Kids Dig Science WIP

1.1   Description


Kids Dig Science is a weekend activity aimed at younger children, who can attend with their parents. Different scientific concepts are conveyed using innovative methods, namely a puppet show that can be followed up with several workshops during which small experiments are carried out. While the exact nature and sequence of events can be adapted to your needs, we will focus here on the version currently being run in Malta under this name, taking up two hours on a Saturday afternoon. Maximum attendance, counting parents and children, is capped at 50 to ensure manageable group sizes for the workshops. Generally, they are split into 4 groups of 8 children that rotate through the workshops, so that the workshop leader can keep track of each child individually. Finding a group of talented puppeteers will present a challenge, while the design of workshops and experiments can be in the hands of the organiser. To run parallel workshops, volunteers need to be recruited.

 

1.2   Objective


The main aim of Kids Dig Science is to engage children with science outside of their school work, demonstrating its relevance to everyday life and employing novel, entertaining methods to do so. This event is also interactive at every stage, as the puppeteers can involve the audience and children carry out their own experiments under the guidance of a volunteer in the workshop section. Reinforcing key concepts in multiple, and very diverse, ways is the main pedagogical strength of this activity.
For the volunteers, carrying out the workshops can improve their communication skills and they gain experience outside of their current studies or work. By interacting with the children, reflecting on the puppet show and explaining the experiments, they have to present information in different ways and adapt their communication on the spot.

 

1.3   Structure


General Structure: Single Event

While a small group of volunteers needs to be recruited and trained, this can be done close to the event date or just before, and thus Kids Dig Science is considered a single event. However, the actual organisation is rather complex, as the puppet show needs to match the workshops held afterwards; clear communication with all parties involved is essential!
The event consists of an extended setup (preparing workshop materials and explaining the running to volunteers), as well as a puppet show followed by carrying out of the workshops. The organiser will need to manage these in parallel, making sure to split up the children into groups for workshops as well. As such, it can be a rather hectic experience.

 

1.4   Duration



Main Event Duration: A few hours
Project Duration: Indefinitely repeated

Experience shows that a reasonable time frame for Kids Dig Science is around the 2 hour mark, with several activities included to keep children’s’ attention. In Malta, this is run as a monthly event during the school year, with a different scientific topic each time.

2.1    Staff & Volunteers


Volunteer Requirements: Requires volunteer recruitment

Beyond the core organising team, it is essential to find a group of talented puppeteers, although Kids Dig Science could be adapted to feature other kinds of interactive, artistic ways of engaging children with STEM topics. Furthermore, a small team of volunteers is needed to deliver parallel workshops. To make sure that the training can be kept to a minimum (just before the event), it will be useful to build up a pool of volunteers that is happy to deliver experiments and demonstrations to schoolchildren. Allowing them to build up some experience with this can make the event much smoother.

The core organising team needs to choose an overall theme, coordinate puppeteers and experiments, and moderate the event. This will involve making sure that children are split into groups for workshops and keeping to strict timings for each activity so that transitions can be managed smoothly.

 

2.2    Venue Hire


Venue: Indoors
Capacity: 21 – 100 people

Kids Dig Science is ideally held indoors, at a venue that can provide two separate rooms: one set up in theatre style for the puppet show, another with groups of tables for the demonstrations. All the experiments should be simple enough to not require laboratory equipment, so there are no further specifications for the rooms. As with other events of this nature, it will be easiest if some rooms can be used for free, e.g. by liaising with a university or a private venue available to you.
We recommend a maximum size of 50 people, as the logistics will become much harder beyond that: scaling up the number of volunteers and parallel workshops is possible, but not ideal. Having more than 50 people attend a puppet show also limits the interactivity for each child, and managing the crowd will become much more difficult.

 

2.3    Partner Institutions


Partner Institutions: Not required

This event can be run independently and does not need a partner institution. Contacts in the arts can be very useful to recruit puppeteers, while having a network at your local university or science centre will be great for volunteer recruitment.

 

2.4    Budget


Yearly / Project Budget: 1001 – 5000€

This is based on assuming Kids Dig Science to be a monthly event, with two months for a summer break. Costs for staff can vary dramatically across different countries, so take this as an indication only. In Malta, Kids Dig Science is a ticketed / paid event so that it can be run self-sufficiently. As such, the volunteers are also paid for their time, on top of costs for puppeteers, the experimental materials, and some marketing cost.

3.1   Target Audience


Target Audience: Primary School (5 – 11)

Kids Dig Science is aimed at younger children, ideally in the 6 – 9 year age range. While the event can be adapted for other ages, make sure to bear your audience in mind when developing ideas for the demonstrations. Difficult scientific jargon should be avoided if possible, with a focus on understanding more general concepts that explains aspects of everyday life and how or world works (e.g. try and use materials from the kitchen for simple experiments!) The volunteers will need to use communication strategies appropriate for the age group, and need to be instructed accordingly.

