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"Hey, Wow!" for All Ages

"A newborn infant babbles, gurgles, wriggles, and reaches out to touch the world. Each day of life commemorates that very first day. Each day you and I reach out to our surroundings and wonder. We are human and we are wonderers."

Joe Abruscato

When I run a workshop with a group of both grandparents and grandchildren, I've found science activities to be an effective, fun way to bridge the generation gap. You're never too young or too old to explore the wonders of the world around you, to enjoy that "Hey, wow!" feeling of discovery.

Science is important to everyone -- young and old, male and female, urban dwellers and rural dwellers, white-collar and blue-collar. Science has brought our world to where it is today. Science has created many of the comforts we enjoy -- and many of the problems we face. Science used wisely can make the world a better place; science used unwisely can result in a disastrous legacy.

While doing science activities together isn't an experience you usually think of grandparents and grandchildren sharing (baking cookies or doing crafts may come to mind first), science activities can be an important way for grandparents to contribute to their grandchild's education. Scientific information and thinking skills are critical in this new millennium. Unfortunately, too many children get "turned off" science because there isn't an interested adult encouraging them in this area. Grandparents, who may have more time than parents to spend with a child doing science activities, can be the difference that makes a difference -- and they may even learn a little something themselves along the way!

I've written a book called Science Is.... It's huge -- filled with over 450 activities, projects, experiments, games, puzzles, and stories. It's designed to be easy to use: you don't need any background in science, and the materials required are readily-available and inexpensive. This award-winning book is being used in schools (activities match the National Science Standards) and by families across the country. Most of the time you'll be having so much fun that you won't believe you're doing "science." It's a book that can help grandparents answer all the questions grandchildren ask and investigate all the wonders they want to explore. It covers all areas of science, including the human body, the environment, rocks, plants, animals, insects, weather, stars and planets, energy, and technology. For information on the special discounts available on the book for schools and community groups, contact the Legacy Project at 1-800-772-7765.

The activities that follow are all samples from Science Is.... If you're using the activities as part of a Grandparents Day event, you can photocopy the sheets so that people can follow the steps (e.g. you can give a copy of the instructions to grandparents so that they can lead grandchildren through the activity). You can even give grandparents a sheet or two as a "take-home activity" to do with their grandchildren.

Activities: Just Plain Fun (Communication Challenge, Change in Direction, Aerodynamic Drag Race, Volcanic Islands); Your Amazing Body (Duck!, Tired Muscles, Facial Fun, Unique You, Good Vibrations); It's Our World (Take a Walk, Cookie Concerns, Smog Alert, Less is Better, An Oily Mess).


Just Plain Fun

Suggested Activity Timing: During a Grandparents Day event.

Curriculum Connections: Science; Math.

What You Need: Copies of the activity sheets, and the materials listed for each activity.

Doing It:

Science Is... is divided into three sections based on the length of time activities take. "Make Time" activities require a little planning and half-an-hour to an hour to complete. "One Leads to Another" are a series of activities that build on each other or result in a completed project. "Quickies" are the most popular section in the book. They're short activities you can do on the spur-of-the-moment, use as time fillers, or use to introduce concepts.

Try these Quickies activities as icebreakers during a Grandparents Day event: Communication Challenge; Change in Direction; Aerodynamic Drag Race, Volcanic Islands.


Your Amazing Body

Suggested Activity Timing: During a Grandparents Day event, and after.

Curriculum Connections: Science; Health; Math.

What You Need: Copies of the activity sheets, and the materials listed for each activity.

Doing It:

The human body is an amazing thing to explore. It's particularly appropriate for young and old to explore it together since some abilities change with age, while others don't. For example, try to kiss the very tip of your elbow. Can you do it? No one can -- young or old. The human body just isn't made to do it. But a younger person may be able to more readily touch their toes than an older person.

Most of our physical capacities reach their maximum during early adulthood, and begin a gradual decline after that. The decline is so gradual that we usually hardly notice it until decades later. Physical aging certainly involves some loss of capacity, but the key question that scientists are still exploring is how much loss of capacity is inevitable and when does it become a problem? What losses impact the way in which we can live our life? For example, as we get older, our skin wrinkles and our hair turns gray (although even this doesn't follow a set timetable -- some people don't turn gray until their 60s, while others start finding gray hairs in their 20s). Wrinkles and gray hair may be important from a social standpoint, but they really don't affect our quality of life. Some physical limitations that do seem to accompany age include having some loss in vision and hearing, having less energy, losing some height, and reduced mobility and coordination. But again, these are highly variable depending on the individual, their heredity, and their lifestyle (e.g. whether or not they smoke, what they eat, whether they exercise regularly, etc.). Also, what we lose physically, we can often compensate for in other ways. For example, statistics show that older people are often better drivers than younger people. Even though their reflexes and perceptions have declined slightly over the years, older people have learned to anticipate potential danger and drive defensively.

The activities that follow are an opportunity to learn about the human body and explore what might change with age and what might not. Compare how a young person performs to how an older person performs. If a group of people is doing an activity, summarize and compare the results of the younger people with the results of the older people (e.g. for Duck! and Tired Muscles).

Here are some body activities to try: Duck!; Tired Muscles; Facial Fun; Unique You (expand this activity to include grandparents); Good Vibrations.


It's Our World

Suggested Activity Timing: During a Grandparents Day event, and after.

Curriculum Connections: Science; Social Studies.

What You Need: Copies of the activity sheets, and the materials listed for each activity.

Doing It:

In the words of Adlai Stevenson,

We travel together as passengers on a little spaceship -- spaceship Earth -- dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and the love we give our fragile craft.

The environment poses the quintessential intergenerational challenge. Global warming, destruction of rain forests, contamination of fresh and coastal waters, depletion of the ozone layer, and nuclear proliferation all threaten the future of our planet. Older people are better educated and healthier than in years gone by; they can make a choice to put time and resources into actively working with younger people to focus on dealing with these problems.

Many older people are deeply concerned about the environmental quality of the world their grandchildren will inherit. Grandparents can share and explore the environment with their grandchildren in a number of ways: reading stories with environmental themes (e.g. When I Go Camping with Grandma by Marion Dane Bauer, The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting, At Grandpa's Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney, The Disappearing Island by Corinne Demas, Dear Katie, The Volcano Is a Girl by Jean Craighead George, Beekeepers by Linda Oatman High); taking grandchildren to lakes and forests grandparents visited as children and sharing stories about the ways they have changed; going on camping trips or hikes to help grandchildren appreciate the beauty of nature; and doing science activities together.

Here are some environmental activities to get you started: Take a Walk; Cookie Concerns; Smog Alert; Less is Better; An Oily Mess.

From Grandparents Day Activity Kit by ©Susan V. Bosak www.legacyproject.org

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