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You don’t need to visit a science centre or have your own lab to do lots of experimenting at home. You don’t need any fancy equipment, just use things that you have around the home. Here are our top tips for your home science kit…

See what you already have

Now is the time to do an inventory of random Christmas presents that got stuck in the back of a cupboard. Do you have any science kits gathering dust? Do you have any that have been ‘done’ but still have kit that could be used again? Is there a microscope or telescope just itching to be used? Many other toys can be useful for STEM projects: toy cars, construction toys (Lego, K’Nex, Magnetix etc), anything with magnets, marble runs, playdough, craft kits…let me know if you think of any more!

Stop recycling!

Every primary school has a stash of ‘junk’ for crafts and STEM projects. If we’re doing STEM at home, it’s probably the first thing that we need to build up! Kitchen roll tubes, egg boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, jars, cardboard, packing materials (bubble wrap, pellets etc), cereal boxes, margarine tubs…in fact almost anything as long as its clean and doesn’t have any sharp edges. This is not just for primary kids! Teenagers and even adults love to build things if they have enough time. Time is something that we are usually so short of but now have in abundance, let’s use it! Set a family ‘junk box challenge’ and see where it takes you. You are allowed to recycle it afterwards though…if the kids will let you!

Some useful things to start gathering together

  • Goggles – any type. From a science kit, DIY ones, swimming goggles, snorkelling mask, Nerf goggles…if they stop things splashing into your eyes, they’re all good.
  • Containers – you don’t need test tubes or special equipment; plastic cups, yoghurt pots and old beakers are perfect.
  • Old spoons – big ones and little ones.
  • A tray to catch spillages and something to protect the table if doing chemistry indoors.
  • Elastic bands, scissors, clips, string, sticky tape, glue, Blu Tack, balloons, marbles, zip lock bags.
  • Vinegar and baking soda.
  • Scrap paper and assorted junk.
  • Funnels – you can make your own by cutting the top off a plastic bottle (and use the bottom half as a beaker). Just make sure there are no sharp edges.

Our favourite science buys

There is so much you can do with just what you have around your home. However, if you plan to buy any kit or resources to support your child’s science learning, you can find our top picks here.

Virtuali-tee by Curiscope

Whizz Pop Bang - our favourite magazineNatural History Museum pocket microscope

 

 

 

 

 

Follow us on Facebook for regular updates and ideas for home science or join our Facebook group to share your own! You can find lots of ideas on our home school support page.


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Being outdoors is always fun but there is also plenty of learning to be done! Look closely and you can find a whole lot of nature in your own garden, the park or out in the countryside. Here are some links to activities and spotter sheets to help.

Egg box scavenger hunt

Set your child a challenge to find the most interesting things that they can while outside…but they’re only allowed six things. Take an egg box along, they can fill the sections with anything they like as long as it’s interesting! If they fill it and find something else, they have to choose one thing to lose. Trickier than it sounds. They can tell you about their finds and why they chose them. For older children, you may want to challenge them to make links between the items. There can be some quite tenuous links but it’s good fun and gets them thinking!

Going on a bug hunt

There is a whole world of mini-beasts to be found in the garden or the woods. Try turning over a few stones or logs and see what you can find. You might find a magnifying glass is useful if you have one. You can use an empty tub to collect bugs to look at, make sure you use a brush or feather to gently push them into the container so that you don’t harm them. You should return them back to where you found them afterwards. If you’re feeling like a bit of DIY you could even make a pooter, which is like a mini vacuum cleaner to gently suck up tiny creatures so that you can have a good luck. You can find instructions to make a pooter on Discover Wildlife.

The Woodland Trust

This is a fantastic charity which aims to protect our woodland and educate children (and grown-ups!) on the importance of trees. They have published a blog specifically for activities to do in the garden if you are self isolating. Check out their top ten here. They have a huge range of spotter sheets and activities for schools on www.treetoolsforschools.org.uk and they have made them all available for free to anyone who needs them while home schooling.

