I have been conducting experiments with children for over 25 years now and have discovered that there are ways to make teaching and learning a great deal of fun for both students and teachers.
Before establishing Rock-it Science, I worked for many years as a mechanical engineer. My training in this field was a serious handicap for me, but luckily, I never grew up. In performance reviews, I was the guy about whom the bosses said: “He has a lot of potential.” That’s a nice way of saying that I acted like a child, doing what I wanted and not so much of what they wanted. This childlike attitude has turned out to be a very valuable trait in my quest to find better ways to stop the destruction of children’s natural need to learn. Seeing the world from a child’s point of view, I found that I could easily engage their excitement with the world and devise sneaky ways to get them into the mood to notice how things work.
I also learned that teaching is a performing art. Every time a teacher goes in front of the students, they assume the role of an entertainer, parent, professor, and leader to their students. An enthusiastic and skilled teacher can take any average lesson and make it into a spectacular lesson. A boring teacher can take the world’s best lesson and make the students hate it.
People have often told me I should do a television show or present lessons to children on the internet. But that’s exactly what I DON’T want to do. The key to the Rock-it Science method is the personal engagement between the teacher and the student, the hands-on experience of trial and error learning, and not knowing what’s going to happen. If a child watches a video of someone else doing an experiment, then they know how it’s “supposed” to turn out. So when they try to do it themselves, there’s no excitement or anticipation about exploring something unknown. In fact, there’s more pressure to do it “right,” and if that doesn’t happen, the child feels like a failure.
So rather than try to teach children using a technology that would defeat the purpose, my goal is to reach millions more children by encouraging teachers to do what I do, in their own classrooms. That’s what this online Teacher Community is for.
The videos on this web site aren’t just about how to do experiments – they’re also about how to relate to children in a way that makes them excited about exploration and discovery. What you can learn from watching my interactions with the students is just as important as (if not more important than) the content of the lessons themselves. If you identify with your students’ point of view and try to make education exciting and fun, you can even have an experiment fail completely, and your students will still enjoy it and learn something from it. And you don’t have to do the lessons exactly the way I do. You can modify them to suit your own schedule, budget, and resources. As you experiment with our lessons and try them out with your own students, I’ll be happy to mentor you through our online discussion forum as well as this blog.
So take a look at the videos, and thanks for joining me on the adventure!
John McChesney ("Mr. Mac")
Director, Rock-it Science