’t go anywhere…i wonder if we should try with a different soap”.  Although I can imagine what they are trying to do and why it wouldn’t work, it was also fascinating to see their thought process in this wondering what else might work.  It doesn’t matter whether they become scientists when they grow up, as long as they learn how to think outside the box and find other ways to do anything they are trying to do.  Thought I will share that little incident with all of you as I am sure you see that when you observe the kids.  Their imagination and reasoning is something we dont give much credit for.

Here’s a small tip I learnt this week.  Anytime I get fresh cut flowers into a vase, they dont stay more than a few days.  Although I heard of things such as adding sugar amongst other stuff might lengthen the lifetime, its too much work:)  So, when I heard that placing a couple of copper coins into the vase full of fresh cut flowers, they last longer.  I started the experiment today and will post after a week or so but…

Why do you think adding copper coins help keep the flowers fresh longer?  post your answers in the comment section and monday I will provide the answer.

have a great weekend and lookout for science around you,

-Sheela

I couldn’t post a picture in the comment section so I am adding it here.  Here is a picture of the flowers after 2 weeks in a vase with a few copper coins .  Usually by 2 weeks time, the flowers are all wilted, the water is murky and smelly but as you can see, the water is still clear!.  I believe that’s the reason flowers are fresh.

Thanks Melanie for the comment.   I am not yet sure what chemical reaction is causing the water to stay clearer (and with no fungus developing, the pores stay open and the flowers continue to drink water and stay fresh).  I haven’ found the correct answer to that question yet as well and am still looking for answers so open to all answers:)

Sorry for missing two weeks from the blog.  Time slipped out so fast!  Amongst other things, I got a chance to meet the science teachers in Tampereen Lyseo (high school).  They have both national curriculum and IB program and I am interested in understanding more about what’s taught at high school level, what practical experiments do they do in school and what are the challenges they face in doing more experiments.  The teachers were very helpful and spent time discussing about science and showing their lab space and equipment.

For a quick and easy experiment, try this at home.  For Halloween, we happened to get some marshmellows and so we thought of trying an experiment.  When you roast marshmellows on open fire, they do get a bit bigger so we thought of trying it in microwave.  Just take one or two marshmellows and put them in a paper plate and put it on microwave.  Depending on the setting, turn it on upto a minute and watch through the window while its in the microwave.

Post your comments here if possible.  I will add the explanation on friday along with another experiment.

- have a good science week,

Sheela

My intention is to post one experiment every friday to try out in the weekend.   Today I made paneer which is Indian cottage cheese.  You boil milk and add lemon juice to the boiled milk and the milk breaks up with cheese floating on top and water at the bottom.  That’s not the experiment I am suggesting here today though:)  When our son saw it, he complained that he didn’t get to do the experiment and so I had to quickly think of an experiment we can do which has to involve lemons.  So here is the simple experiment we did today

Ingredients needed:

A couple of lemons

A table spoon of baking soda

A tall glass jar (or tumbler or anything you can see through would work)

A tea spoon of dishwashing liquid

In the glass jar, put a table spoon of baking soda.  Add the dishwashing liquid to the baking soda and mix it a little.  Then get the kid(s) to pour the lemon juice taking precautions and make sure you are prepared for a little mess.  And watch what happens.

ps: if you are fresh out of lemons at home, you can use good old vinegar for this experiment.

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We hear about new inventions all the time that makes our life better (or more work) sometimes.  As I watch children coming up with such creative ideas and solutions for what they perceive as a problem, I wondered how many inventions are created by children that we use everyday.  So from time to time I will add a kid invention here.

As the winter season started here and the temperatures going below zeroC, we dress up in layers and cover every part of our body except the face.  One of the contraptions people use (especially if they are skiing) is Ear Muffs.  Keeps your ears warm and safe from cold air.  Did you know the Ear Muffs were invented by a 15yr old boy named Chester Greenwood? He wanted to protect his ears from cold and tried wrapping a scarf but it was bulky and itchy.  So, he made two ear-shaped loops from wire and asked his grandmother to sew fur on them.  Later he patented a better version of it and apparantly soldiers in US even used them in World War I.  It seems like a simple idea now but when it didn’t exist, it took this boy to make it happen.

That 15 year old kid grew up to have 100 patents in his lifetime!  Great invention isn’t it..

Have a great science day everyone…

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I answered the questions for the previous post in the comment section of that post to keep it together.

One of the misconceptions around us is that science is for “older” kids. That it is somethings Kids “have” to learn in school. But from own experiences I can say emphatically that preschool children enjoy science if presented the right way just as much as older kids. A couple of weeks ago, I gave a science show in local International playschool (IEEC in Pynniki, Tampere) to 5 and 6 yr old children. The 6yr olds of that school do science experiments on occasion like menthos and coke etc so the children are already familiar with how fun science can be.

I gave the show for the occasion of Halloween and so we had lot of fun halloweeny experiments. I took some dry ice and we had lots of fun with it including making some magic potion for all the witches and wizards that came. We made a lot of mess by pouring a bit of dish washing liquid into a tall jar with warm water and dry ice. It produced so many big bubbles and each kid got to burst a few bubbles which releases the smoke (carbon dioxide). Ofcourse we made some screaming balloons too including one gaint one.

I also took some ‘ghost balls’ that are just a few millimeters wide when dry but soak them in water and they are big marble size balls. They earn the name “ghost balls” because when you place them in water, you cannot spot them. Their refractive index is the same as of water so they just “disappear”. Later the director of the school Shawn told me that they got the parents to put their hands into the ‘water’ and get amazing expressions when they find those ghost balls (well, can’t let the children have all the fun right).

For the 6 yr olds, we also made some slime just using some borax and white glue. Put some food color and it became a colorful gooey mess. The number of ‘eeewwws’ and ‘yuuucks’ I heard followed by asking if they can touch it or do it for themselves was enough indication they found it fascinating and fun. Their teacher Liliana did promise that if they behave well enough, they might get to do it very soon.

But for me the best part came right after the show when a 6yr old girl walked up to me and said “When I grow up, I am going to be a scientist’ with a glow on her face and twinkle in her eyes. I can’t think of a better way of ending a science show than that….