What can I learn in 3 minutes?
May 15, 2007 1:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the second round of interviews for this competitive science summer camp teaching position. This includes presenting a three-minute lesson on anything in particular that targets K-5 kids. My problem: I've never taught kids before, and I'm pretty sure those I'm up against have. What do you think would be a good, short demonstration that gives kids some hands-on experience and that would also blow their minds?

Difficulty: It should be relative simple to perform, plus I need to know how to explain that phenomena in simple terms.

I've looked at several teaching-related sites,but most require something that might take longer than 3 minutes to set up and demonstrate. Or maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places.

Thanks in advance!
posted by i8ny3x to Education (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Making a Moebius Strip (and then cutting so it unfolds) is relatively hands-on and should be doable in 3 minutes, and provides a nice, small geometry lesson (though you'd have to work out a way of explaining the concept quickly, or perhaps just leaving it as an interesting demonstration of something with just 1 side).
posted by mikeyk at 1:57 AM on May 15, 2007

I've taught young'ns before, and I think anything with scissors, tape, glue - any materials at all, really - might be tricky in 3 minutes with the younger end of that age spectrum. How many students? Indoors or outdoors?

(Or are you just presenting something to the coordinators for three minutes, with no kids to actually teach?)

A few things I can think of off the top of my head, depending on the theme of the camp (beware: IANAScientist) -

- an animal/flower/leaf/plant hunt, where students run around the yard for a few minutes trying to find as many X as possible, then compare where they found the most, and discuss why - maybe a segue into habitats?

- something to do with the area's climate, or something with the moon or sun, maybe measuring shadow lengths at different times of the day (1 minute every three hours?) to explain the rotation of the Earth, or checking windspeed and wave height on the camp's lakeshore to discuss local weather patterns which might be different from students' home environments

- finding a tree stump and asking the students to guess why trees might have wider/thinner rings, then talking a little about dendrochronology, then having the kids find their own trees nearby and determine their age

- make some paper airplanes (with a few different pre-cut out forms?) and talk about air pressure (details, sort of, here)

Good luck! (And PS: I have to imagine that most or much of this interview will probably not be focused on the science at all, but on how you interact with the kids. Just stay positive with them, help them figure out their mistakes, and let them do their own thing as long as they're still working toward the goal/aim/mission of the task - that's what works for me anyway!)
posted by mdonley at 3:07 AM on May 15, 2007

What about the chewing on mints while doing something else that makes little sparks happen in your mouth. I forget what the other element is that makes it so cool, but you should have them all do it and then explain what makes it do that scientifically.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 4:10 AM on May 15, 2007

OK, they have let you through to the second round without teaching experience. So (a) it is unlikely that all your competitors have teaching experience, and (b) they reckon you can learn what you need to know about teaching.

What is the 3 minutes looking for? Probably bubbly, bouncy, enthuse-the-kids style. Quieter might be acceptable, dull presumably isn't. I quite like the moebius strip idea. Take in loops with a different number of twists and distribute to your interviewers with scissors and make them cut them up the middle (to get different results). Make sure you have a quick non-dull explanation ready, though. And an experienced teacher counts the scissors back in again too! Whatever you pick, you should have an idea of how it could be used as part of a longer class, as part of a significant science topic.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:12 AM on May 15, 2007

A three minute lesson is not enough to assess your teaching skills. All they can do is get a sense for your enthusiasm. Do something trivial but with high energy and you should be fine. The mobius strip idea is excellent, but it'll be tough to do in three minutes... you'd really need five.

Three minutes is really pretty crazy.... that's a very bad test, IMO.
posted by Malor at 5:50 AM on May 15, 2007

Oh, my friend, you want the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment.
It's not dangerous, but something explodes, and that's way cool. Do it outside, if you can, to avoid questions about cleanup.

