Last week our parent association treated all K-8 students in my school to hands-on science exploration from the COSI Center of Science of Industry. The science center is located in Columbus, Ohio and they provide traveling “COSI on Wheels” presentations that visit schools in the region. My school is located in the Detroit area (over 3 hours away from Columbus) but it wasn’t too far for the COSI truck to travel.
Thank goodness, because this was hands-down, the BEST educational presentation that has ever come to my school and I am so excited to share a little of our day with you!
COSI did not contact me or ask me to share any of this information with you. I am not being compensated in any way for this blog post. I simply observed their program at my school and I think the traveling science presentation is so outstanding that it deserves some special attention.
An Engaging Experience for All K-8 Students
As fellow educators, I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of uneasiness when I heard my kindergarten students would attend a school-wide assembly. With school assemblies, you just never know what you are going to get. Some are great. Others… not so much. The K-8 ones always make me particularly nervous because it is SO difficult to have a captive audience when their ages range from 5 to 14. I often find myself thinking of all the precious reading and math instructional time I am missing while we are at the assembly.
Now, imagine my surprise when I walked into the school gym to discover props, science instruments and a flat-screen TV set up for the morning’s presentation. WOW.
I especially loved that every student in the audience was given a colorful pair of plastic safety goggles for the program. They instantly assumed the role of scientists with this special gear.
COSI on Wheels offers a variety of themes for their traveling presentations. We were treated to the “It’s Simply Chemistry” presentation. The assembly and hands-on exploration covered Physical Science standards relating to properties of everyday objects, motion, matter, forms of energy, heat and electricity.
Amazingly, this assembly was s a one-woman operation. As the only COSI staff member at school that day, she oversaw the troop of parent volunteers that were assembled for the event, led the presentation, and provided instructions for students during their hands-on exploration time.
Not only did this young woman lead a captive audience of 300+ students, she also drove the COSI on Wheels truck carrying all of the equipment for the day. Seriously, I am in awe.
Once the school-wide assembly was complete, students turned in their safety goggles and returned to their classrooms. This did not mean that the fun was over! Quite the opposite in fact. The presenter and troop of parent volunteers prepared for the hands-on portion of the day. For the remainder of the day, groups of students were invited back into the gym in 45 minute time blocks to discover chemistry with hands-on explorations. Stations with 2-3 parent volunteers were set up along the perimeter of the gym. My group consisted of approximately 60 kindergarten and first grade students.
The presenter briefly spoke with the group and told the kids that they should travel to all of the tables to try each experiment. She also informed them that the big table in the back of the gym was the slime station and they needed to take time to visit the slime table before we left the gym. She chose approximately 8 students to make slime first and that was all the all the guidance they children were given.
That was ALL.
Students were not placed into groups.
A rotation system was not set up.
I was NERVOUS.
I like structure and boundaries and (yes, I’ll admit it) control.
Here we were in a open gym.
With tons of things to touch.
And a table to make their own slime.
To me, it was a recipe for chaos.
But guess what.
It wasn’t chaotic. At all. Not even a little.
Those kids were treated like grown up scientists and given instructions and they peacefully moved from one table to the next. They went in any order they wanted. Nobody fought or whined or pouted about when they would make slime. They simply explored. And when someone reminded them to take a break and go make some slime, they happily wen to the slime table.
I’m telling you, it was AMAZING.
If I didn’t see it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.
But you should believe me.
Because I saw it with my own two eyes.
Who wouldn’t be engaged by these activities?
All of the stations were so much fun for the students, but the slime table was definitely the main event. What child doesn’t love slime? A team of parent volunteers supervised the process and helped each child to create their own slime.