Re: doing experiments in class

From: Carol RIce <>
Subject: Re: doing experiments in class
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 10:40:04 -0500

Hello Marc,
I just read your description of the third grade classroom visit. I can tell
you, as a third grade teacher using this same curriculum, that the
vocabulary and discussion of these topics leaves much time for experiment
but little direction as to how to include experiment without this
"excitement" becoming chaos. I have chosen to set my experiments up as
individual science reports and demonstrations - much like the old book
report stand up, but with much less formality. The students love to take on
the role of scientists. I remind them daily that as we use NASA globe
experiments and read and write to inform ourselves that we are performing as
scientists. Science is still frightening to the average teacher. A very
curious group of tests exists on the library portion of University of
Sarasota. If you have never taken any of these personality tests in masters'
or doctoral studies, you might try a few. Most elementary teachers are the
gold representatives of organization and information. They don't represent
the risk takers and scientists which will model the adventurous flights of
NASA, weather, cloud formation and other such complicated areas of science.
They are getting better by sheer envy of the "goings on in those other
classrooms!" NASA has helped! You are a brave man to enter the third grade
world. I entered from kindergarten this year. I love it! But, I am one of
the GLOBE trainees who will try anything with two feet on the ground. Happy
New Year. We think of NASA often in the hills of the Cherokee National Forest.
Carol Rice, third grade, Unicoi, Tennessee

At 07:38 AM 12/24/97 -0800, you wrote:
>I was interested to read the active discussion yesterday.  As a manager
>at Quest, I don't get much first hand experience with what happens
>in classrooms, so I find the insights offered very useful. Thanks.
>I wanted to share an experience I had recently when I was invited to my
>nephew's class (3rd grade) to do a NASA presentation.  I talked a bit
>about the Mars Pathfinder mission (I love describing the wacky basketball
>style bounce landing), but the most fun was when we did an experiment about
>dropping marbles into a tray of flour. The point was to find how the 
>speed of the impact (height of the drop) related tothe size of the crater
>and the diameter of the ejecta.  it wa clear that the kids almost never
>got a chance to actually experiment, and the energy level during this
>time was quite high.
>I think we determined quite well that though the crater size gets a bit 
>bigger with increasing speed, the diameter of the ejecta really increases.
>Kids were able to reach these conclusions from the data we took, and it
>was really fun.
>I was most surprised at how excited kids were to do the experiments (it is
>fun to chuck marbles and watch flour fly), but how taking the data and 
>drawing conclusion weren't greeted with near the enthusiasm. In retrospect,
>I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.  So we found ourselves
>talking a lot about about recording data and analyzing it is the real
>reason for experiments (in the real world), not just having fun doing the
>Anyway, it was a real learning experience for me, and I sure wish the
>curriculum or teacher in my nephew's class was able to do more hands-on
>science.  It seems like the way to get kids engaged.  I'd be interested 
>to hear why this often doesn't seem to Stephaine wrote,
>in elementary school, science is mainly lecture.
>Anyway, I'm off the net for a while, but Happy Holidays to everyone.
>Yours, Marc