Love it or hate it, you can never ignore the Internet. Though it may not replace classroom teaching anytime soon, there is no denying the fact that the Web is a powerful educational tool, one that can provide additional resources that make learning science great fun. Science concepts can often be tough to understand, and this is where these online science sites come into play – they make concepts clear through interesting, creative ways.
We give you 7 such sites that will inculcate in your child a love for science, while exploring concepts in a fun way:
For the l’il ones
Peen and the Big Wide World
What it is about: The site follows the activities of a chicken named Peep, and his friends Chirp (a robin) and Quack (a duck), who explore the world around them. Family science activity handouts, printable colouring pages, songs, simple science and math activities like exploring colour/sound, or plants – everything a little one is interested in, is here.
Sample: You can explore shapes with your child by cutting a sandwich into 2 triangles or 4 squares. This is learning Math through a kitchen activity!
Something special: There’s a short video, narrated by actress Joan Cusack, which tells parents how they can help develop their child’s scientific temper by observing and asking questions. They even announce the following week’s videos.
Guidance: Yes, your guidance is needed as some of the games have no instructions. So you may have to sit with your child to help her understand the game. But once you do that, she will enjoy playing the game independently as lots of prompts are given to guide her way through to the right answer.
What it is about: Calling itself the parenting toolbox, this site claims to ‘offer the cure to boredom’. Funology, though it does have a science section, is not exclusively dedicated to science. As the name suggests, it’s all about fun – having fun with crafts, games, jokes games, magic and science. This is all about experiments, covering subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics and even the weather.
Sample: If your child wants to learn how to make a Jurassic Park terrarium, this is the site to visit. She can even make a mini greenhouse, and what’s more, the site will even explain how a greenhouse works. One interesting experiment out there is creating a fog in a bottle. Kids may also enjoy making a ball float mid-air!
Guidance: Parental guidance is needed, but there’s nothing to worry as these simple experiments can be made with materials from around the house, and are very, very easy to make.
What’s missing: No videos of the experiments. Some experiments lack illustrations.
For the tweens
What it is about: If your child constantly tests your patience (and knowledge!) by badgering you with questions like why ice is slippery or how touch screens work, you have help at hand. From whether our brain autocorrects to why spiders don’t get caught in their webs, this site is a blessing for the curious child and the helpless parent!
Something special: Lots of information in the form of explanations, interesting links and videos. Your child can even take a quiz to see whether he has understood the explanation. The video on who first invented balloon animals also shows how to make them, accompanied by a goofy video with tongue-in-cheek humour. There’s also a ‘wonder of the day’ with the answers. You can post your query which the team will answer. Wonderful, isn’t it?
What it is about: This science website aims to ‘promote exploration beyond the classroom, increasing life-long interest in science and science careers’.
So, Edheads provides science games and activities that mainly promote critical thinking. Your child can perform a knee replacement surgery online, or even do a weather prediction! Once they choose an activity, the fun begins.
Sample: Designing a cell phone for senior citizens must be easy, right? One attempt at this game, and your child will realize that though a senior citizen may not want fancy functions, even designing a simple and functional phone is no child’s play!
Like in real life, one will even get inputs and feedback from consumers, the research, design and marketing departments regarding the cell phone she designs. Teens will love the challenge!
Something special: Illustrations, picture-based quiz to teach concepts and detailed instructions will make your child really think about the processes.
What it is about: Themes like computing, energy, engineering, environment, and nanotechnology are explored through activities, comics, games, and videos. This interactive site has activities that demonstrate real-life application of scientific concepts.
Sample: For those interested in learning more about their environment, there is a biodiversity game, where the focus is on identifying and counting species through data collection. It’s an interesting game, where your child can also choose the difficulty level.
Something special: Wonderville has science crosswords and word search puzzles to turn science into a fun adventure. What’s more, the design will appeal to the teens.
Do it yourself science toys: For all age groups
Science Toy Maker
What it is about: There are two sections – quick and easy, and advanced. The quick and easy toys are for the younger children, who will require your help in assembling the materials and creating the toys. These toys can be made in 30 minutes or less.
The advanced toys are for teens and adults, requiring around 2 hours of hard work. Phew! But it’s all about play, and what’s more, the final creation will delight everyone! So go ahead and introduce your child to this site.
Sample: The oscillating woodpecker is a delightful toy that the young ones will enjoy making, and later showing off to family and friends. The toy illustrates how potential energy is converted into kinetic energy to make the woodpecker bob back and forth.
Older kids can try their hands at building giant water prisms, which bend light and separate the colours that make white light. For those who want to learn more about dispersion of light, links are given, including a BBC biography of Newton. From a simple prism, your child will gradually move to colours and optical physics!
Something special: This site has it all – illustrated instructions, videos, interesting links and more activities.
Aravind Gupta Toys
What it is about: This no-frills website probably needs no introduction. From flying toys to spinning toys, from simple toys based on sound to having fun with light, everything is here. The collection of toys this site has is simply amazing, and the best part is that the materials required are easily available. Apart from exhaustive pictures and detailed instructions, 1-minute videos are also included so that children have no trouble following the experiments. This is a truly valuable resource for all youngsters who want to keep themselves busy with hands-on science activities throughout the year.
Something special: The Math activities like creating geoboards and no-glue cubes, and puzzles and games like tangrams based on shapes are great fun!
Paul Raj wins Marconni Prize
Coimbatore-born NRI and Stanford University Professor Emeritus, Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj, has won the 2014 Marconi Prize, announced in January. The Marconi Prize, instituted for technology pioneers, is considered to be a Nobel equivalent. With this, Paulraj joins a select group of other awardees in the past, all pioneers in information technology – Tim Berners-Lee (world wide web), Larry Page (Google Search), Vint Serf (Internet), Marty Hellman (public key cryptography) and Martin Cooper (cell phone).
Prof Paulraj, an engineer-scientist, has been recognized for his invention and advancement of Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), which is at the heart of WiFi and 4G mobile systems. “Every WiFi router and 4G phone today uses MIMO technology pioneered by him,” says professor David Payne, chairman of the Marconi Society. “MIMO will soon be pervasive in all wireless devices”, he adds.
Prof Paulraj has already won the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell medal for his work on theoretical foundations of MIMO three years ago.
He had also worked for the Indian navy when he was in India. In 1971, after the war with Pakistan led to the loss of a naval ship, the shortcomings of the Navy’s sonars, of British origin were exposed. He helped redesign the sonar by adding many new signal processing concepts. Three years later, the new technology, called APSOH sonar, was widely deployed in the fleet. Prof Paulraj also recieved the Padma Bhushan in 2010.