Salt makes science lessons crystal clear

The 250 pupils of the Branding Elementary School in Brielle (near Rotterdam) are lucky to have one or more parents working at Industrial Chemicals in Rotterdam. Salt, being one of the main ingredients for the Membrane Electrolysis plant, has proven to be a subject that is very suitable to acquaint children with science and technology and to explain its vital role in society. Inspired by their colleagues in Delfzijl, who had developed a curriculum together with Groningen University a few years ago, two of our Rotterdam colleagues decided to start giving lessons on the school in Brielle and at the same time organize a genuine salt crystals competition.

"We could not think of a better way to get the children enthusiastic about science and technology as this subject is so closely related to our daily jobs", explained Theo Horbach, one of the initiators. He and his colleague Remko van der Meijden copied the Delfzijl concept by giving technology lessons about salt and salt crystals in the last grades of the elementary school. During the lessons the children can start their own experiments for the growing salt crystals competition. The children can create the most beautiful salt crystals by making different shapes and figures by using iron wire, wool or something else. These materials are put in salt dissolved in water. As the water is evaporating over the next few weeks, the crystals emerge. During the whole process the children are instructed to keep a log about the growth process of their crystals.

When preparing his lessons, Theo learned about the ambition of the school to educate the children in English at an early stage by using interactive digital ‘blackboards’. This is a national initiative in the Netherlands, called Early Bird, whereby the pupils learn English in a playful manner and a native speaker enters the classroom through the digital board. The school was badly in need of one more board but funds were lacking. An appeal was made to the Community Program and in view of their involvement in the salt crystal project the purchase of another interactive board could be made.

Our colleagues received a lot of appreciation, not only from the school staff but especially from the children who were very enthusiastic about their salt experiments. Perhaps the curriculum that is now only available in the Dutch language can be translated into English after the interactive lessons are given through the digital board!