British Science Association London Branch

Bringing Science out of the Classroom

In November, on a brisk but sunny Saturday afternoon, families meandering through Deptford market couldn’t resist dropping in on a very special event. Physics teacher and science communicator Alom Shaha, presented a free interactive workshop aiming to take science out of the classroom, and to make it fun and engaging for kids and parents alike.

Alom’s mission is to help parents and careers become their child’s first science teacher, and the event How to be your child’s first science teacher did not disappoint.

Oohs and aahs escaped from adults and children alike as Alom set fire to tea bags and demonstrated how to make film canisters explode. After his initial demonstrations, which had even the scientists in the room impressed, participants then took part in hands- on activities.

Bringing Using a collection of milk bottle tops, cardboard, straws, sticks and balloons, Alom showed everyone how to make a wind-powered car. He then took a step back, and it wasn’t long before the creative minds of the youngsters kicked in and wind-powered cars were zooming about the library floor.

“This isn’t science,” exclaimed one child, “it’s too fun.”

Having built their sustainable automobiles, the children (and adults) then took great pleasure in racing them against one another to see who had the most puff in their lungs and the best-engineered vehicle.

The workshop had a great turnout, filling the library space and families continued to drop in when they walked past and wondered what all the commotion was.

After the event we caught up with Alom to find out what inspired him to host workshops like these and write his book, Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder.

He said: “Many parents read to their children, playing an active role in their first steps towards literacy, they teach them how to count, do sums, complete art projects, sing and dance. But what about science?”

“I wrote my latest book to equip parents with the skills they need to be their child’s first science teacher, even if they feel they know little or no science themselves. To help them deliver their child’s first genuine engagement with science.”

“Through my talks and workshops, I want the ideas in my book to reach families who may not otherwise engage with science. Working with Science London has been one way to do that – they have helped me reach diverse members of the public and I am pleased with how well attended the event was.”

Mr. Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder

Alom Shaha starts his most recent publication with advice to children on how they too can be scientists. This is followed with instructions for parents and guardians on how they can become “wondersmiths” (creators of wonder). The instant call-to-arms for both adults and children is indicative of Mr Shaha’s drive to inspire from start to finish of this delightful book. It serves as a reminder of how child-like wonder feels and as a guide through the maze of young scientific curiosity.

Using accessible language and charming illustrations (by Emily Robertson) Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder provides children with a smorgasbord of fun projects to complete home. Alom Shaha cleverly designed experiments using common household provide children with tools to learn more about how their immediate environment is shaped by the laws of nature. Throughout the book Mr Shaha provides extra ideas on how children can take their experiment one step further. By encouraging children to go further and including clear explanations on what is happening when they edit their experiments, this book will set off sparks of imagination in countless children.

One particularly important part of the introduction is when the author introduces “the power of ‘I don’t know’”. Children should be actively encouraged to seek education and to say “I don’t know” with pride instead of shame, and this book does just that. It is strikingly apparent that Alom Shaha believes in education as an act of inspiration and not just memorisation by rote.

This book is not just a powerful tool of education but also a bright and whimsical collection of activities for rainy and sunny days alike. By appealing to both children and their adult wondersmiths it gives any family a chance to delve into the wonderful world of homebrew science.