Check out a cool practical science lesson at the Expo 2020. Image Credit: Supplied

The show begins when you hear the boom!

Members of Braniac Live – the 13-year-old British act that combines play with science - describe their routine as ‘the Science Museum meets Top Gear’, and they plan on living up to that moniker during their child-centric show here in the UAE on December 15.

We caught up with Andy Joyce (Brainiac Ned), Katie Santhouse (Braniac Raz), and Richard Warren (Braniac Ed) on the morning of their performance as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Knowledge and Learning Week to ask about what awaits us tonight.

Joyce explained: “It’s a science show – there are loads and loads of explosions, they [kids] are going to learn loads of things, on liquid nitrogen, calcium carbide. But the main thing is there’ll be a lot of explosions, a lot of fun.”

Be warned, this act comes with a disclaimer: Do not try this at home. But sometimes, to watch is just as fun. Here’s what the kids – big and small – can look forward to.

Meet the Braniac crew: Andy Joyce (Brainiac Ned), Katie Santhouse (Braniac Raz), and Richard Warren (Braniac Ed)

The hearing test

Santhouse says: “At one point in the show I test everyone’s hearing sound, so I play a series of hearing sounds and if you can hear it, it’s very impressive because the frequency gets higher and higher, so it’s interesting to see what frequency you stop at.”

Don’t be scared if you see your little one reacting to a sound vibration you can’t pick up on. Humans, explains US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information, can listen to a particular bandwidth of sound; from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. But infants can hear frequencies slightly higher than 20kHz even though this ability is dulled over time.

The ‘run through this’ test

Ever wondered what you can run through your door? Us neither, but for curious minds who want to know, the mystery getting solved tonight. “We test the properties of a door frame and see what you can run through and what you can’t,” says Joyce. (He refuses to reveal these objects though.)

Electric fence test

How do you explain to a child that they should not touch electrified fences – or electric sockets for that matter? You show them what happens to a body when the current rips through it of course! “We try to teach people how an electric fence works and one of us actually touches the fence on stage to show how it works and how electricity goes through the body,” laugh the performers, adding in mock serious fashion, “We do these things so you don’t have to.”

Liquid nitrogen, a test

These are veterans of the science-play stage … who’ve also learnt about cause and effect. We asked them about bloopers that led to some of their best acts. Joyce explains: “The first time we started playing with liquid nitrogen, we have a science consultant at Brighton University – so I went to him and said, ‘what can we do?’. So we went to an old science lab and he told me some things we could do and we were playing with it and we put it inside this plastic bottle and this bottle just starts to expand and get bigger and bigger, and we really needed to run quite quick. And then the explosion happened and it took the clock off the wall; I just said I want to do that on stage. How do we do it safely? We have found a way – definitely come see the show for that.”

Science teaches kids to decode the world around them, to think logically and to explore. It also teaches them the excellent life skill of resilience; you try, you fail, you try again, you fail better. Play’s role in learning is well known, for one thing it acts as a mnemonic device, with small actions triggering bigger lessons and greater retention. Especially when you start with a boom.

How to get your kids to love science
An article by Unicef explains how to foster a love for science in children – even without the explosive activities of the Braniac brand:

Let your child lead
See what interests your little one naturally. They will try to solve problems on their own, such as trying different ways of fitting a puzzle piece. Give them the room to figure out the problem, but be ready to support if they get stuck. Of course, if anything seems unsafe it is important to step in and assist!

Talk it out
Talk to your child about what’s happening when they are playing and experimenting. For example, you could use bath time to explore what objects float and which sink. Ask questions to encourage your child to gain a deeper understanding – “Why do you think that toy stayed on top of the water and the other sank down?”

Go outside
There is so much to discover outdoors! Go for a walk with your child and talk about what animals you see, what the weather is like and what plants are growing. Gently touch leaves and rocks, listen to the sounds the animals make and talk about the experiences you are having. Ask your child why they think leaves and flowers have different colours and smells. You could also try talking about the weather outside: “Is it sunny or cloudy out today?” This will help to develop your child’s interest in the natural world.

Encourage curiosity
Present your child with different objects such as leaves, shells, rocks or soft fabric. Invite them to feel and explore each one. Talk about what makes them similar or different. This will help encourage your child to be curious and to explore the concepts of shape, size and texture. You could try this with foods they eat too: “Is it sweet or sour?” “Is it soft or crunchy?”

Join in the learning
The most important thing is not to have all of the answers, but to be your child’s partner in finding them. Watch what happens when you mix different coloured paints together or see which ball bounces higher. If your child asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, write it down so that you can answer it together later. Remember, science is all about exploring and asking questions – that isn’t limited to just your toddler! Enjoy learning together as you embark on your scientific discoveries.