During the summer break many children visit Tokyo Tech and experience the wonder of science while looking through a microscope or making things with large machines.
Tokyo Tech runs science and craft classes for children primarily during the summer break. This article introduces two programs, Play with the Earth offered by the Museum of the Evolving Earth and the Summer Break Parent/Child Craft Class offered by one of Tokyo Tech's two branches of the Collaboration Center for Design and Manufacturing (CODAMA).
Play with the Earth is a laboratory class designed for children in the upper elementary grades, and is held every year during the summer break at the Ookayama Campus. In this class, children use stereoscopic microscopes to view and discover the mysteries of the shapes of minerals under the guidance of faculty members and students from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering. Participating children also separate minerals from ores using the specific gravities of each mineral. In addition, there is always a fossil hunt in the class.
Assistant Professor Sawaki
Assistant Professor Yusuke Sawaki of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences first got involved in the operation of Play with the Earth when he was a student. He said, “Play with the Earth celebrates its 20th year in 2014. Approximately 100 children participate in the class every year. Play with the Earth appeals to children, because of its hands-on nature.”
Children learning how the Earth was born
Participating children crush minerals and view them under microscopes. They discover the regular shapes in the minerals' crystal structures, such as equilateral triangles and pyramids.
Crushing minerals with hammers
Viewing minerals under a microscope
During the fossil hunt, children enthusiastically look for as many fossils as possible, getting stamps on their stamp sheets when they find specific ones. The fossils children find are usually trilobites, conches and bivalves. Participants are allowed to take one of the fossils they find home with them as a souvenir of Play with the Earth.
Stamp sheet for the fossil hunt
Looking for fossils
Experiment looking at specific gravities
In the experiments for separating minerals from ores children use a heavy liquid, which has a specific gravity higher than pure water. They classify minerals based on their specific gravities. With expressions of wonder they observe minerals floating in the liquid.
The collecting of gold dust is also included in the specific gravity experiments. Children try a method called panning, which is more difficult than it looks. After listening to the explanations given by Tokyo Tech faculty members and students, the participants put in the effort to collect gold dust.
For the last three years Play with the Earth has been selected as one of the programs for elementary, middle and high school students called HIRAMEKI☆TOKIMEKI SCIENCE supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). In fiscal year 2013 the JSPS selected Play with the Earth as one of the ingenious programs.
Assistant Professor Sawaki shared an uplifting anecdote from the class. “A child who was not fond of school told me that Play with the Earth caused him to become interested in science classes because of the hands-on learning experience it gave him. I would like to offer all children the experience of learning science by observing with their own eyes and touching with their own hands as opposed to learning only through reading books.”
The Summer Break Parent/Child Craft Class is a woodworking class primarily for elementary school children, and offers children a hands-on opportunity to create original woodwork pieces with their parents at the Suzukakedai Campus. Additionally, the CODAMA at the Ookayama Campus offers an annual hands-on event in October during the Tokyo Tech Festival.
Professor Yamada, Director of the CODAMA
There are two branches of the CODAMA at Tokyo Tech and they are the Institute's makerspaces. They provide students with places to experiment, innovate and create. The director of the CODAMA is Professor Akira Yamada of the Department of Physical Electronics in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.
Director Yamada noted, “At the two branches of the CODAMA, Tokyo Tech students and faculty members can use equipment such as laser beam machines and lathes for their research and extra-curricular activities. We hold hands-on classes during the summer break and at the Tokyo Tech Festival in October to provide opportunities for children to create things with this equipment that they would not normally have access to.”
In the Summer Break Parent/Child Craft Class at the Suzukakedai Campus, participating children engage in woodworking by making welcome signs, tea tables and towel racks. The projects change every year, but children always create original works out of wood in the shapes they like choosing the paints they prefer.
Creating an original work
Co-creating with parents
Director Yamada said, “The children typically work on their craft projects enthusiastically, regardless of skill level or prior experience at school. Some parents become even more hooked on creating works out of wood than their children.”
Participating child giving a presentation
“At the end of the class, the participating children give presentations on what they made. Completing the project does not mean the end of the class. The learning at the Suzukakeidai Campus CODAMA ends only after participants have listened to the experiences of others in working with wood,” he explained.
It is not easy for children to make full use of equipment they have neither seen nor touched before. With the instruction of Tokyo Tech faculty members and students, the children and their parents give woodworking their all. Their final creations are precious treasures for them.
Equipment used in the craft class
Tea table created in the craft class
The Ookayama Campus CODAMA's hands-on event in October at the Tokyo Tech Festival is also popular among children.
Power top with a motor to spin the top
Participants creating kaleidoscopes
Director Yamada commented, “You never know when hands-on experiences from childhood can serve you later on. Unfortunately today, the opportunities for children to make things using saws and cutter knives are few. I hope that all children can find an opportunity to create things themselves and appreciate the fun of it.”
Tokyo Tech offers various events including the aforementioned two classes. Please join us to gain new experiences, make discoveries and enjoy science!
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Published: July 2014