The drinking bird or how toys promote science learning

Science Education profits heavily from toys like the drinking bird or fuel cell toy vehicles. Positive memories from childhood playing and natural curiousity spark children’s interest in the toy and therefore in the content, when used accordingly. Giving them time to explore hands-on is the perfect way of every science teacher into the heart of their students.

Have you ever heard of the drinking bird? A fantastic toy heat engine, designed for the curious minds and playful children. Positive memories of play time come back to us when trying to figure out a toy like this one. It’s a perfect way of catching and holding the interest of children in science classes and I urge you to take advantage of this and endulge in some serious science learning. Let’s go!

But why are toys in science education such a good thing? Won’t they distract children from the important processes, the learning of concepts and content? They’re distracting and can only be described superficially and qualitatively because most of the times they’re more complex to explore than they are played with.

My plead is for a reflective use of toys in physics or other sciences. The more often children are introduced to phenomena with toys, the more serious the question they ought to inquiry is, and the closer the basic concepts and the operation of the toys are connected the more students learn from playing with toys in a scientific way. And there really is much to gain from the teaching of science with toys.

Playing is a voluntary process, it has its goal in itself and is accompanied by a sense of excitement and joy. By first perceiving games and toys in their undivided reality and witnessing how the perspective is gradually narrowed down in the classroom, students can be taught what it means to view the world in a scientific way. The implementation of toys in STEM classrooms has a catch component for the students’ interest which then can be used to spark that longlasting enthusiasm about science itself. So play along, there are tons of toys and games that can be used in science education. Increase the use of hands-on activities but don’t forget to connect the toy to scientific concepts over all that playing.

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