Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Elements, atoms and molecules workshop"

Today we rose bright and early in order for The Fashionista to attend her first science workshop.  The workshop "Elements, atoms and molecules explained!" was aimed at ages 9-13, so I had planned for Agent Smelly to spend the morning with Grandma J and Aunty H. 

Parents were welcome to stay, especially if your children were at the younger end of the age group, so thankfully I did, as I found the whole session thoroughly enjoyable and educational.

The tutor, Nathalie Thomas, introduced herself as a fellow homeschooling parent, who is a former science teacher of 10 years in NZ.

There wasn't much writing or note taking which can really bore children at this age, but after each concise and brief explanation of the subject, a hands-on activity was introduced.

Firstly Nathalie explained what an atom was and then had the children do an exercise with scissors and some paper to explain the size of one.

Next they were taught what an element was and for The Fashionista it was her first time really looking at the periodic table properly. Nathalie broke the group into pairs and gave them an activity where they had to identify a few elements and match them with their element symbol. Within minutes the children were using their tables to look up atomic numbers, names, symbols. This was Missie's favourite activity she told me later. I think it was because her and her little partner finished first, and got them all right on the first go. She was pretty chuffed over that and between us she had good cause to be, as even I wasn't sure they had a couple right. I did try and work one out but in the end I left them to it and I am so glad I didn't interfere as I probably would have steered them wrong ... whoops!

They were then introduced to molecules and using the Molymod molecular model building sets got to build a few elements and draw them. They all seemed to really be engaged in this, and it was especially good for the hands-on boys in the group. The Fashionista later asked me if she could have a set for Christmas ... really for Christmas?

The session finished by breaking into groups of four, choosing an element and then the group presenting that element to the rest of the class. A unique opportunity for some homeschooled children who don't get the chance to ever do this.

Even though this is a subject that is normally not introduced to students until High School, looking at all the children's faces (it was a group of 25), they seemed really fascinated by the class. There were no looks of boredom or unnecessary chatting. All the children were intent on what they were doing and learning. The discussion my daughter started in the car on the way home, about neutrons, protons and electrons in atoms, proved to me that it had been a very worthwhile and educational morning.

Nathalie does give a warning in her advert that reads "Warning: be prepared for your child to want to do more science and chemistry!" and she is quite right. My little madam, came home brimming with excitement and pride. She took her paperwork and the certificate that Nathalie awards them, into show her Grandma J, when we stopped to pick up her sister and poor Dad just about had the certificate shoved in his face as soon as he stepped through the door after work! Thankfully he showed the right amount of enthusiasm and how impressed he was, so she left him alone after that ...

If you are in New Zealand and would like to do one of these workshops, (or one of the others she offers) you can contact Nathalie Thomas, MSc, DipT of "Science for Home Educators" for further information via her site

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