How to Present Science Lessons to Young Students
Let the children know something about you as a person. Was there a special individual or event in your life — a teacher, a learning experience, a book, a visit to a museum — that first aroused your interest in science? What do you most love about chemistry? What do you enjoy about your particular field? Keep in mind that you may be the only chemist the students have ever met!
Describe what you do
Explain your work or your field in terms that students will understand. For example, if you are an organic chemist, you might start by first asking students if they know what carbon is. Then explain to them that carbon is an element that is a building block of nature. You are an organic chemist because you work with materials that contain carbon.
Introduce the lesson
Use a demonstration, introductory activity, unexpected event, or story to gain the students’ attention and peak their interest in finding out more. Center your lesson on a question that students will investigate with you. By the end of your lesson, students should be able to use evidence from their activities to answer the question. Children love science when it is taught as an extension of their natural curiosity.
Let the children learn by doing
Don’t tell the children what to expect in a demo or hands-on activity. Let them see for themselves and then describe their observations. Encourage them to think about possible explanations for the results. If possible, provide time for the students to test their ideas.
Stimulate thinking by asking questions
Ask questions to help the students make a prediction, give an explanation, state an opinion, or draw a conclusion. Make sure students have enough background so that they can consider the possibilities. You may want to write a list of questions to ask students as you plan your lesson. The best questions require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Use language children will understand
Introduce one or two new vocabulary words using simple definitions that relate to a child’s everyday experience. Here are two examples:
- Acids and bases are chemical terms which describe substances that are a part of your everyday life. Lemons, oranges, and grapefruit contain acids. Hand soap, dish detergent, and laundry detergent contain bases.
- You can find polymers all around and on you. For example, many of the toys that you play with, including anything plastic, are made of polymers. Many clothes are made from polymers. Your skin, hair, cartilage in your ears and nose, and even your DNA all contain polymers. Polymers are chemical compounds that are made of chains of molecules linked together by chemical bonds.
Ask for an evaluation of your efforts
Ask the children what they liked (or didn’t like) about your visit or have the teacher let you know what the kids thought about the activity and how well it helped them learn science. Use their suggestions to enhance your next volunteer effort.