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Learning science from a balloon toy car activity

A balloon car can be prepared by making a car body from cups, plastic box,
etc. and attaching a balloon to it in a way that after the balloon is blown and
released, the car runs to the opposite direction, following the simple rocket
principle. However the teacher need not teach the science behind toys
directly but the problems they face generate the need of knowing them.
The following table explains how the various problems faced in making the
toy ask the child to understand some of the basic science principles.
Problem
Car not running or
running very
slowly

Reason

Science behind problem

Blocked air flow


through the straw

Air gives push to car


(Newtons law of motion)

Heavy car weight


Weak Balloon
Wheels
somewhere
Air has weight

More energy required for more


mass (Mass, energy, speed
relation)
Concept of Surface tension &
pressure
stuck Friction

Car tilting in front


Air properties and center of
after blowing the
gravity
balloon
Car wobbling while Axle not in center of Maths:
Circle
and
angle
running
the wheel
Properties, parallel lines, etc.

The teacher can discuss each problem in detail with the group asking
children to find the reason behind problems and how they can be solved.
Children come up with their own reasons and solutions. Further experiments
can be performed to test if the reasons provided by children are scientifically
correct. For example, if some children identify that the tilting of the car is due
to the weight of the air in the balloon, all children may not agree to it.
Experiments to prove whether Air has weight can be performed in the class.
The teacher then can provide further books and teach the relevant concepts
which would now be easier for children to understand since the context and
need have already been build through the activity. It would be more
meaningful for children to learn those concepts in order to solve the
problems.
Here the job of the teacher is neither to transfer the knowledge nor to push
children towards knowledge, nor do any special effort to generate interest.
The activity provides all the motivation towards knowledge. The teacher truly
performs the role of facilitator. The children not only understand the concept,
but learn to find solutions to problems and implement those solutions. They
further learn to work together in groups and learn the value of co-operation
among each other. They learn to value their own thought processes which
develops confidence among them to deal with problems on their own.