How To Think Like A Scientist – A STEM Workshop For Primary Schools

Overview: In this workshop, the students will use the classic ‘diet coke and mentos’ experiment to learn about how scientists think, answer questions and solve problems using the scientific method. This will be done by exploring why mentos turn diet coke into a geyser, and what you can do to make the best possible one. After completing the basic experiment, it will be re-run, changing individual variables one at a time to see what effect this has on the height and duration of the geyser produced. Once this has been thoroughly explored the students will be asked to take this knowledge and design a display in which they will create a eye-catching spectacular by setting off multiple geysers in succession. Duration: One to one and a half hours.

Intended Learning Outcome: This workshop will introduce children to the way that scientists think about questions, generate hypotheses and test them in an organised manner.

STEM Areas Covered: This workshop will cover how to think like a scientist, as well as how to test ideas by changing one variable at a time to see what effect it has on the outcome.

What Does This Workshop Involve? This workshop will start by introducing the students to the scientific method and how scientists use it to test ideas, answer questions and solve problems. The students will then be asked what they think will happen if a mentos mint is dropped into a bottle of diet coke. It doesn’t matter if they are already familiar with this experiment as the aim here is for them to then test what they think will happen. This testing will be done using a practical demonstration of the classic ‘mentos and diet coke’ experiment. They will then be divided into groups of four and challenged to think about how to make the biggest possible geyser. Specifically, they will be asked to think about what factors influence the height of the resulting geyser and how long it lasts. These might include the number of mentos added (does adding more mentos always make it go higher, or is there a maximum limit?), the size of the bottle does a larger bottle produce a larger geyser?), the type of mint used (will Polos work as well as mentos?), the type of drink used (for example, would you get the same effect with Diet Pepsi? And what about Diet Irn Bru? Or Milk?) and the size of the hole that the diet coke is forced out of (does a smaller aperture make the geyser go higher or last longer?). Once each group has come up with suggestions as to how to make the biggest possible geyser, they will then be asked to think about how they would test their ideas. These will be shared with the class before they then get to test them by running a series of experiments where they will change one variable at a time to see what impact it has on the geyser produced.

During the experiments, the students will record the height and duration of each geyser produced, and after each one, these will be plotted on a graph to allow the effect of each variation to be identified. Once the experiments have been completed, the students will examine the results to see the effect that each individual variable had on the geyser. Finally, they will use this information to create a geyser display. This will consist of a series of geysers of different heights and durations being set off in a specific sequence to create an eye-catching spectacular that will end with the highest geyser they think they can produce. The workshop will end with this display being set up and run. If the required permissions are provided video of this display will then be made available on the How To Raise A Happy Genius YouTube Channel to allow students to compare their results to those from other schools.

What Type Of Space Is Required For This Workshop? Due to its nature, this workshop can only be conducted in an outside space. This can be a playground, playing fields or any other flat, open area.

How Long Will This Workshop Last? This workshop will last between one and one and a half hours, and can be adapted to fit available time slots. Our preferred time to run this workshop is between mid-morning and lunchtime as this gives children time to settle into the school day, but they are still alert enough to listen to instructions and make the most of the experience.

Is This Workshop Safe? This workshop is as safe as any practical workshop can be. The children may get wet, so a change of clothes is required, but there is little opportunity for any type of injury while the experiments are being conducted.

What Equipment Is Required? Other than providing a suitable space to carry out this workshop, there is no need to provide any additional equipment, and all materials can be supplied by us.

What Age Of Children Can Participate In This Workshop? This workshop is designed for children in P5 to P7.

How Many Children Can Be Accommodated? This workshop is designed to be carried out with a maximum of thirty-two children (divided into eight groups of four) at any one time. However, this upper limit is flexible and the workshop can be repeated several times in succession to accommodate a greater number of children from the same school.

How Much Will This Workshop Cost? This workshop costs £200 for up to thirty-two children (which would equate to a cost of £6.25 per child). If the workshop is repeated on the same day to accommodate more children, each additional repeat would cost an additional £50.

Who Will Run The Workshop? The workshop will be run by Dr Colin D. MacLeod. He has worked as a research scientist for over twenty years, as well as working as an educationalist, lecturer and street entertainer. He is a strong advocate of introducing children to the scientific method, critical thinking, ‘trial and error’ learning and STEM subjects as early as possible in their education. He is also the founder of How To Raise A Happy Genius, and an author of books for both adults and children (published under the pseudonym of Colin M. Drysdale). He is also PVG-registered and has an up-to-date PVG certificate.

How Can I Book This Workshop? This workshop can be booked by emailing colin@howtoraiseahappygenius.com. This email address can also be used to request further information, ask questions or discuss any special requirements. Please use the subject line Think Like A Scientist Workshop Enquiry in any such emails to help us identify them and respond as quickly as possible.