Garden conservation activities from the RSPB

The RSPB has all sorts of activities on their website. From cafes for hedgehogs to hotels for bugs, even the smallest garden or balcony has room for a bee B&B!

 

We would love to see your learning adventures! You can share on the Fab Science Facebook group.


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We’re social distancing or isolating, we’re worried about our families and our communities…and now we have to be teachers too! Here are some ramblings, musings and top tips from me. I am a science teacher (primary and secondary), a mum (2 boys: Year 7 and Year 8) and had a rather wonky educational journey myself.

What is education anyway?

Probably easier to ask what is not education. What activities could you possibly do in your house that don’t involve your child learning something new, practising a skill, discovering, exploring or creating? I can’t think of any! Yes, even the PlayStation. Although I’m refusing to believe my boys claims that Fortnite is so educational that they don’t need to do anything else. Helping with cooking, laundry, gardening are all learning. Are you working from home? Do your kids actually know what your job is? Now’s the time to find out! My kids are going to be practising their classification skills by doing my filing this afternoon ūüôā Yes, children need to learn to read, write and add up. So we can do a bit of that but it doesn’t need to take all day.

What if they get ‘behind’?

In ‘normal’ life, families move house and children change schools all the time. Different schools use different schemes of work, teach the curriculum in a different order, use different resources and even have different exams. Children coming into a new school may re-learn things they’ve already done or miss out things completely. They adapt, it works and they’re OK.

Home education is a valid and increasingly popular choice. I’ve worked with many home ed families over the last couple of years and I’ve learned so much from them! There are as many reasons for choosing home education as there are home educating families. For some, it is a short term plan, for some it grows into much more. I’m sure that there will be many families who will fall in love with the freedom of home education during the school closure and will continue when this is all over. And many children who have chosen home ed, then move into school and they adapt, it works and they’re OK.

Through my teaching career I’ve worked with so many children who have English as an additional language. Some in the very early stages of learning. They spend some time picking up the language while not taking in much of the subjects being taught. They have some catching up to do but they often get the best results in English in the end! They adapt, it works and they’re OK.

My own education was a bit wonky as my parents were slightly nomadic artists (being a scientist is my rebellion!). I didn’t start Reception until mid-May as we were living in a caravan in France. I attended two different primary schools due to a house move. When I say different schools, I mean DIFFERENT schools! The first was a small church school which focussed entirely on the Bible, old-fashioned handwriting and the three Rs. The second was a whole new world…we did creative things, science, DT, projects and learned handwriting that people could actually read. I was so behind on all of these things but way ahead on the ‘boring academic’ stuff. We moved to Spain when I was just starting Year 9 and then had a couple of years off before starting Year 10 a year late. I never did Year 9 at all but I’ve got a degree now so I think it’s fine. I adapted, it worked and I’m OK.

These are all examples of children having to adapt and catch up when they enter a new class. Our children will not be doing that. They will not be the one child trying to play catch up. All of the children who are currently at home and go back to school whenever they reopen will have learned different things. The teachers will adapt, it will work and they’ll be OK.

I don’t have time to be a teacher!

Many of us are now trying to juggle work, doing shopping for self-isolating relatives and neighbours, doing all the usual household stuff and then having to add teacher, school cook, children’s entertainer, school nurse and teaching assistant into the mix. Possibly for more than one child of different ages. Sounds impossible! But really it’s not. Firstly, don’t panic. That’s very important. You’ve got this. Secondly, you don’t need to be ‘teaching’ from 9-3 every day. Teachers don’t do that. By the time you take out registration, assemblies, break, lunch, tidy up time and the amazing amount of time you have to allow for small people to get coats on, it’s about 3-3.5 hours a day. And it’s not all writing and maths! A chunk of that is PE, art, DT, project work, ICT, science, history and geography. You can still do all of these things but they don’t need to involve sitting at the table and being ‘taught’. Also don’t forget that a normal maths or English lesson usually consists of the teacher doing ‘standing at the front teaching’ for about 5 minutes. The rest of the lesson is devoted to children working independently, practising their skills and being supported and guided by the teacher. In an hour, with a class of 30, a bit of simple maths shows that each child gets an average of 2 minutes direct support from the teacher. Just imagine how much you can get done in a hour of focussed work together.

