04/18/02
Grossology and Other Scientific Phenomena
    by Koren Stembridge

Sylvia Branzei is one of a new generation of science authors and educators who are trying to connect with kids, and get them really interested in the world of science. Branzei has a metho d she calls "Grossology - the Science of Really Gross Things." She says in a recent interview with New Scientist Magazine "If I walked into a classroom and said, "raise your hand if you want to learn about the excretory system", no one would move. If I walk into a classroom and say, "raise your hand if you want to learn about spitting, burping, pooping, peeing and farting", all the kids raise their hands. They immediately relate to the approach that I've chosen.

Branzei invented Grossology as a way of teaching science - one that she has parlayed into several books and even a website: grossology.org. Kids love Branzei's Grossology - and so do the parents who can get past their own aversion to things that are stinky, oozy, and crusty. One of the books, "Hands-On Grossology" presents 40 gross science experiments - great fun on rainy afternoons. By performing these experiments, children learn how much urine they can produce, and how far they can spit - but they also learn to follow instructions, to measure, and to build elementary scientific instruments. Often referred to as "stealth learning," kids are so engrossed with what they are doing; they don't even realize how much they've learned.

"Horrible Science" is a series of books for kids, written by Nick Arnold. Illustrated with cartoons, and filled with experiments and quizzes, Arnold's books have a kind of Ripley's Believe it or Not feel, and are a worthy complement to Branzei's Grossology. Arnold's Horrible Science series includes more than twenty volumes, with titles like: Bulging Brains, Chemical Chaos, Disgusting Digestion, and Nasty Nature. This series is also a great favorite with children and should be widely available at your public library.

If this ultra-disgusting approach to science is not for you- there are other authors writing children's science books that take it down just a notch. One of them is Janice VanCleave. Van Cleave, is the queen of the science fair, and as such, as written many a volume listing potential projects and offering suggestions for creating winning entries. Recently, VanCleave has expanded her repertoire to include a series geared toward 4-8 year olds called "Play and Find Out About." The series includes nature, bugs, science, and the human body - and it does a really effective job of capitalizing on the innate interest small children show in the world around them.

Sylvia Branzei argues that to ask children to learn science from the words on a page in a textbook, is to take science away from them. What she and Nick Arnold and Janice Van Cleave have done is to create wonderful books that put the magnifying glass, and the science, back in the hands of aspiring scientists.

Copyright 2002 by Koren Stembridge

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:19:36 EDT


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