An Offbeat Science Competition for Teachers
Fridays, July 6, 13, and 20, and August 3, 10, Noon-1pm
Available on the Web at www.exploratorium.edu/iron_science
Cheer on the competitors in this zany, science cook-off, where teachers compete before a live audience at the
|Previous contestant Linda
Paparella and her
Exploratorium for the revered title, “Iron Science Teacher.” In a fast-paced atmosphere where showmanship and creativity reign, science teachers are given ten minutes and a secret ingredient to concoct a science activity that can be used in the classroom. The event takes place on Fridays, July 6, 13, and 20, and August 3, 10, at noon, and is free with admission to the Exploratorium.
The Iron Science Teacher competition is a series that takes place throughout the school year and in July at the Exploratorium. Iron Science Teacher is one of the more lighthearted programs of the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute. Parodying the syndicated, tongue-in-cheek, cult Japanese TV program, Iron Chef, the Exploratorium’s Iron Science Teacher competition showcases actual Bay Area science teachers as they build experiments around a given “secret ingredient” — an everyday item such as a paper-towel tube, a straw or a soda can. According to astrophysicist Dr. Linda Shore, Director of the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and host of the competition, “We try to show we can do science with anything. We show teachers how to use low-tech materials to illustrate classic principles of science and math.” As contestant Don Rathjen summed up, “This helps teachers teach the $10 million state science standards on a $10 budget.”
After building the gizmos, the teachers have a few minutes to explain what they are and the scientific principles they demonstrate. Judging is done on a less scientific basis, using what Dr. Shore refers to as “the clap-o-meter” — audience applause as measured by the human ear.
In one competition where the secret ingredient was a soda can, the diversity of science activities based on a simple object became clear. Using soda cans, a mathematician demonstrated the X, Y, and Z-axes of geometric shapes, a physicist illustrated the Bernoulli Effect (which affects such things as lift on an airplane’s wing), a biologist demonstrated that Classic Coke is denser than Diet Coke, and a chemist rigged up alcohol burners.
Given the popularity of the Iron Science Teacher competition, the Exploratorium is bringing science to teachers nationally via the World Wide Web.
The Exploratorium Teacher Institute provides teacher development for middle and high school science and mathematics teachers in the form of intensive summer long workshops and follow-up programs through the school year. There are currently 3000 alumni of the Teacher Institute, funded by the National Science Foundation, the State of California, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Noyce Foundation and the Eisenhower Program.
The Exploratorium Teacher Institute was rated in a recent survey as one of the top two science education resources among teachers and district leaders from throughout Northern California