Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mythbusters for Kids: Sneaky STEM #2

In April, I decided to do a bunch of science programs and call them "Mythbusters." The premise was based on the fact that this website exists, but when I got deep into what I could plan for cheap/free and what wouldn't need parental waivers or worry about balloon allergies and stuff, I turned to other science books and websites. And just when I  thought I was done for, I turned to the mother of all STEM websites, Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goo. I link to that so early with the implied promise you'll come back here. I talk about it later + an extra treat for you!

Everyone knows the best part of "Mythbusters" is proving whatever family member/high school acquaintance who shares those stupid memes on Facebook wrong (or right). It's the vindication, the ability to say, "I saw that happen, man." This is why, when we Confirmed, Busted, or "Plausible"d a myth, it was based on whether or not we could do it. If our conclusion conflicted with science, I'd say something like, "look at this! Some scientists have actually said this myth is CONFIRMED, but we said it was BUSTED! We're making new science right here in this room!"

Now, I could've been the buzzkill that's all, "well, actually...." but I took comfort in knowing that I have no contractual obligation to assessment of students and just let them have fun. I also, having read what was supposed to happen, didn't try anything beforehand because why even. This program, for us, was about creating hypotheses and talking about a shared experience. You may disagree with my approach, and I invite you to do this a separate way, but this was a deliberate decision on my part.

Regardless, here's what I did:
1. On large post-its, I'd write the myths for the day with directions (this was prep).
2. We'd talk about whether we thought each myth was confirmed, busted, or plausible.
3. We'd follow the directions.
4. Afterward, we'd talk about what happened. The person who contributed the most related and applicable observations would get to tape the word BUSTED, CONFIRMED, or PLAUSIBLE (so, you know, everybody was contributing)
5. We'd move onto the next myth.
Sample. Go home, phone camera. You're drunk.
(As you can see (maybe?), I also taped pictures from the show to give it that authentic Mythbusters feel when we got to the point when I was no longer using Mythbusters stuff. It worked)

And for your replicating pleasure, here's some links to the experiments we did. This was a four-week program, but yeah, it could TOTALLY work as a one-time thing.

Week 1:
 Buttered toast & Diet Coke/Mentos (with the second one, the experiment we did was vinegar/Alka-Seltzer). Since these are both Mythbusters things I showed the minimyth videos after each one. For our experiment with buttered toast, we dropped it from however tall we were. We used Melba toast so I didn't have to toast things. It broke all over the floor but we could still see what side was buttered.

Week 2:
Vinegar & Baking Soda Foam making (didn't use food coloring)
Make a Raisin Dance 
Staying Warm like Penguins Do (we just blew our own air into the plastic bags. One kid was really good at it. We talked about why it was difficult)

Week 3:
The following experiments from this: Have germs will travel, Super spit
Make a volcano  (I know, okay, but chemical reactions are the best so we did it forever)
(Searching, here's some other cool looking experiments)

Week 4:
This week was the first week of our Undercover Spy Club, so when I found this post on Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goo about Espionage science-- AND it used stuff I had already!-- I was totally geeked. First I did the first project using the made-up myth "Grape Juice is a spy secret", and we waited for our secret messages (pre-grape juice) to dry. While we did, I showed this powerpoint while I talked about the awesome espionage facts in the post. That PPT was created by me with permission from Nicole Dolat, creator of Gizmos, Gadgets, and Goo, and everyone is welcome to use it, if you want. (My attendees love to hear weird facts and stuff, but Nicole says she includes that info mostly for homeschool learning later on. Your mileage may vary.) After we watched the video at the end, we used the grape juice on our messages then did the other project.
I wanted to add a caption but it won't let me. It's probably that really creepy boy's fault, though, I'll tell you what.

Happy Myth-Busting!


  1. Taking into account that none of this is my original content, I'll accept your statement and add it to my ever-growing list of delusional self-affirmations:)

  2. Your meme and GIF finding ability is always spectacular. I have to say that I think this post has been my favorite though. Thank you for making me laugh in my 80 degree office! Also... cool program. Proud of you.

  3. I'll be incorporating some of these into my summer lunch bunch series. Thank you for the step by step. It really helps this programming amateur!

  4. I'm in a pinch to find a replacement teen program for summer reading this year and your post is a life-saver! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Out of curiosity, what was the results of the buttered toast myth? Was it convincing one way or the other?

    1. Funnily enough, our toast cracked in half as soon as it hit the ground!