Howtoons C.O.W.Club with Marc Gershow, NYU
Most of us aren’t quite sure what scientists do. The kind of science we all learned about in high school science fairs – write down a hypothesis, follow some procedure to test that hypothesis, collect data, and write down a result – is actually quite rare in the laboratory setting. Scientists are working on the frontier of knowledge -- trying to find out things no one knows yet. Usually this means they have to build a new piece of
equipment or develop a new technique, without quite knowing how or if it will work in the end. Good scientists are able to tinker with equipment, combine things in new ways, and find creative solutions to problems. These skills often fall by the wayside in traditional science classes.
I’m starting a weekly COW club at the Earth School centered on doing projects from Howtoons, a wonderful book developed as a collaboration between a scientist at MIT and his cartoonist friends. Howtoons is a graphic novel filled with ideas, experiments, and projects. They’re all designed for kids to finish on their own, with little or no help from adults. Most of these projects just require materials that can be found around the house (or hopefully the school!), and everything is explained in cartoon form. The level of detail means that kids will have to figure a few things out on their own and make some tweaks to get their projects to work perfectly – exactly like scientists do in the lab.
The projects in Howtoons cover a range of science, engineering, and math disciplines. Some examples: counting in binary (to 1023!) on your fingers, building a terrarium in a pickle jar, and getting Cheerios to self-assemble into crystal structures. There are also a ton of things to make – pinwheels, rip-cord flyers, stuffed animals, electric motors, a vortex cannon, and a water powered rocket. My Howtoons club will help students get materials and ideas for projects that they can work on during COW, regular open work, or at home. We’ll meet once a week to go over ideas, troubleshoot problems, and write up some notes to help the next person who tries a project. It should be a lot of fun!
About me: I’m a professor in the Physics Department at NYU. My lab uses tools from Physics to understand how the brain works. My wife, Shannon, teaches PreK/K at the Earth School. This COW club is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.