By Dominik Richter
For my reflective assignment I chose to attend the Virtual CoCoMad 2020 festival, which took place on July 4th on their website. The festival consisted of three live events that were taking place parallel to each other. The different events had different links to either Zoom calls or a YouTube live event. For the purpose of this assignment I attended the science event.
As soon as I tuned in, I realised I was not the target group for this one, based on word choice and simplistic explanation and comparison methods. The target audience were clearly children in elementary school, but with a passion for science already. There were between 10 and 15 people attending this Zoom call, but only two children, two girls. Most of the people on the call were part of the team that also performed experiments.
To start off the event Jon Wood, a scientist, started by engaging the children right away by asking them what they liked most about the science box they had received before this event. One of the girls answered, that she liked the sieve best. Jon replied that you can compare a sieve with processes that happen in chemistry, since you use it for mixing. This is one of many examples how he excellently compared complex processes in a manner that children at this age would understand.
Throughout the time he was talking he would make sure that the kids stayed engaged by asking them questions, making them laugh, telling them to imagine something, or engaging them to act (sometimes in a childish playful way), like when he asked them to show their taste buds and they were all showing each their tongues. He also encouraged more responses with replies like ‘brilliant thinking’, which made the kids feel good.
One questionable question he had for the children was when he asked if he should start a fire in his house, to explain oxidation, and the girls were a little too excited about the idea. He probably should have told them not to start a fire for science purposes in their houses. Other than that Jon’s experiments clearly had the take away message that air is not just something that we breathe in, but that it has a weight and can react chemically and I believe the children were able take a lot of useful knowledge away from this.
Jon was on display most of the event, but there were a couple more scientists that also had take away messages for the girls like Adrian, who was looking at ordinary things under a microscope to show that there is more to things that it seems like if we take a closer look. Compared to Jon the other speakers and scientists had a harder time to keep the kids engaged, which translated to them gazing off at times, but it can also be due to the fact that this activity provided a lot of information. Potentially even too much for one afternoon. In my opinion the event was well organised and very educational for the girls. I think for them to take the most out of it, they should have provided a little less information, but credit goes to the scientists who took their time to entertain and teach two girls for an afternoon.