Presenting Science in Elementary Schools

Richard Hermens [1]

This information is for those who are interested in presenting science in elementary schools. Teachers generally are happy to have a visiting scientist to come to their classrooms and they are most happy if the speaker will talk about a science topic. In elementary classes the students are eager to see a demonstration or to perform the experiment themselves.

Background:

My background in this topic was bringing science to elementary schools in Idaho and Oregon for more than 2 years. I visited more than 55 schools and the total attendance was more than 12,000 students. The grade range was from kindergarten to seventh grade.

Process:

The first thing one must do is to contact the principal or superintendent to determine what process the school uses to allow visitors. The principal will probably ask which class level would be appropriate for what you plan to do.

Make certain that the school has safety goggles for the students to wear. If they do not, perhaps a local industrial firm can loan some for the experiments.

It is wise to find out what the students have been working on so you can determine what topic fits within the curriculum the school has in place. The other method is to find what is the teacher’s lesson plan so you can adjust your presentation.

Students find science topics exciting for two reasons. First, a real scientist is talking to them and, second, they will be doing real science. If you notice, I did not say “chemistry”; I said science.

For example, I had fifth grade students work with 1.5 volt circuits demonstrating the difference between series and parallel circuits. They also worked with LED’s. Another example of an experiment is using a straw to allow the student to blow air into lime-water and dissolving the precipitate with vinegar.

Any science topic gets the students excited and the excitement is the reward the scientist earns.

[1] Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Eastern Oregon University, richard.hermens@me.com