Making Physical Science in the Classroom Suck Less

As a teacher for four years, I became acquainted with hearing, “Ms. Hunter, I don’t like science,” or “This is too hard.” It seemed the 8th-grade students I taught were not interested in engaging with science at all. Little kids have a natural curiosity about the world around them, yet it seemed by the time these students arrived to my 8th-grade classroom this same curiosity was stifled.

What made things even more complicated for me was the curriculum I was responsible for teaching students — physical science. This, of course, came a year after students were in life science. Life science relates to their bodies, and as teenagers, this was definitely more appealing to them compared to chemistry and physics. I always heard students ask why they couldn’t dissect something, an option they didn’t receive in the life science course. It is always more entertaining for teenagers to learn about why hair is growing and bodies are changing than the chemical bonds of water. 

To get the students invested, I used my foodie background and appealed to their stomachs! We had an ice cream lab that explored the conversion of a liquid to a solid. We even ate popcorn with butter we generated by converting heavy cream into whipped butter by shaking a canister. I taught them about physical and chemical changes by cutting potatoes, adding hydrogen peroxide to a grape, and mixing baking soda and vinegar. The simplest, easiest activities were the most exciting for them to do. 

For the physics portion of the class, we did Bungee Barbie, created balloon balls, engaged in Newton’s Laws of Motion kickball, and ran outside on the track to evaluate speed and velocity. The best part about it was we did all of these activities on a dollar-store budget.

Whether it is the food they ate, or Barbie being dropped from various heights, I hope they remember some of the cool science they learned. Either way, I loved teaching physical science in creative, engaging ways and ultimately I feel my students left with learning more about science, hating it a little less, and realizing how science ties into their everyday lives. 

For the lesson plans of the activities mentioned in this post, feel free to contact me.

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