Top tips to get prepared

  1. Don’t panic. I know I’ve mentioned this already but seriously, don’t.
  2. Let the school take the strain. Right across the country, teachers are working their socks off to provide activities that your child can do at home. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Wait and see what they come up with first. Then use it if works for your family, adapt or look for other ideas if not.
  3. Be a hoarder! No, not toilet rolls and beans. Keep interesting bits of recycling, you never know what engineering project might come out of that. In 7 years running science camps, we have discovered that the most popular activities are often not the ones that involve the very expensive rocket launcher or the ones that use resources that I was still laminating and cutting out at 3am…it’s the ones that involve a big box of junk and a challenge!
  4. Don’t declutter just yet. It’s very tempting to use this time to have a good clear out but don’t jump too soon. Old toys that are no longer played with might just get a new lease of life now the children have more time. Old clothes can be a textiles project. Many things might be repurposed in ways that won’t imagine but our children probably will!
  5. Google is your friend! Even specialist teachers are not afraid to look up answers to student’s questions, we are all still learning. You do not need an encyclopaedic knowledge of every subject to help your child learn. We live in a time when all the information in the world is at our fingertips, don’t be afraid to use it.
  6. There are so many resources out there to help home learning. Don’t try to do them all at once! Keep an eye on the Fab Science website, Facebook page and Facebook group. I’ll be sharing lots of ideas, resources and experiments and in the group you can share your own too.

Most importantly…enjoy it!

When have we ever had such an opportunity to learn new things with our children? To allow them the space and time to follow their own interests? This is an uncertain time but also one full of amazing possibilities.

Take care,

 


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Have you ever tried to inflate a balloon using magic (and chemistry)? This experiment uses the reaction between an acid (vinegar) and an carbonate (baking soda) to produce lots of fizzy carbon dioxide gas.

What you need:

An empty plastic bottle, 500ml or smaller.

Vinegar (any type)

Baking soda

A balloon

Spoon

Funnel (or roll a piece of paper into a cone)

Safety goggles

What to do:

  1. ¬†Put your goggles on. This activity is safe but vinegar can squirt out if there’s a small hole in the balloon!
  2.  Carefully pour about 100 ml of vinegar into the bottle.
  3.  Use the funnel (or rolled up paper cone) to put a couple of teaspoons of baking soda into the balloon.
  4.  Stretch the balloon over the top of the bottle without letting the powder drop in.
  5. ¬†When you’re ready, tip the balloon so that the powder falls into the bottle…it should inflate by itself!

If you want to impress your friends or family, you could say a ‘magic’ spell when you tip it and prove that you should be off to Hogwarts!

So what’s going on?

The vinegar is an acid and the baking soda is an alkali, these are opposite types of chemical and they will react together. Because the baking soda is a special kind of alkali called a carbonate, the reaction makes lots of carbon dioxide gas. This is the same gas that we make in our bodies when we release energy from our food (and then we breathe it out).

Think like a scientist:

This activity is a demonstration. To make it into an experiment, you could try changing the type of acid…you could use lemon juice, orange juice or a different type of vinegar. Or you could try adding a different amount of baking soda, use different shapes of balloons or different sized bottles. Remember, science is all about asking questions and working out a way to find out the answer!

You can find out more about acids and alkalis with our Colour changing cabbage experiment and if you like reactions with vinegar and baking soda, check out volcanoes.

If you would like to try out lots more experiments with your very own Fab Scientist, we can bring the Fab Science lab to your birthday party, school or event. Get in touch to find out more.

 

 

 


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Make your own bottle rockets!

All you need is: a piece of plastic plumbing tube (very cheap in any DIY store), a short piece of hose-pipe, an empty lemonade bottle, some paper, glue and Sellotape.