 

3.2   Marketing


The marketing can be aimed at two key groups: the children themselves, or their parents. Putting up posters in local schools, or talking to teachers and getting them to mention Kids Dig Science in class, would be one way to reach the children. Any online strategy should focus on attracting the parents, highlighting the educational benefits of this fun activity. Once the event is established, returning kids and families can be a frequent occurrence, which might mean limiting the numbers and establishing a booking system to manage the orderly conduct of the event.
To recruit volunteers, social media or asking around university circles have proven reliable methods. Talking to student organisations and other individuals for their cooperation can also be an effective method, ensuring there is a sufficiently large volunteer pool for each event.

 

3.3   Dialogic Strategy


Both parts of Kids Dig Science feature interaction very heavily: during the puppet show, children may be asked to come to the front and take part, or be asked simple questions to keep their focus and engage them more with the content. In the workshops, volunteers should allow the kids enough room to ask questions and thus fully understand the science underlying the experiments. Following some aspects of the IBSE model (inquiry-based science education), the children should describe what they see in the demonstrations and make sense of how this affects the real world.
Given the intended age group, some more leadership will be required in the moderation of the event: be strict with the timing of each activity; allow room for questions, but do bring the key points across rather than letting the children take over; and communicate clearly and effectively.

4.1   Project Timeline

Time Activity
Months in advance
  • Find puppeteers / other performance artists for the creative element of Kids Dig Science
  • Approach venues to host the event (two rooms)
Weeks in advance
  • Decide on scientific topic and outline how it will be done on the night: find relevant experiments, prepare puppeteers
  • Marketing: poster design and distribution, social media
On the day
  • Bring workshop materials and ensure venue is set up
  • Train volunteers on the experiments and moderate event

 

4.2   Single Event Structure

Time Activity
30 – 60 mins
  • Set up workshops and train volunteers in how to conduct workshops
15 – 30 mins
  • Puppet show, with interactive parts for the kids
60 mins
  • Rotating workshops, e.g. with four groups of children at 15 minutes for each workshop

 

4.3   Personnel roles

Person Activity
Core Team
  • Organise the workshops and arrive one hour early to train volunteers / set up everything
  • Take charge of people flow, bring children from puppet show to workshop room and split into group, then take care of time
Puppeteers
  • Arrive in time to set up and run puppet show
Researchers
  • Read up on topic in advance and receive on the day training

 

4.4   Materials


The room for the puppet show will ideally have a small stage that allows everyone to see, as well as chairs for the children and their parents. Other materials that are required should be supplied by the puppeteers if possible, but the organising team can offer help with this.
For the chosen experiments, any materials will vary for each event. As the connection to real life is a major discussion point, using everyday materials over specialised chemicals is encouraged if this is possible within the theme. Basic facilities (chairs, tables) are also needed in the workshop room.

 

4.5   Other Logistics


Kids Dig Science does not require any larger scale logistics outside of what has been described in previous sections.


Using puppet shows or other types of performance arts in science education has been used in many forms and contexts. An early study showed the effectiveness of using puppet shows and street theatre in AIDS education, which was found to modulate behaviour.(1) The authors suggest that integration with other community-based programmes would have made this more effective, creating synergies in the process.


A large meta analysis of 225 different studies concluded that “active learning”, defined as anything that differs from traditional lectures, can boost understanding of scientific concepts and thus lead to improved exam results in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects.(2) The interactivity of Kids Dig Science is an early attempt to integrate such approaches into education. More generally, the case for the inclusion of arts into STEM has been made repeatedly, allowing for the generation of innovative ideas rather than a focus on knowledge and technical execution.(3)

 

  1.      Skinner, D. et al. An evaluation of an education programme on HIV infection using puppetry and street theatre. AIDS Care 3(3), 317–329 (1991).
  2.      Freeman, S. et al. Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111(23), 8410–8415 (2014).
  3.      Land, M. Full STEAM Ahead: The Benefits of Integrating the Arts Into STEM. Procedia Computer Science. 20, 547–552 (2013).


The evaluation of Kids Dig Science presents challenges, as participants are very young and might not fill out questionnaires as accurately as desired. An informal strategy is to chat to kids and parents alike afterwards, gauging whether their appreciation of the underlying science has changed.
For a more formal evaluation, the parents can be asked to record any changes in behaviour of their kids following the event. It might be interesting to see if there is an increase in scientific inquiries (“How does this work?”) in everyday life following a Kids Dig Science attendance, for example. This could be recorded via questionnaires or interviews.

All Kids Dig Science events are held at the same venue, Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta, Malta. Their website is used for ticket sales and an event overview, see the below to check out current events and their wide range of scientific topics:

https://www.kreattivita.org/en/kids-dig-science-2018-19//

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Structure

Event Duration

Project Duration

Location

Location Capacity

Partner Institutions

Target Audience

Contributors


Cite this Activity


Sonntag, H., & Styles, C. (2019, November 22). Kids Dig Science. Retrieved from http://steamexperiments.com/activity/kids-dig-science/

First published: November 22, 2019
Last modified: November 22, 2019