Publish at January 21 2019 Updated February 01 2023

Doing science with almost nothing

You don't need a state-of-the-art laboratory to teach scientific theories

Science is a subject, in general, that is very concrete to show. Learners who have trouble with abstract concepts can then turn to experiments to understand them. Except that performing experiments usually requires scientific equipment. And while some schools benefit from laboratories  offering the equipment and space for teachers and its students to experiment, the reality is not the same everywhere.

Does one really need to have a substantial budget for science classes? Not necessarily. In fact, many items available in kitchens or bathrooms allow for exciting experiments that cost almost nothing.

Telling the scientific method

One morning in a classroom at Carignan School in Quebec, a natural science student proposed a riddle to the young students. He arrived with a mysterious brown pellet from the soil of a nearby forest. What could it be? So they had to observe it with all their senses, dissect it and etc. In this way they were able to come up with hypotheses about what it is.

Beyond knowledge, this scientific approach needs to be taught to children. These future science teachers at the University of Quebec at Montreal got this reminder from their teacher. They had to do it themselves by analyzing a strange substance or trying to guess how a closed box with a marble in it is divided. These experiments, which can be easily reproduced in the classroom for little money, awaken the children's sense of curiosity and will lead them to adopt a scientific approach. It does not require much. At times, it involves a tub of water and cups to understand the movement of air in liquid.

Science with everything

You absolutely do not need access to a fancy lab to understand scientific precepts. Many experiments can even be done at home with a few materials that parents have on hand. For example, to grasp aspects of astronomy, one can use a black paper plate, some aluminum foil and water and, with a flashlight, demonstrate the twinkling of stars. A simple inflated balloon with traces of felt on it helps explain the expansion of the universe.

With dish soap, a person can show how a volcanic eruption works, what the hydrophobicity of a material is, the composition of liquids, etc. Futura Sciences has actually done a feature addressing some experiments to do with household items like eggs, knots on boots, a cup of tea, etc.

For teachers, not only are these ideas applicable, but there are several sites that have listed experiments. A small search on the internet (science experiment + theme) and you will find the most useful sites with easy to set up or inexpensive experiments. Among these, we will highlight the Foundation "La main à la pâte" which proposes very numerous experiments in the four major cycles of French schooling. Money is therefore no excuse for not teaching scientific principles in practice and the approach that drives people working in science.

Illustration : Ben+Sam Periodic Table of Froot Loops via photopin (license)


Caza, Pierre-Étienne. "In Class!" With Pierre Chastenay : The Scientific Approach." Actualités UQAM. Last updated : September 20, 2016.

Constans, Nicolas. "Physics Experiments to Do at Home." Futura Sciences. Last updated : December 10, 2018.

"Exploring Space To Children : 3 Experiments To Understand The Universe!" My Child Has Potential. Retrieved January 18, 2019.

"Science Experiment In The Classroom : La Mystérieuse Boulette | Les Années Lumière." Première. Last updated : November 19, 2017.

"Fun Science Experiments With Dish Soap." MomforLife. Last updated : April 13, 2018.

Neau, Celine. "Doing Science With Almost Nothing." ECHOSCIENCES - Loire. Last updated : December 9, 2016.

"Educational Tools." La Main à La Pâte Foundation Website. Retrieved January 18, 2019.

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