PROVIDENCE – Professor Kristin Rosler doubles as the “Science Mom” at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, a day school for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students. Rosler has some suggestions for how to start a science education program at your child’s school.
Q: Tell us about your history and how you chose JCDS?
A: My family and I moved to Providence from Seattle in 2009 just before our daughter was due to begin kindergarten. We moved for our jobs and to be closer to family. 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 many school options in the area, we realized that we really wanted a school that would challenge our daughter, yet let her be a kid. We loved the idea that our daughter and her younger brother would grow up learning two languages. Additionally, we liked that JCDS integrates play and values into all its learning.
Q: Describe your science education project and how it got off the ground.
A: While I wish I could say I started “Science Mom” with a lot of forethought, I did not. When our kids were in preschool in Seattle, I occasionally visited their classes to do little experiments with the kids. I thought it was good for me to see their world and for them to be proud of mine. When I mentioned this to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher at JCDS, she offered me a time slot a few times a month when I could do more.
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, 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 what some of these 5-year-olds comprehend! Also, I make a big deal of the fact that they are scientists; we try to chant, “Science is cool!” at the end of each experiment. I am proud that they are having fun with science at such a young age and seeing themselves 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 science was lost in middle school. I hope that I have “brainwashed” them – in a positive way – so that they will continue to enjoy and not be intimidated by science as they go forward.
Q.: If another school wanted to create a similar program, what resources exist? Any online links you can suggest? How would you recommend getting started?
A: I use stevespangler.com and often Google “kid-friendly science experiments” as a place to start. I pick things that young kids can do themselves as much as possible as they aren’t into demonstrations. I also take JWU’s science leftovers and recycle them; local colleges or universities might have supplies to donate.
I go to the dollar store every September and buy all the 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 don’t include my own children – who want preferential treatment or to sit in my lap!
Michele Lang (Michele@Michelelang.com) wrote this story for the Parent to Parent Blog, an initiative of the Jewish Education Project, in conjunction with the UJA of Greater New York.
JCDS: JCDSRI.org and 751-2470
RRIE: Recycling for Rhode Island Education, a resource for recycled materials (RRIE.org or 781-1521).
Parent to Parent blog: Stories about parents’ experiences with Jewish day schools: parenttoparent.kontribune.com/articles/1157.