## Your kitchen is full of science!

This Monday, during the STEM Discovery Week at Domus, we received the visit of 25 children of 10 years old at our Open Lab. They came to participate in the workshop ExploreDomus School, in which they explored science that could be done in the kitchen, including how to make a hot dog mummy or discover the amazing features of cornstarch.

## Next-Lab math ILS with contents created by students

Inquiry Based Learning is a very effective pedagogical approach for STEM education: the Next-Lab project gives the opportunity to use digital resources, simulations and apps for creating online activities based on the IBL methodology. Inquiry-based learning activities can be implemented following several models, one of them is the “find the mistake” scenario: appropriate mistakes are presented to students in order to let them investigate to find a correct explanation.

Mathematics skills in lower secondary school are evaluated every year by INVALSI national tests. Questions from previous tests are often used to train students as exercises. Since INVALSI data are also used by schools to analyze typical errors or misconceptions in math learning processes, they can also be proposed as investigation subjects for a “find the mistake” inquiry.

To be included in a typical Next-Lab activity, these resources have to be made interactive, adding a “digital remake” in order to give students a feedback when used online and combined with other Next-Lab applications and tools.

GeoGebra is the most used tool for math active learning at Istituto Comprensivo 9 in Bologna. Students have been engaged in preparing interactive GeoGebra contents based on INVALSI multiple choice questions in order to “animate” correct and wrong answers about fractions.

To complete their task, they had to reflect about different representations of fractions: as parts of a figure, as number ratios, as distances on a units line and so on. In order to represent multiple answers, they could analyze the most common misconceptions and compare them with the correct representation of concepts. Different representing solutions could be chosen by students, depending on their own learning styles.

The best students’ works have been published online in the GeoGebra site, in order to be linked in the Next-Lab online activity afterwards.

This reflective and creative process went on with the support of special observers: a group of undergraduate math students of Bologna University, who visited our school for a training workshop included in their course of pedagogy and mathematical education. They were invited to interact with lower secondary students and give them support in explaining and implementing the representation of their own ideas.

The Next-Lab Inquiry Learning Space “Fractions: find the mistake” is going to be published on the Next-Lab site after completing the implementation with other resources and tools, and after following a testing phase with a different group of younger students who should give a feedback on its pedagogical effectiveness.

## Open Lab: a place where you are the scientist

Open Lab, in Domus science centre, is a place to wear a lab coat, take safety goggles and handle the instruments that scientists use in their everyday life, from pipettes to centrifuges, agitators to scales, pipes and much more. We will run the following workshops in April 2018:
Biotechnological revolution: Students become biotechnologist for one day and participate in searching a solution for the treatment of atherosclerosis.
Investigate HIV vaccine: Try if the vaccine for AIDS in which scientists work in the IrsiCaixa Institute could be effective to protect the population from different continents.
How are medicines developed? To participate in the synthesis of a new drug under investigation for Parkinson’s disease.
Live dissections of heart and pig’s eye in the lab to show how these organs work. Wear your gloves, and look at the anatomy.
Artists of Prehistory: A workshop to become a prehistoric artist and know the materials, techniques and favorite themes of our ancestors.
ExploreDomus School: Science exploration activities that can be found in the kitchen, as make a hot dog mummy or discover the amazing cornstarch.

## Ideas for pre-primary school STEM activities

During our webinar a few weeks ago, we have received quite a few questions from pre-primary teachers looking for STEM activities to organize with their toddlers.

In this age, children’s curiosity and willingness to put their hands on pretty much everything (some of you are smiling while reading this, I am sure), are your biggest advantages when looking for activities!

There are two main aims when you are creating activities for this age group:
– Create a safe environment for children to explore using their senses.
– Create natural learning experiences that lead to discovery and inquiry.

Below I am providing two easy to set up activities and some additional ideas that will help you get started:

Disappearing Egg activity

This egg experiment is great for preschoolers and older kids! If you are using this with older kids then you need to know that the egg dissolves because eggshells contain calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in many antacid tablets. This dissolves in the acidic vinegar to produce calcium ions (which stay dissolved in the vinegar) and carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide produces the bubbles that you will see while the egg is dissolving. Now that you know the science behind this cool activity, here is everything your kids need to give it a try!

Materials needed: a glass jar with lid (from jam, tomato sauce etc.), white vinegar, egg

Directions:

–  Gently place the egg into the mason jar.

– Fill with vinegar leaving 3-4cm space at the top. It is important to leave room at the top of the jar or it might burst from the carbon dioxide gas produced by the reaction.

– Cover the jar with the lid and ring. Again, make sure it is not too tight so that the gas can escape the jar.
– Leave for 2 days, remove the remaining pieces of shell (if any) and then enjoy your shell-less egg!

Tips:

– You can add some food coloring in the vinegar. It will dye the membrane (just for fun!)

– You can tell kids that what they are holding is literally one giant cell. You can explain to them that cells are microscopic little things that make up all living things but eggs are very large cells in general.

Magnetic container

This very simple construction will provide you with a great opportunity to introduce kids to magnets, their properties and show them which materials are magnetic and which not. Toddlers can spend loads of time fishing out magnetic objects so make sure to allow them enough time to explore and reflect on their findings.

Materials needed: A large plastic container, various small magnetic materials (i.e. paper clips, coins, scissors) and non-magnetic materials (i.e. Lego blocks, small pencils, erasers, small plastic figures), rice or lentils, magnets

Directions:
– Fill the container with rice or lentils (red ones to add some color)
– Place all your magnetic and non-magnetic objects in the rice/lentils and stir well in order to hide them
– Give the magnets to the kids and ask them to pull out as many objects as possible

Tips:

-Explain and show them in advance what magnets are and the main difference between magnetic and non-magnetic materials

– Prepare for each box a grid with pictures of the items you have hidden in it. Ask kids to fish out using the magnets all magnetic objects and add a smiley face next to them.

Other ideas:

Looking forward to hearing all about your experiences and any other STEM activities you have tried with your pre-schoolers!

* Both images are from http://preschoolpowolpackets.blogspot.be