“Science is boring!”
I’m sure none of you GeekDad readers have ever uttered this phrase yourself, and you cringe if you hear anyone else saying it. But what do you do if your kids are losing interest in science? One solution: bring in the mad scientists!
Russ Neumeier mentioned Mad Science a couple of years ago for his son’s birthday party, but I thought it deserved another mention. As part of the summer reading program, our local library brought in a scientist from Mad Science of Greater Wichita for “Sounds Like Science,” an hourlong demonstration of some scientific (and fun!) ways to make noise. Mad Scientist Becky kicked off the program with a few of the more mind-boggling (but not necessarily sound-based) numbers, like the liquid-absorbing powder Russ mentioned, flash paper, and–one of my favorites–a chemical reaction that cycled through different colors when she shook a bottle.
For the sounds portion of the program, she first gave a short explanation of sound waves (using a Slinky as a visual aid) and then invited kids up to try out things like thunder-makers and a resonating metal bar. There was also a very interesting bit involving a heavy metal pipe, a bit of wire mesh, and a blowtorch. She concluded the program by making a stereo speaker out of a metal trash can.
It was a pretty fun program and most of the kids were pretty excited about the experiments; this particular program was a little lighter on scientific explanations and a little more geared towards “wow” factor. Becky explained that they have several different types of programs depending on the audience and event: after-school, summer, preschool programs, workshops, birthday parties and special events. The birthday party events are roughly an hour long, appropriate for 5-12 year olds (but apparently they can also adjust the program for younger kids), and there are various add-ons, including a hovercraft ride. (Wouldn’t that make you the coolest parents in the neighborhood!)
The goal of Mad Science is to get kids excited about science and how it relates to the world around us, and from the program I saw it’s a good way to do it. They have several locations around the USA (apparently a whole lot in California), plus locations in many other countries, so if you’re looking for a fun way to get kids interested in science, it might be worth your while to check for one near you. (Or, if this stuff is really up your alley, maybe you should apply to start your own Mad Science franchise!)