The week of 9th March 2020 is Science Week in the UK. A few weeks ago my sons’ school asked if any parents could help run science sessions. I am a signed up official STEM ambassador so I replied that I’d love to.
A few months ago someone I know at work (a big software company) ran a computer modeling session and in autumn 2019 I had done pH with Beavers (see STEM: science with Beavers). So I offered school either session, they said “both”. Luckily my manager is very supportive and has let me take time out to prepare and run the sessions. See Science Week 2: year 6 computer modeling for more.
Year 5 Learn the Basics
So on a wet and dull Tuesday morning himself dropped the boys at breakfast club at 7.30am as usual. But I followed them down to school at 8.30am to set up with the teachers.
Before doing any practical experiments, I knew it was important to explain how scientists learn new things, investigating, testing, and sharing results. Not least because the school’s science leader had sent me the curriculum. I kept it on current affairs and told them there are scientists all over the world sharing their work on CV19.
Dissolving and pH
I introduced the terms solvent and solute, dissolve and solution. Then explained the properties of acids and bases – asking for examples in every day life.
Then I talked the class through their experiments: adding an amount warm water to 7 solids that they measured out (with pure water as a control), writing down their observations, testing with pH paper, assessing pH values and interpreting what they meant.
The class were really enthusiastic, it was interesting to watch the 5 groups organize themselves differently. Some went and measured all their solids first and then methodically added water and finally measured pH. Others, each child took responsibility for a different solid. Several groups got a bit carried away initially and forgot to write down their observations.
Sharing results and conclusions
Once all the groups had finished all their experiments and recorded their results, we filled in a table of all the results and drew conclusions as a bigger group. One of the solids we tested was soil from the school vegetable patch, it came out at pH 5.
Finally, the kids asked some questions. From whether an acid is a neurotoxin, what happens when you mix vinegar and coke, whether they could mix all the solutions together, to whether adding more solid would make the solutions stronger acids or bases.