September 09, 2007

Giant critters at Science Fair

In two weeks time we are attending the annual Science Days (Forskningsdagene 2007), celebrated across Norway. We are doing lots of outreach work during the 8 day festival, visiting Longyearbyen at Svalbard, Høgtun, Heggelia, Skjervøy and Finnsnes, joining the two day Science Faire in Tromsø and arranging Researcher's Night at the Science Center.

The main topic this year is Melting ice - climate change. We are focusing on Melting ice, doing ice-related experiments with the kids. And we are focusing on pollution, the ozone layer and UV radiation. Everyone visiting us at the Faire in Tromsø and in Finnsnes, can build and keep their own UV critter. The University of Tromsø and Nysgjerrigper/The Norwegian Research Counsil are sponsors of the UV beads. Thanks!

To prepare our contribution to the Faires, I have been busy today preparing some decorations and large scale instructional critters. It was much more laborous to complete than the normal size UV animals, but I had fun doing it. And I think the giant critters (named UVar and Åmund) turned out rather well, and quite alike the original instructional drawing made by Anne. The bigger ones have "bead" size 5 cm, the smaller ones 3 cm. In the middle you see the original UV critter, made by UV sensitive ponybeads, and the material pack we will offer at the Fair.

September 05, 2007

Gunda the Dragon

These days I am busy preparing a chemistry program for young kids (age 4-9). It is inspired by a program developed and used by Navet in Borås, Sweden. They have for several years now had a program called "Do chemistry with Berta the Dragon". They start with story telling about Berta and her doing an experiment. Then they do the experiment with the kids. Afterwards they go to the laboratory and do some more experiments, after dressing up with real lab coats. They presented Berta at the Ecsite conference in Lisbon in June, and their presentation can be found here. Berta has been a huge success for Navet and they are now publishing books about her (in several languages).

I am developing a similar program to use locally, using a dragon (for now, it might be changed to a different creature), but creating my own setting and select my own experiments. I didn't want to photocopy the Navet version, rather bring to it some of my own personality and interests.

My dragon is called Gunda and she has a baby brother called Georg. Gunda loves the action of chemistry, while Georg is a bit nervous and prefers to deal with numbers. Georg is part of a math project, which is being developed by my colleague Anne. Using puppets and drama is one of the elements we wish to bring into many of our programs, because research from Britain shows that kids up to 12 gets a better learning experience when puppets are added as a learning tool.

Gunda and Georg are Tellatale puppets from The Wooden Gnome Store. I have made some modifications to Gunda to make her blow flames. If you wish to know how-to, drop me a note. On the photo to the right I am doing one of my first pyrotechnique tests. Anne is the blixtlight speed photographer here. The action takes just parts of a second, and is difficult to catch on film. The flame was four times longer at its maximum. This ought to impress the youngsters, and motivate them to learn some chemistry.

I will let you in on the details when I am finished with the whole thing. It will be launched at a school visit in Lavangen the second week of October, and at a seminar in Bodø just days later.
Update: If you wish to buy puppets, Living Puppets and Alveslottet (norwegian) are excellent sites too. Living Puppets also offer custom made puppets, if you want your own unique puppet.