Plan Your Classroom Visit
Before you pull out your goggles, you’ll need to do some research to connect with a teacher and present a lesson plan that supports the school’s curriculum.
School administrators and teachers welcome volunteers who understand the needs of the teachers and the students, and who can help the teacher accomplish his or her goals. You have a great deal to offer.
If you have a personal connection to the school, use it. Perhaps you’d like to teach a science lesson for your child’s, niece’s, nephew’s or grandchild’s class. Maybe you are neighbors with a teacher at the school. Whatever your connection, start there.
If you don’t know anyone at the school, you can still be a valuable volunteer. Call the principal and ask if you can arrange a meeting to talk about volunteering. Principals want to connect with professionals in the community, so they are motivated to talk with you.
When you’re talking with an educator, explain that you are a scientist in the community and you want to help support science education for the school. If you have experience working with kids, describe what you have done, what the children learned and how they responded.
With strict curriculum requirements, teachers don’t have a lot of time to devote to classroom “extras.” Show that you’ve taken their time seriously and are willing to prepare an age-appropriate science lesson to support the curriculum.
Be sure to explain that you will conduct a safe demonstration with the students. Expand on the details of your safety plan once you’ve determined which experiments and chemicals you’ll be presenting with.
Other helpful information to share with a teacher:
- If you have experience working with kids, describe what you have done, what the children learned, and how they responded.
- Explain that you will conduct safe demonstrations and hands-on activities with the students. Using recognizable household materials is one approach, but you can also bring the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for chemicals the teacher might not recognize and explain what you will do to ensure that the students are safe.
- Ask the educator if the school provides safety goggles for use during the activities. If not, they may be able to borrow them from another school in the district or you may be able to provide some. Several science suppliers provide child-sized goggles. The American Chemical Society also sells both child and adult-sized goggles. You can buy them at the ACS Store.
- Most importantly, let the educator know that you’d like to help the school meet their science goals for the students. The school administrators, teachers, and students will all appreciate the opportunity to have the help of a real scientist!
It’s important to point out that you will teach a concept from the local science curriculum. This will support the teacher and also reinforce important concepts for the students.
Developmentally-appropriate lessons are those that are age-appropriate and support the teaching requirements for that grade. Schools are required to teach certain concepts that are outlined by their district. Usually there are so many things teachers must cover that there isn’t much time for extras. It helps if you can find out what is required for the grade level of the students you plan to work with. These requirements, often called standards, may be posted online. Ask a principal or teacher if you need help finding this document.
Teachers are outstanding at making connections and building on previous learning and experiences. It’s important to plan your activity with input from the teacher. Your lesson, even if it’s only one visit, will have a long-lasting impact if it ties into the prescribed curriculum and supports the teacher's lesson plan.
“If we positively affect one kid, and that kid goes on to become a great science fiction writer, or a great scientist, engineer, patent attorney, or medical doctor...that’s what you want.”
Additional resources to prepare for your classroom visit:
- Tips on Planning Your Visit – for additional in-depth safety guides, planning checklists and presentation tips for your classroom visit from Kids & Chemistry.
- Presentation Tips for Young Audiences – When you speak with kids about chemistry, try to remember to interest them in science while speaking in their terms.
- Science Safety Guidelines – Whenever you plan an experiment as part of your outreach, consult these guidelines to incorporate safe practices into your activity.