To make the rocket: roll a piece of A4 paper around the plastic tube. Use glue to keep the paper rolled up but do not stick it to the plastic tube! Push the paper over the end of the plastic tube so that you can fold the end over and stick it down with plenty of Sellotape. Take it off the plastic tube and that’s your rocket done…it’s that simple! You can decorate it if you like.

To make the rocket launcher: attach the hose to the neck of the bottle, again use plenty of tape to make sure no air can escape around the sides of the hose. Stick the plastic tube on the other end of the hose and make sure it is well sealed too. Your rocket launcher is ready to go.

To launch the rocket: Find an outside space that has plenty of room for a safe launch. Make sure the rocket can’t hit anyone or end up in a road. Slide the paper rocket onto the plastic tube. If you STOMP on the bottle, the air inside will be squashed and will rush through the tube under high pressure. This will make the rocket fly up in the air. You may want to get someone else to hold the tube so that you can get a really big stomp!



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Christmas has arrived in the Fab Science lab!

We have a handful of dates left this year for a last minute bit of festive science. Book a ‘naughty elf’ workshop as a Christmas treat for your class. They can try out some real chemistry to sort out Mrs Christmas’ mixed up biscuit mixes and turn their hand to forensics to identify the naughty elf!

1 workshop = £150

2 workshops = £250

3 workshops = £325

4 or 5 workshops = £400

…this works out at just ¬£80 per class or ¬£2.67 per child!

Each workshop is for one class and is usually an hour (but can be flexible to fit around the school day). Multiple workshops must be on same day to take advantage of discounted prices. Can be adapted to work for Key Stage 1 or 2. Prices are valid within 1 hour travel time of the Fab Science lab (Bishop’s Stortford), please get in touch for a quote if you’re further away.

Available December dates are: Monday 2nd, Thursday 5th, Monday 9th, Wednesday 11th, Thursday 12th, Monday 16th.

Don’t forget we offer Fab workshops all year round. You can choose from curriculum-linked sessions for just one class or wow the whole school with an enrichment day such as Potty Potions – a Hogwarts-themed chemistry class. Every event is designed by a qualified science teacher to be 100% fun and 100% educational. Click here to go to our schools page for details.

If you would like to book a visit from Fab Science, either for our Christmas special or later in the year, please get in touch. Call 07799 624777 or email schools@fabscience.co.uk and we’ll talk you through the options.

Fab Science Elf with test tubes

 

 


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The Royal Institution offers a grant of £500 for schools to receive visits from a range of STEM enrichment providers. Applications open Wednesday 30th September and close on Friday 23rd October. Successful schools will be able to choose a visit from any provider listed in the STEM directory.

Fab Science is a member of the STEM Directory so we could bring a whole day of hands on activities to your school. We offer theme days with a big emphasis on practical work and real world science…with good dose of awe and wonder thrown in! We cover the East of England, London and the South East. If you are out of this area, visit the STEM Directory to find a provider near you.


Choose from Potty Potions (Hogwarts themed chemistry), Fantastic Forces (air pressure and rockets), Sweetie Science (great for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory literacy links) and Fab Forensics. We also have a range of curriculum-linked workshops for specific year groups such as a gruesome tour of the digestive system for Year 4 or Geology Rocks for Year 3. See our schools page for all the options. We can often adapt our sessions to fit your topic or science week theme, get in touch to chat about what we can do for your school.

Our activities are carefully designed by an experienced science teacher to enhance your science curriculum and maximise opportunities for hands on experimenting. Each session is led by two presenters (at least one of whom will be a qualified teacher), we bring all the kit and even do the washing up. A teacher’s guide is included, with information on the activities, background science and ideas for follow-up work in the classroom. This allows teachers to fully experience the workshop with their class…no need to take notes!

We can do up to 5 sessions in a day, this could be hands on sessions for 5 classes or an assembly for the whole school followed by 4 workshops for individual classes. For the grant application, a larger number of children taking part is preferable (ie, the whole school). We offer discounts for multiple day bookings to allow larger schools to have hands on workshops for all of their classes. If you obtain a grant, we are happy to invoice for any extra sessions separately and you could still take advantage of the discount.


