Science for 4 year-olds

Sarah: The CSIRO program ‘Lab on Legs’ visited my son’s kindy recently. Imagine sitting in front of 20 kids aged 4 years and engaging them with science! To her great credit, the presenter did very well to capture and retain everyone’s attention: she sat down on the floor and spoke clearly and directly to the kids, and kept the activities rolling. First, we looked through small, circular light diffractors and saw rainbows everywhere! The story of light continued as kids ‘blocked’ red and blue components of line drawings by placing red and blue layers of cellophane over the pictures respectively. Next, the capacity of light to bounce off surfaces was introduced with the use of kalidescopes, and then red laser pointers. The kids loved those lasers! It fascinated them that the small dot was retained with such good resolution over such a long distance (at least 30 metres), and that it could be reflected to a completely different spot with a couple of angled mirrors. Finally BeeBots were brought out: these insect-like, floor-skating robots allow kids to select a destination on a square grid and then use 4 simple arrowed buttons on the robot to program sequential steps and turns so that it can reach that spot; “1 step forward, 1 turn left, 2 steps forward, 1 turn right, 1 step backwards”. Visualising a future destination and planning ahead with defined steps was beyond most kindy kids, but they did understand that they were responsible for telling the BeeBot what to do. All in all, it was a great morning! One thing that I did find annoying however was that the presenter asked the kids what scientists looked like. When no-one answered, she said “They’re crazy, aren’t they?! With crazy hair, and glasses”. No they are not! I thought we were supposed to be breaking down the barriers to science, not perpetuating stereotypes.

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