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  Afterschool Expert   Science Expert  

Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Peter Guttmacher

PBS's youth-run, hands-on television series, ZOOM has crafted a website that literally walks you through everything you need to know to lead science experiments with young people ages 8 - 11. This site is jam-packed with resources so that users can access a host of different science activities, but the unique strength here is in making the entire process of leading science activities sensible and comfortable.
Full Review:
New to the wonderful world of science experiments with kids? Feeling a little squeamish or science phobic? Looking for something that goes into process, yet doesn't talk to you like you're a Nobel laureate. Well, you've come to the right place; ZOOMsci Training from PBS Kids found online at is a support site for PBS's youth-run, hands-on television series, ZOOM. This web support literally walks you through everything you need to know to lead science experiments with young people aged eight to 11 years old. Don't get me wrong, this site has mega-resources for accessing a host of different activities, but the unique strength here is in making the entire process of leading science activities sensible and comfortable.

In the introductory section "TRY AN ACTIVITY" Zoomsci breaks the ice with leading you through the steps of creating a xylophone out of glasses of water. It outlines the science concepts that are involved and simply and elegantly introduces the process of inquiry. And real neophytes can actually begin with a humorous mini-quiz to take the temperature of your science comfort level as well as get substantive background on the whys of doing science with kids. Much to PBS's credit, this section broaches the topic of gender equity in science. And if you're science-phobic and too lazy to fill water glasses, the site will even let you build a virtual glass xylophone. If you're not feeling at ease after this, you need to increase the dosage of your anti-anxiety medication.

The second section, "LEARN TO LEAD" goes deeper into process and moves step-by-step. The experiment is called "Water on a String" and explores the adhesive properties of water molecules. Aided by short, illustrative video clips from the show (hey, if the kids can do it, you can do it), this section gives guidance on how to evaluate the quality and accessibility of a science activity and see how to prepare and assemble the necessary materials. It then takes you through the process of introducing this experiment to a room full of fidgety KIDS, helping with such prompts as asking questions, setting expectations and boundaries, even providing tips on how to keep eager, young hands off the materials until the experiment officially begins. After screening a video of a classroom of kids working on this activity, the site has the foresight to take you through an actual session of brainstorming how to plan "extension" activities for your more enthusiastic kids who want to "Zoom On" and do additional science. Lastly, and again kudos to PBS, this section takes you through the process and value of sharing results within the group and the discussion, questions and hypothesizing that can come from it.

With the "WRAP UP" section, ZOOMsci gives you an extensive troubleshooting tip sheet for leading activities as well as a very helpful template for "Activity Planning." Including all the "RESOURCES" you get, this could really be described as the mother lode of websites and hard copy resource recommendations. If you manage to actually run through the 150 ZOOMsci activities before your kids age out of your program, there are weblinks to "Building Big," "Girl Scouts," "Cyberchase," "Dragonfly TV," "Newton's Apple," "Science Explorers," each with their own arsenal of science activities. There are also general science websites cited, activity books and publications. And in another instance of savvy practicality, the site devotes a sub-section to "Introducing Science Careers," and its websites that offer a window onto some of the STEM related professions that are out there for young people to set their sights on. Lastly, this section provides you with info on organizing and hosting science events as well as a series of resources on "How to Train Others." After all, now that you're a relaxed and seasoned veteran of the ZOOMsci it's time for you to get those other sciencephobes off the couch and into the classroom lab.