Those Darn Kids!

I read a statistic on the BBC website last week that shocked and surprised me. As a person who has always been fascinated by the world around me and striving to learn how things work, I have always had an avid interest in science. At school I chose triple science and read wildlife magazines and encyclopaedias. However according to the BBC 25% of children under 14 confuse Marie Curie with Mariah Carey! This just appals me. I wonder to myself, how does this happen? I have come to the conclusion that sky and unrestricted internet is to blame! When I was younger you had two choices of tv, itv and bbc, how too or the really wild show, both science orientated shows, even the game shows such as incredible games and finders keepers involved some use of logic and problem solving. Many of the kids I know just spend all day on their laptops and ipods from a very young age and unless their parents actively stimulate their thirst for knowledge, it slowly dies away probably along with a few brain cells.

You can try the quiz for yourself here on the BBC website.

So how do you ensure that a love of science lives on through your offspring? Well I have a few ideas! Go for a walk! Not only does this get you out of the house and get your heart rate pumping, there is so much to see in your own back yard! Invest in a plant or bird identification guide and try to identify those things you see as you go along, or for something with added benefits I recommend the collins book ‘Food for free’! This guide identifies edible surprises you can find locally and use as free ingredients to your cooking! Now who doesn’t like free food! These are the sort of things you used to do at scouts and brownies, but I’m afraid the UK has fallen out of love with these traditions and kids would much rather stay in and play x-box now days! When I was an au-pair in Finland I was surprised to find that scouts was huge, with people staying members well in to adulthood! Oliver, a six year old whom I cared for was able to identify many herbs, berries and mushrooms in the forest, as well as identifying which were poisonous! We went out everyday exploring and finding new things then bringing them back to cook with! It is this type of science, disguised as fun that you need to involve people in today! Dinosaurs, astronauts, explorers, animals, photography, all of these are interests that help stimulate the mind learning about evolution, physics and biology!

When I worked for Aim-Higher at the University of East Anglia, we used to run Saturday morning science sessions. These consisted of two sessions one for younger and one for older kids making science interesting and fun. These sessions were packed and often we had people on a waiting list to see if people didn’t turn up. One of the best ones I saw involved simple science experiments with everyday objects, here are a few you can do yourself at home!

Experiment 1 – Making Slime
Remember that slime that came in a jar that you could make fart noises with! Well you can make it at home! All you need is PVA glue, Borax (stain remover, can get in tesco, I checked!), Food colouring (of your choice), water!
Fill a cup with water and add about 5g of borax per 100ml of water. In a second cup add about 1 inch of glue. Add 20ml of water to the glue and a few drops of food colouring! Then add one tablespoon of borax solution at a time and stir, you may need to add a bit more depending on how big your cup was and how much glue was there! Once the slime forms leave for 30 seconds and then it is ready to play with!
The science behind this is that you have formed a polymer which is both solid and liquid!

Experiment 2 – Make shiny pennies
This experiment can make pocket money look brand new! All you need is. Some white vinegar, salt and a non-metal bowl! All you do is pour 60ml of vinegar in to a bowl and dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in to it! Then add the pennies and watch them magically clean! After about 30 seconds they should be finished and you can dry them on kitchen towel and pop them back into the money box!

Experiment 3 – Silver cleaning
This experiment is more practical and for adults! Have you got any silver that looks black! Spoons or jewellary? Well this allows you to clean then quickly and easily without removing a layer of silver like many silver cleaners do! Basically silver turns black due to oxidation with sulpher! To reverse this you need to take the oxide and pass it too another metal! All you need is a bowl which you should line with aluminium foil, shiny side up! Fill the bowl with water and dissolve 1 table spoon of salt and 1 table spoon of bicarbonate of soda! Then place your silver in the solution! You need to ensure all black bits come in to contact with foil for the sulphur to be transferred so move them around a bit! The reaction is practically instant so after a few stirs your silver will be shiny! You can see after the dullness of the foil where it has reacted! Don’t worry if it smells a bit eggy! That’s the sulphur! or your partner!!

So go forth and try your new science! Share it with your kids, friends, cousins and anyone you can! And I hope next time the bbc try a science quiz the results are a bit higher!!

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One response to “Those Darn Kids!

  1. I got 1 out of 7 in the science bbc quiz lol! They weren’t very “Sciencey” though. More general knowledge in Science.

    I blame the parents mainly for ignorance but does this research makes any comparison to say, school kids 50-60 years ago?

    If you interviewed then you’d probably get a better answer rate because the kids who were in school could probably afford to go, whilst many children did not. So educational levels may in fact be up.

    Some of the science was also “fresh” to children 50 years ago.

    I also fear that we educated children too young in British society. We expect them to learn lots that they do not see the relevance of when they are young. This can impact severely on their impression of interesting subjects like science and maths.

    We do experiments in classes but I don’t ever remember being told why or how! Everything was “this is how it is”.

    Media is too often used as a scapegoat for problems facing society. Obesity and education levels are always prime examples. But the truth is the impact is minimal. The education system needs reform and as you highlight, parents need to take responsibility!

    And that is how David Sees it! Back to my PhD!

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