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Back to School: Be a Mad Scientist #30DaysofGOOD

Tap your inner Doc Brown and conduct a science experiment at home.

30 Days of GOOD (#30DaysofGOOD) is our monthly attempt to live better. This month we're going "Back to School" and committing to learn something new every day.


Last year, GOOD's education editor Liz Dwyer reported on a study indicating that elementary schools lack the infrastructure to properly teach science to students. Earlier this month, Education Week published a report that echoes that concern. It also explores "informal science education" options that enable young people to engage with and learn about science outside of the classroom:

[I]t has become increasingly clear that schools can’t tackle the challenge alone. … Opportunities abound outside the classroom to learn about science, and to inspire a passion for it. Zoos and science museums, robotics clubs, science competitions, and online games are just a few of the options to engage American youths.

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While I learned a lot about science in school, my most memorable science education did indeed come from the kinds of resources outlined in the Education Week report. In fact, one of my favorite books growing up was Mr. Wizard's Supermarket Science, which featured dozens of experiments my friends and I conducted at home using everyday items.

This weekend, your task is to take on some informal science education of your own. Find a safe, easy, and fun science experiment, and tap your inner Emmett "Doc" Brown. If you've got a kid in your life, make sure to bring her or him along for the adventure.

Some ideas to get you started:

On scifun.org, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Bassam Shakhashiri shares simple ideas for home science experimentation. While aimed at younger people, it's got plenty of projects that will appeal to adults too.

The MythBusters offer a handful of neat DIY experiments on the site for MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition, a hands-on event that's currently in Chicago and headed soon to San Jose, CA. Watch the video tutorials to learn how to do stuff like build a homemade audio speaker using a paper plate, a penny, and a spring clip.

If you're feeling a bit more ambitious, check out the Popular Science DIY site for inspiration. It's updated regularly with articles about weird and wonderful ideas, prototypes, and projects—many developed by hobbyists doing it just for the love of science.

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