Hands-On Science Classes
for Homeschoolers

Children have a natural desire to investigate and understand their world. When the study of science is about this kind of discovery, it can be incredibly exciting for learners of all ages. Many homeschooling families study science on a day to day basis through nature walks, cooking, etc. Some would like to do more science experiments, but find collecting the materials and setting up elaborate experiments to be quite time consuming. These classes are intended to provide children with the materials and structure for hands-on science, as well as some guidance in discovering the underlying concepts behind their investigations.

At the elementary and middle school levels, it is the processes and skills of scientific investigation that are most significant for children to practice. If they are helped to understand what it is that scientists do, they will have the tools they need for more intensive content study later on. Classes encorporate science process skills including formulating questions and hypotheses, close observation, data collection, drawing conclusions, basic experimental design, etc. They include established experiments and projects and time to "muck about" and discover things in more informal ways. Basic science concepts are discussed as they come up in the context of the hands-on investigations, and participants are supported in making sense of what they observe. Some math is also involved as a natural part of organizing numerical data.

Current Offering: Balance, Build, and Fling: Physical Science Challenges, ages 6 and up

Past Offerings:

Watershed Issues, Watershed Science, ages 11-14
Skateparks and Roller Coasters: Exploring Principles of Motion

Potions, Slimes, and Mystery Liquids: Investigations in Chemistry

Who Dunnit? Forensic Science

 

Gil Tafuto, Alexander Zimmerman, and Rebecca Yahm working on an elaborate marble run as part of the fall session of Skateparks and Roller Coasters: Exploring Principles of Motion, a six-week physical science class.



Balance, Build, and Fling: Physical Science Challenges, ages 6-10

This class presents a series of fun challenges that involve children in solving science and design problems using simple materials. Whether it’s figuring out how to make a toy that balances or to build a bridge that can hold weight, open-ended challenges are exciting and draw on a range of skills. Through actively solving practical problems (some presented as story situations) children will engage their creativity and stretch their powers of invention. There will be three major challenges presented over several weeks, which may include building a balancing toy, creating a device that can fling a small soft object, and experimenting with bridge-building. Introductory activities will get the group thinking about scientific questions and concepts involved in each problem. Children will make decisions about materials to use for each model or device and draw a simple design of their plan to solve the problem. Next they’ll build, test, and improve their models/devices. The process of working in both two and three dimensions expands visual thinking, while testing and refining an invention develops problem solving and the ability to observe and evaluate scientifically. Physical science concepts addressed may include balance, weight, gravity, balance point, center of gravity, counterweights, levers, and forces. Children can approach each of these tasks at their own level; extensions and additional information will be available for those who are ready to take things further.

8 Tuesdays 3/27-5/22/12, skipping 4/17, 10:30-11:45
Montpelier
$105 ­– $55 due by 3/20 to reserve your space, remainder due by 4/24



Past Offerings:

Watershed Issues, Watershed Science
a hands-on science class for homeschoolers ages 9-12

This project involves students in real-world scientific research that makes a difference in the local community. Our focus will be on river ecosystems and the connection between human activities on land and the health of the watershed. With the help of an educator or intern from the UVM Watershed Alliance, we will investigate issues that affect the Winooski River watershed and monitor the ecology and health of the North Branch. After some preliminary activities, we’ll design a study based on a question of interest to the group. Then we’ll carry out a number of scientific tests to learn about the ecology of the river and help us answer our study question. These may include measuring physical characteristics of the river (temperature, bottom characteristics, etc.), inventorying macro-invertebrates, and testing water chemistry (for oxygen, pH, etc.). Our data will be entered into a statewide online database, and we’ll plan an outreach project to bring the results of our study to some portion of the local community. Activities will include measurement, data collection, map work, and discussion of local issues, as well as learning about river ecology and monitoring techniques. Students will learn about framing questions for scientific investigation, gain hands-on experience in the scientific process, and learn to use up-to-date water quality monitoring equipment. They will become more aware of how watersheds connect communities, types and sources of pollution, the effects of pollution on humans and ecosystems, and local water-related and river management issues. For more information about the UVM Watershed Alliance, you can go to www.uvm.edu/~watershd (yes, it’s watershd, not watershed)


Skateparks and Roller Coasters: Exploring Principles of Motion
a hands-on science class for homeschoolers ages 8-12

This class is an investigation of motion through a number of fun, hands-on experiments and projects. The students' prior knowledge and questions about roller coasters and skateboard parks provides a basis for discussion and investigation of the physics principles working behind the scenes. Activities address inertia, friction, momentum, acceleration, gravity, potential and kinetic energy, and other physical science concepts. Included are both established experiments and times to "muck about" and discover things in more informal ways. Discussion of the experiments supports students to make sense of what they observe and discover.

The class also focuses on a number of science process skills: formulating questions and hypotheses, close observation, data collection, drawing conclusions, and basic experimental design. We discuss what makes a "fair test", including the idea of variables and constants. Carrying out structured experiments includes organized data collection and some graphing. Students also have the opportunity to design and document their own investigations based on their particular interests. Maintaining the excitement and playfulness of investigation and discovery is a major focus throughout the six-week class


Potions, Slimes, & Mystery Liquids: Investigations in Chemistry
a hands-on science class for homeschoolers ages 9-12

Chemistry often holds a particular fascination for children. Chemical changes can appear magical, and the act of mixing materials together to achieve a (potentially unexpected) result feels like the work of a mad scientist. There is also the appeal of working with gooey, foamy, colorful, or mysterious substances. This class is an investigation of chemistry concepts through engaging hands-on experiments using common, safe materials. Activities address a number of science concepts including viscosity, adhesion, cohesion, physical vs. chemical changes, solutions, colloids, suspensions, emulsions, acids and bases. Included are both established experiments and times to "muck about" and discover things in more informal ways. Discussion of the experiments supports students to make sense of what they observe and discover.

The class also focuses on a number of science process skills: formulating questions and hypotheses, close observation, data collection, drawing conclusions, and basic experimental design. We discuss what makes a "fair test", including the idea of variables and constants. Carrying out structured experiments includes organized data collection and analysis using tables, charts, diagrams, and graphs. Students also have the opportunity to design and document their own investigations, or to create their own "potion", "slime" or magic trick. Maintaining the excitement and playfulness of investigation and discovery is a major focus throughout the six-week class.


Who Dunnit? Forensic Science


Mysteries hold a fascination for many young people and provide an engaging opportunity to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. Forensic scientists are real-world detectives using scientific knowledge to collect and interpret evidence that helps solve crimes and other mysteries. Our study of the topic will bring in material from several branches of biology and chemistry as we investigate fingerprinting, chromatography (ink analysis), hair morphology, pH testing of mystery liquids/powders, and more. There will be simulated mysteries for students to solve as they participate in lab science activities, use microscopes, and practice a number of science skills including close observation, questioning, collecting and interpreting data, classification, making predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions.

 

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