After STEM for Girls, I was asked by a teacher of a local elementary school to help her kids out with a few science projects. I said, "Why not?"
The first Friday, I walked into a class of about 50 sixth graders (it was two classes combined), and honestly, it was a (err?) culture shock. I forgot what it was like to be in 6th grade. Not quite an adult....not quite a kid. But I went with it.
I decided to do the famous Non-Newtonian Fluid experiment with 1 part water, 2 parts cornstarch. Seriously, these kids had so much fun! At the end of the session, one girl came up to me, "Maestra Serena! What are we doing next week?!" She was so excited, I honestly didn't know what to say.
So the next week, I decided on making catapults with duct tape, glue, Popsicle sticks and rubber bands. I put them into groups of 2 and 3, and let them do their thing. My goal was to give them as little instruction as possible, and I said, "It's okay if it doesn't work, but try your best."
It was great to watch. Some groups had some quarrels, and noted that in the end. Others wanted a little more instruction. Most of the time, the kids would be yelling, "Maestra Serena! I need help!"...even through their catapults would be nearly finished, lol. Others would completely ignore my advice, and said, "It'll work, trust me." I know I go through those moments with my engineering coursework, haha.
Honestly, it feels great to give back. The kids were very excited to see me, and I'm surprised they remembered who I was. I can't even describe what kind of joy this mini project has given me. I'm always trying to put myself in their shoes....what can I do that would be fun, thought-provoking, and cheap all at the same time?
It's made me wonder how to revolutionize the way science is structured in K-12. What could we do with these kids that is cheap, takes little time, and yet, totally worthwhile? If I'm able to do it as a poor college student, what is stopping the schools? Food for thought.