I'm trying to come up with an elegant way to explain nucleation though...
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 AM on May 15, 2007

Iron in breakfast cereal - seriously, if you mash up breakfast cereal and take a magnet to it you get a clump of iron. You can probably find some experiment details looking around on the web, but I always thought that was pretty neat - links iron and magnetism to the food we eat.
posted by true at 6:31 AM on May 15, 2007

Response by poster: Mdonley: Yes, this part of the interview is going to be before a smallish group of adults pretending to be kids. And it's indoors, I'm guessing.

Secondly, I have tutored kids before, but have never gone in front of a classroom with some lesson plan in hand. If I get this job, I'm told I'll also get training.

A lot of these ideas are great.
posted by i8ny3x at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2007

How about that trick where you stand in a doorway and press the back of your hands against the door frame for 20 seconds? When you step away from the door and relax your arms, they rise "by themselves"! Is that too simple? Maybe everyone already knows that one, I don't know.
posted by peep at 9:13 AM on May 15, 2007

I'm all for the Mentos and Diet Coke thing or the magnet with cereal (that one I hadn't thought of!), but I worry about clean up and such.

Simple simple simple: rubbing feet on carpet, rubbing balloons on hair, explain about static electricity.

Incidentally, from a former educator: With young children, you want lots of enthusiasm and very little lecturing.

Tip that has worked for me and others I have helped: Pass out a mini-lesson plan, flow-sheet style, to the evaluators, and you'll win (shows preparation, essential to teaching). Good lesson plan includes: objective, target group, steps, long-term goal.

For instance:
Objective: Explain static electricity.
Grade levels: K-5
Steps: Rub feet on carpet to generate charge, balloon demonstration, explanation.
Long-term goal: Develop an enthusiasm in kids about static electricity which will encourage them to go home and explore more on the topic, blah blah blah...
posted by misha at 9:34 AM on May 15, 2007

Parts might be expensive but I did this project with my 4 and 5 year old kids and they loved it:

I went to the local family owned electronics store and got some copper wire, tiny light bulbs, batteries, and a battery holder.

We made a 'game' where you try not to light the lightbulb. We made a loop of wire, and attached it to one pole of the battery. The other pole of hte battery attached to the light bulb (well, to it's little holder thing) and that was attached to an 'S' shaped wire which we taped to a small cardboard box (you could use a paper plate or whatever). The loop went around the S shaped wire, and the kids tried to move the loop all the way along the S wire without connecting the circuit and lighting the bulb.

The kids were able to bend the wire into the right shapes themselves and then enjoyed playing with the game while I explained how a circuit works. They played with it for a long time until it fell apart. With some better planning ahead, I could have helped them to make it more stable.
posted by serazin at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wait, 3 minutes??!! Never mind.
posted by serazin at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2007

Mentos+Coke=delightful mayhem.

Also, Misha's example of the static electricity "balloon demonstration" was a definite crowd-pleaser with my 3rd grade class. There's nothing more fun than watching a bunch of little kids rubbing balloons on their heads to make their hair stand on end. It might be better for K-3rd grade though--I could see sophisticated 4th and 5th graders thinking it was too basic for them.
posted by umbú at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2007

I've done interviews like this before and, as some have suggested, what you do for your demonstration isn't as important as how you act while you teach.
I led a 10 minute origami t-shirt from a gum wrapper demonstration for a test-prep company and was hired. (They said you could teach anything you wanted...you should probably focus on science, but it doesn't need to be what you will teach in your class.)

-Make sure that you stand facing the room (not the board, draw on it as little as possible and take breaks to face the class and describe what you are doing if you do use one).

-Circulate among the "students" making sure that they are participating and checking their work if you do something like the moebius strip (which I think is a great idea).

-Ask if anyone needs help or has questions.

-Be enthusiastic about whatever you are teaching.
posted by rmless at 11:48 AM on May 15, 2007

I forgot to mention one important point: Pick something that everyone can participate in, not just a front-of-the-class demonstration where you get to do all the fun stuff.
posted by rmless at 11:51 AM on May 15, 2007

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