Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Have You Met Science Jim?

You've got to meet this guy. Well, not in person, really (although I'm sure he's just as nice in person), but virtually! Science Jim is becoming popular with the 8-12 year old set because he makes science fun! Physics, specifically. Since 2002 he has been working on a fun physics curriculum for kids ages 8 and up and I think he's succeeding with his endeavor. We have engaged in three sessions of his current Olympic Physics webcast classes. He is covering friction, gravity (which is relentless, by the way), kinetic energy, momentum, speed, velocity - specifically, how they relate to the Winter Olympics. Here's a chance for a refresher course for you, too, if you took physics in college.

Each webcast is roughly 45 to 50 minutes in length and they are live classes, so you join him and a bunch of rowdy little kids online (who can't keep their silly hands off of their keyboards.....more on this in a sec) for some learning, discovery, explanation and experiments. I find his laughter contagious and think he's a good teacher. He does his best with the limits of virtual learning and often hams it up on screen. Last week we met Robbie the Rooster who taught us the difference between speed and velocity.

He uses an interface called Dimdim for the web classes. The screen is small at about 3 inches by 3 inches, but you can see him without any problems. The only issue that has bugged me is that a live chat runs along the right hand side of the screen and you can imagine what kids do and say with an open forum! More than once he has had to gently/firmly ask kids to keep their fingers off of the keys unless they have a question about physics. It's a definite plus that you can hide the chat section from view so you won't be distracted.

Better yet, he records each lecture and uploads them to his website, then sends you and email letting you know the recording is up. This has become my preferred method of 'holding class' because we can avoid the chat issue all together. Plus we can pause to go to the bathroom! You don't realize how much you miss stuff like that until you don't have it :).

The material is way above Max's head in many ways, but still worthwhile. Science Jim includes a .pdf of experiments to mess with in between classes and his examples are silly and laugh-inducing much of the time. Max has picked up a few major concepts along the way.

Jim Mueller has a bachelor's in biology, a masters in museum education, and was an executive director of a children's science museum for six years in Illinois. His website can be found here: Science Jim. His classes are also available for purchase on Currclick.

His Olympics Physics webclasses were $5.00 each and that included the .pdf. There's probably still time to get in on his last few sessions, but he always is coming up with new offerings. Thank you, Science Jim!

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