As I have mentioned before, GOING BIG at the beginning of the year sets you up for success in the months to come. Pulling off something amazing will give you confidence in yourself, and also give students confidence in you as an instructor.
Some teachers may feel that doing “too much too soon” sets unrealistic expectations, and students will expect huge labs, activities and demos all year. I can tell you from experience that just isn’t the case. That’s adult thinking. Kids are simple. It doesn’t take much effort to get students on your side from day one.
When you do an awe inspiring and unexpected activity, your students will love it…and love YOU for it. Even if that’s the only big activity you do all year, they will talk about it for months (and even years) to come.
I firmly believe that science teachers owe it to themselves (and their students) to make the back to school science exciting. A first day of school science demo should be a memorable experience for your students.
Let’s talk about this. Lab safety is at the beginning of almost EVERY science curriculum I have ever seen across ALL grades. Womp, womp….We take for granted how many times students have covered this SAME content. I get sick of teaching it every year…I can only imagine how students feel knowing exactly what activities to expect at the beginning of science. Every. Single. Year.
Ice breaker worksheets. Who are you? Name the lab gear. Make a lab safety comic. It gets old. ESPECIALLY when you start dealing with upper elementary and middle school grades.
In the summer of 2015, I had an epiphany. A terrible and wonderful thing happened. I read a news story about an explosion at a water park festival in Taiwan that seriously injured over 500 people. And it was caused by…cornstarch?
I found that utterly fascinating since cornstarch is something so common. I keep it in my home and science pantry, so I immediately started looking up the physical and chemical properties to find out WHY this happened. It turns out, cornstarch, flour and powdered sugar are ALL highly flammable…if dispersed in air.
Cornstarch is also commonly used by fire breathers in those spectacular displays of human ingenuity (or stupidity). Obviously I had to try it.
I’m not going to lie. The texture is unpleasant and you might need to practice a few times. But HOLY MOLEY is it spectacular!
It didn’t stop there. After I taught myself to breathe fire, I thought about how amazed my students would be if they could see me. But I couldn’t just go breathing fire in my classroom with no rhyme or reason. So I turned it into an investigation demonstrating the importance of observing lab procedures while also using the scientific method and investigating properties of matter.
If you are daring, you can try it too! (It’s free…what have you got to lose? Except your eyebrows. You may lose your eyebrows…)
Get my fire breathing lab demo and investigation free here.
If breathing fire doesn’t seem like your thing, that’s OK! Students are notoriously easy to entertain. Dig down and find your inner child. What kinds of things thrilled you at that age? Now, find a way to incorporate that into a science investigation and the world is yours.
What are your favorite first day of school science demos? Let me know in the comments below.
NEXT: Why is the ocean salty? Lab instructions here!