A SCIPP Presentation

A Feedback Letter From Dr. Lauren Jenkins, Yavneh Day School's Principal

Yavneh Day School Tesla Coil Demo
April 11th, 2002

Wow! That was a lot of fun for the kids, teachers, and of course myself! I received feedback from most of the teachers and have talked with the students also this past week. MANY parents have come up to me during the week also and said their kids couldn't stop talking about the "lightening machine" and the "electricity coming out of Dr. J's toes!"
Your presentation excited the students, peeked their interest in their physical world and best of all got them to ask more questions! Let me now give you the critical feedback from the teachers. The language used and the power point presentation was over the heads of most all the students. It was too much even for the highly gifted and motivated 5th graders. Some suggestions from the teachers – have a different format of presentation when you have an elementary school audience.

Some suggestions I have for the verbal presentation-
1. The power point presentation is lost on these kids. They are use to and work well with simpler graphics. For example, your wonderful line depiction of size of objects studied and instruments used to study them. If you limited it to three examples with three different slides showing a radar/alien life, antenna/TV signals, or microscope/cells it would have illustrated your point directly. From there you could ask them about other instruments used to look at their world and tease various answers from them by giving them hints. Such as what do you use to look at the stars...toilet paper rolls? What is on the end of your parents cell phone and why do you need it? These direct questions get them to say, "OH! That is how the cell phone works." It begins the connection.
The demos were fantastic and done in a very engaging way. I think it was great that Jacob's ladder was on as they entered the room. This got their attention right away. Zorro was terrific and of course they all loved the tin man.

Some suggestions for the demos-
1. WARN THE CHILDREN OF THE SUDDEN SOUND. Apparently some to many of the smaller children (K-1) became very frightened when they heard the loud sparks and generator sounds. I think as adults and as researchers we tend to for get what seems second nature to us. Try to put yourself into a child's mind and remember they are not always comfortable with the unknown. In fact, when they came in and saw the Jacob's Ladder most of the kids were concerned that there was a fire being made and were both nervous and excited. For some we had to say several time that everything was ok.
2. To make sure that they understood the physics of the demos I would try to walk them through what was happening each time and ask the kids to help you with it.
Where is the electricity coming from? The building? A power station? What is the transformer doing to this electricity that is traveling into it? How does it get to the Tesla machine? What is the Tesla machine and how does is make the electricity come out of it? Why is it attracted to the metal from the sword or the tin man? And why do we have to worry about hearing aides, pace makers, etc? These were some of the questions the kids had and I had a great time talking to them about the assembly. I was so excited after the assembly (as were the kids) that I changed my end of the year lesson plans and for the K-3rd grade classes teaching them various aspects of physics and electricity. We are doing a great hands-on approach of learning the principles of physics by "experimenting" with toys. And the K/1 classes are doing some wonderful lessons on light and then static electricity.

Thanks again for the assembly. Please contact me if I can help out this great outreach program in anyway.

Lauren Jenkins

(In case you were wondering, they call me Dr. J because I call them doctors too. I think that if you start at a young age encouraging them in the sciences and math fields they will have the confidence to pursue these if they are interested. I want them to know that being a doctor is not that odd...My Ph.D. is in molecular biology/biochemistry. My other profession is as a clinical cytogeneticist).