Friday, October 16, 2009

Fossilized Fun

Have you ever tried to make a homemade fossil? Because that's just what we did this afternoon in natural science class (insert inquisitive stare about when we started this class). I apologize for not mentioning this educational addition earlier, so let me back up a little. Krysta and I really wanted to start a natural science class for kids in our community to combine our respective loves of science and the environment. We were conflicted when trying to decide when to hold it with two other very successful twice a week classes and eventually decided to make it an extension of Children's English for two major reasons: it's easier to retain foreign language vocabulary when it revolves around a theme and the most direct application of English here in Ecuador is eco-tourism, one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

Every Friday we combine the younger and older children's English classes into one large experimental hour of fun, and English vocabulary. Previous class topics have been mixing oil and water, focussing on how this affects our environment in terms of oil spills and other pollution, and a lesson on food chains and evolutionary adaptations. Today, our third lesson, was learning about how fossils are formed and making our own!

We spent the better part of last night (during bouts of procrastination towards writing quarterly reports) boiling partially rotting chicken carcasses to retrieve bones and making "clay" which consisted of flour, salt, cold coffee, and used coffee grinds. During this process we had to convince a few housemates, who will remain nameless, to refrain from eating our mixture and that it was not in fact crushed up Oreos.

We started the lesson by asking the kids to tell us what they know about fossils and helping us label fossil pictures with what kind of animal/plant/insect they thought it was. Afterwards we hid chicken bones, leaves and twigs in two tupperware containers of dirt for the kids to come up, find and dust off with paint brushes to provide an archeological feel. We then showed the kids how to make our artificial soil/clay and rolled out pieces for the kids for them to imprint their findings. Though some of the kids were a little grossed out by our artificial soil (one kid legitimately said "tengo ganas de vomitar") overall it was a big hit.

Future archeologists Kevin and Evelyn dig for fossils

Alejandra imprints her leaf carefully

Me and the kids showing off our masterpieces on the roof

Los fósiles left on the roof to transform into "rocks" in the sun

Krysta and I are really excited to continue developing this class as the year goes on. Though we like having our class attached to English, we hope to begin attracting other kids as well. We hope to build upon this foundation of interest in natural science to branch out into other environmental awareness projects. We also love the idea of introducing these children to ideas and experiments that they most likely aren't exposed to in school.

If you have any experiments or science lessons from your childhood that you remember being particularly fond of (ie: making tornadoes out of soda bottles...we're working on that, don't worry!) please feel free to comment or send me your suggestions!

Mil gracias,