Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Cognitive Whizz's Science Escapade

Earlier this year, the twins were invited to join in Cognitive Whizz's Science Escapade workshop in  June. The twins have always loved science, and so have Iz and I actually. In fact, Iz was sulking - he wanted to join the science camp too! He couldn't attend as he was "over-aged" at 11 years old - the June Science Escapade was meant for ages 4 to 8.

Being 4 half days long (9.30am to 12.30pm each day), the camp took up practically a whole week. We had to shift other stuff around to make time for this camp, since the twins were keen on it. We hoped it was worth it, for you can't get back time spent.

I was also intrigued by the Science Escapade blurb on the poster as it mentioned famous kids books author Julia Donaldson and the characters in her books like Stick Man and Superworm. The kids and I have always loved reading and books, so this was a draw for us.
Science Escapade by Cognitive Whizz
Each day's lesson starts with Denise, the main trainer, asking the kids how they are feeling that day. Using flash cards and facial expressions and body language, she demonstrates a variety of feels and introduces a pretty good range of vocabulary to the kids.

Here are some of the words I managed to take note of: exultant, joyous, astonished, despondent, remorseful, daunted, jittery, vexed, frustrated and enraged. Out of so many words introduce, Denise would go on to focus on 4 words each day. Thus by the end of the 4 half day camp, the kids would have learnt the meaning of 16 words.

Given that the target age group is from ages 4 to 8 - this is quite a good standard of vocabulary. I was very impressed and surmised that it's a Science main course with a free English side. Isaac though, raised his eyebrows and whispered to me "I thought you said this was a Science camp?"

Next up, a dramatic reading of one of Julia Donaldson's books. The book for the first day was Stick Man.  I was indeed starting to wonder when the Science would come in... At the end of the book, we had our answer. The reading of the book and it's story, was to lead us in to the science! The kids were to help Stick Man get home to his family, by building a catapult to help him get home! Ah! Using the catapult and other examples, Denise proceeded onto the day's lesson to teach the kids the concept of Levers. Ingenious leading in! A nice touch!

Making the catapult
Denise discussed with the kids and introduced to them the concept of how elastic potential energy is turned into kinetic energy. The kids were provided with ice cream sticks, rubber bands and a spoon, to make their own catapult with - to fly Stick Man home! They all got to test out their constructions with a styrofoam ball as the load.

In another segment, Denise taught the kids how to identify the following in every lever
1. Effort
2. Load
3. Fulcrum

Next she got the kids to identify the above three parts of a lever in everyday items such as a shovel, tongs, ice cream scoop, a nutcracker etc. The kids even got the chance to crack their own nut.

Throughout the morning, in between segments, the facilitators would get the kids to stand and do certain exercises. There was the morning hello segment, and other activities that would get the kids up and moving as well. For young kids, movement like that is very welcomed, and I could see how allowing the kids to move now and then helped settle them and made it easier for them to sit still and do stuff at the table. It was a good balance that worked well.

The kids also got to make their own table-top basketball game which uses a small catapult to launch the ball into the hoop.

All in all, a very eventful morning, chock full of science theories and activities. This would prove to be typical for all four mornings.
Day 1:  Levers
Day 2: Pulleys and wheels
Day 3: Acid and alkali (base) 
Day 4: Air pressure

Lots of content, delivered in simple ways, to engage the kids and capture their attention. Key concepts and key words would be repeated over and over again to help embed this information in the children's minds.

Lever: Effort, Load, Fulcrum!
Cognitive Whizz is the brainchild of Denise. She has been conducting lots of hands-on science experiments with her kids since they were toddlers. With encouragement from her friends and family, she decided to run these holiday science camps so that more children can experience science in such fun and engaging ways.

Denise, as the main trainer, is excellent. Her energy level is consistently high, and her exuberance is contagious. Whether she is reading from a book or flash cards, or demonstrating a concept or experiment, she is clear and concise, energetic and loud enough. Many a time, the experiments are so engaging and interesting, that the kids tend to crowd forward just coz they're so excited! But Denise is able to be firm, yet kind, in telling them to sit back down so that everyone can see what is going on.

It also helps that they have a very good Facilitator to Participant ratio. In a class of less than 20 participants, there seems to be at least 4 to 5 facilitators, in addition to the main trainer. This translates to 1 Facilitator to 4 or 5 Participants - which is very decent. This results in the participants getting lots of 1 to 1 attention when they break into groups when to do their hands-on work. I eavesdropped on the facilitators as well - they're good! They know their content well, and are able to guide the kids effectively, and calm them down when the kids get too excitable or rowdy.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of science concepts taught. There were topics which I thought was quite advanced but Denise managed to simplify them concisely and teach the concepts to the kids. To top this off, I truly appreciate how Denise and her facilitators were able to manage the children without resorting to shouting or threats - as I have seen many educators do. I like how Denise uses positive and respectful language with the kids. This in turn sets the tone right for how the facilitators treat the kids, and how the kids behave towards one another. All in all, Cognitive Whizz has my full endorsement - highly recommended!

Cognitive Whizz - A Science Escapade! 2018
This time round, there are Disney characters involved! What's more, this time round, Cognitive Whizz has teamed up with Kidz Amaze @ Toa Payoh as a venue partner. Thus, every participant of the 4 half day (morning) Science Escapade can pop out for lunch and come back into Kidz Amaze and play for the rest of the afternoon till 7pm, for all four days! What a great deal!

I hear the December dates are pretty much filled, but if you're quick, you may still be able to register for the first run! Quote "TFC" before 17 November to get a special promo rate of $290. If you're to sign up for only one camp this holidays - let this be the one! 

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