This month, I had the pleasure of connecting with Professor Kristin Rosler, who doubles as "The Science Mom" at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island. She has created an inspiring and energizing science program -- and has some brilliant suggestions for how to start a science education program at your child's school.
(1) First off, could you tell me a bit about your own history and how you came to choose the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island for your children's education?
My family and I moved to Providence via Seattle in 2009 just before our daughter was to start kindergarten. We moved for our jobs and to be closer to family in the Northeastern area. I am a Biology professor at Johnson & Wales University, and my husband works at Brown University in Neuroscience and Engineering.
When we started looking at the myriad of school options in the area, we began realizing we really wanted a school that would challenge her but yet let her be a kid. We loved the idea that our kids would grow up learning two languages. Additionally, we liked that the school integrates play and values into all their learning.
(2) Please describe your science education project and how it got off the ground. And if you could discuss your curriculum of science projects and how you chose them to share with the students, that would be great!
While I wish I could say I started “Science Mom” with a lot of forethought, but alas, I did not:) While in Seattle and my kids were in pre-school, I would occasionally come in to their classes’ and do a little experiment with the kids. I thought it was good for me to see their world there and for them to be proud of mine. I mentioned this to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Marie Lyons, and she offered me a time-slot a few times a month when I could do the same.
I started off with basic, fun experiments that my kids enjoyed--anything with Alka Seltzer or balloons was always a big hit. As the years have progressed, I have refined the experiments a little more--the more interactive the better. I try to start with the basics--phases of matter, temperature and motion--and then move into more complex topics as the year progresses--separation of particles, crystallization, acids and bases. Usually, we end the year with rocketry at a field nearby as it is quite dramatic!
I think the best thing that happens during these experiments is that I ask them to make hypotheses and think for themselves. I’m pretty floored by some of the little 5 year olds and what they really do comprehend! Also, I make a big deal out of the fact that THEY are SCIENTISTS, and we try to chant, “Science is cool!” at the end of each experiment. Some of the projects work better than others, and some kids get it better than others. I am proud that they are having fun with science at such a young age & seeing themselves (and women!) as scientists. As a college professor for many years, I have been saddened that 18-22 year olds often say they hate science. Typically, it is because the joy of it got lost in middle school. I’m hoping that they have been “brain washed” sufficiently that they will continue to like not be intimidated by science as they go forwards.
(3) If another day school was going to create a similar program, what resources are out there to help them? Any online links you can suggest? How would you recommend they get started?
I use stevespangler.com and often google “kid-friendly science experiments” as a place to start. I try to pick things that the kids can do themselves as much as possible as they aren’t as into demonstrations at this age. I also take JWU’s science left-overs and recycle them. I think others could ask local colleges/universities to donate supplies that would otherwise be tossed out.
I go to the dollar store at the beginning of each year and buy them out of Alka Seltzer, balloons, and food coloring. I wish I had more time and could do more for other classes. Oddly enough, it has gone better with classes that do not contain my own children as they want preferential treatment or to sit in my lap the whole time. I do really like that I know all these kids pretty well & ask me science related questions all the time on the playground after school and on play dates.
Thanks so much Kristin for all of this terrific information!