To apply for the grant, visit https://www.rigb.org/education/stem-grants during the application window. If you plan to apply for funding for a visit from Fab Science, please get in touch if you would like any help with the application.


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At Fab Science we want to create the perfect party for your young scientist…right down to the party bags!

We have three options to choose from; standard, premium and a special one for Harry Potter potions parties. We bring the party bags along to your party, ready filled and left open for you to add the cake.


Standard party bag Р£4.50

Each bag contains:

  • a mini experiment kit – pH indicator paper to try out some kitchen science
  • rainbow glasses – make all lights look like rainbows!
  • a test tube full of jelly beans
  • a ping pong ball – to recreate one of the experiments from the party
  • a glow stick
  • ideas of experiments to try at home

Premium party bag Р£7.50

Encourage every guest to carry on experimenting at home with their very own science goggles! The premium party bags also include some very cool ‘rattle’ magnets, a mini experiment kit, rainbow glasses, a test tube full of jelly beans, a ping pong ball, a glow stick and ideas of experiments to try at home.

Potions party bag Р£6

Perfect for a Harry Potter potions party! Young witches and wizards can make a note of all their spells and potions in a Hogwarts notebook. Make sure muggles can’t read your spells by writing with the special ‘magic’ pen. This pen writes in invisible ink and has a UV light in the lid so that only you can read it! The party bags also contain a mini experiment kit, rainbow glasses, a test tube full of jelly beans, a ping pong ball, a glow stick and ideas of experiments to try at home.



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We’re so excited to announce that Fab Science camps have been voted the Best Holiday Club in our region in the 2019 Hoop Awards!

Our team have run nearly 200 camps, been visited by thousands of young scientists and hopefully inspired many of them to get stuck into science. We always aim to make each camp 100% fun, while being educational, interesting and inspiring the children to learn more. All of our Fab Scientists are passionate about including every child and encouraging exploration and experimentation in every activity. We know that we make every event the best it can be so we’re incredibly proud that this has been recognised in the Hoop Awards.

We’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our lovely customers who voted for us in this award and who continue to support our camps and events.

 


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All living things* have DNA; animals, plants, fungi, even teeny tiny bacteria. It’s what makes us who we are. At ‘All About Me’ camps, we made models of DNA and also had a look at some real DNA that we extracted from strawberries. There were lots of requests for instructions on how to do this at home so here is the recipe!

You need:

  • Two strawberries
  • Surgical spirit (available in any chemist)
  • Washing up liquid
  • Table salt
  • Ziplock bag (use pestle and mortar to avoid using plastic bag)
  • Plastic cups or beakers
  • Small glass (shot glass would be ideal)
  • Small sieve or tea strainer
  • Tweezers or cocktail sticks

 

What to do:

  1. Put the surgical spirit in the freezer at least an hour before you start. Leave it there until step 8.
  2. Remove the leaves from the strawberries and put the fruits in the bag.
  3. Mash the strawberries! This is the fun bit…don’t break the bag though. You can squash the strawberries in a pestle and mortar (or bowl and spoon!) instead to avoid plastic waste.
  4. To make the extraction mixture which will break open the cells and let the DNA escape: measure 90ml water into a beaker or cup, add a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of washing up liquid. Stir slowly…we want it mixed but not bubbly.
  5. Add 4 teaspoons of the extraction mixture to your bag of mashed up strawberries. Mix GENTLY.
  6. Sieve the strawberries into a clean beaker.
  7. Pour this into your small glass. The DNA is now free in the mixture instead of being stuck inside cells but it is VERY thin so we can’t see it.
  8. Carefully pour some cold surgical spirit on top of the strawberry liquid. You should see a cloudy white layer appear, this the DNA! The alcohol makes it clump together so you can see it. You can pull this out with tweezers or a cocktail stick to have a proper look.

 

*All cellular life on Earth has DNA. Some viruses have another molecule called RNA instead but it’s a bit of tricky question to decide if viruses are actually alive anyway. Of course, we don’t know if any lifeforms that may exist on other planets have DNA or something else entirely.