Kids are naturally curious creatures. They want to discover new things, explore new environments and are intrigued by the inner workings of machines. Give them an opportunity to research through hands on experiments and you will have them hooked on learning. Add to the mix a few other key ingredients and they will be hooked on reading too!
I learnt this simple idea a long time ago, both as a mother and as a teacher. When my boys were little I was fortunate to be teaching alongside some brilliantly enthusiastic science teachers at the same schools my boys were also attending. The first was an International School in Thailand where the children were all a buzz with excitement from so much inspirational activity. The second was our local neighbourhood school on the Central Coast of NSW where I was fortunate to be introduced to a Primary school teacher that had previously taught high school science. From our experiences at these two schools I arrived at the conclusion that there were several key ingredients to inspiring kids to want to learn to read.
I then set out to write a series of early independent and reluctant reader chapter books to hook boys and girls 6-8 years old into reading.
An inquisitive mind
Kitchen science experiments
Classroom science experiments
Mix all the above ingredients into a series of unimaginable events that have children laughing and guessing all the way to the end.
Book 1. Gingerbread Aliens – Uses kitchen science mixing gingerbread men, bread making and polymers or in layman’s terms, ‘Goo!” What could possibly go wrong? Add in a snooping next door neighbour, a fearful School Principal and top it all off with a Scientific Research Team for Asteroids and Meteorites and you have baked together one hilarious tale.
Follow up Activities –
- Kids get to make and learn all about the properties of slime.
- Spend a day in the kitchen cooking gingerbread aliens – yum!
- Write up the cooking procedure.
- Research and discover properties of the Solar System, galaxies, universe, planets.
- Discuss/Write about the possibilities of UFO’s and alien life forms.
Book 2. Alien Shenanigans. – Begins with the kids in a year 6 class performing a volcanic eruption experiment that inevitably goes horribly out of control. When I have read the book to classes I have performed the experiment for them. They always applaud with delight. Added also to this in the story are the other science experiments in the classroom science corner, growing crystals, and fungus on bread and oranges, then there is the coke and mentos mint accident! We all know that will not end well. Neither will the accidental spill of washing powder, red food colouring and vinegar. All of these are repeatable outside experiments children can investigate. Top it all off with a mischievous chameleon alien that does not want to be caught and you have a whole lot of shenanigans.
- Kids love trying out all of the above mentioned science experiments. Write out the procedures.hypothesize what they expect to find. Research. Write up the results.
- At some of my readings we have watched videos where the mentos mints and coke experiment is taken to the extreme. It sets their imagination wild! Quite a discussion starter.
- Model the Solar System or a space ship. This requires a lot of planning, research, drafting.
- Solar System Word Search or Crossword.
- Creative Writing – Write a story about Outer Space, where did you go/ who did you visit?
More kitchen science mixed with classroom science. A backyard rocket ship, crop circles and disgusting looking milkshakes with the most unusual ingredients that no respectable 7 or 8 year old would ever allow pass their lips. Add to this a massive secret that causes more sibling rivalry and Brussels Sprouts muffins before a girl arrives next door to complicate the mischief! What are three brothers (and a little green alien) going to do now?
- Debate the moral issue of keeping a secret no matter the cost.
- Write a reflection If you find something, does it mean you can keep it?
- Try tasting some of the green smoothies in the story or making your own. What makes a healthy and tasty smoothie?
- Build your own backyard water powered rocket ship. Have a class contest, who can make theirs fly the highest, why?
- Look at what fuel you need to keep your body working and running efficiently.
- Critical and creative thinking – What could have really made crop circles? Design your own.
While I am writing this series I have also embarked on a picture book series incorporating uniquely Australian animals. These books are aimed for 3-8 year old children, although as an advocate of reading from birth aloud even to independent readers, these can be enjoyed no matter the age of the child.
Embodying my belief in using science to teach reading I have included fun facts about each character at the end of each book. Parents and teachers can use these to springboard discussions and other research into these animals if they choose. The books also provide the opportunity to learn a little bit about the environments within Australia.
Emma the Eager Emu teaches a subtle tale of following ones dreams. To have the tenacity try and try again until you find a way to reach your goal. She also shows us that being different is not only OK, but in fact good and that we are all different and special with our own unique qualities. Emma shares her experiences with several other Australian birds, a Rosella, Galah, Cockatoo and Kookaburra.
Frazzled Freya teaches us that we are all a little shy and scared at times and that it is OK to be frightened as long as you are prepared to try to face those fears. Sometime things that frighten us the most are not so frightening after all. Her desert friends that come to her rescue are a pair of twin Velvet Geckos, a Goanna, a Spinifex Hopping Mouse and a Northern Brown Snake.
I invite you to take the science challenge. Read a book today. What scientific fact might you learn or want to research further?