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'Iron Science Teacher' and More at the Exploratorium

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, calls itself "the museum of science, art and human perception." The museum gets more than five hundred thousand visitors each year. Millions more visit online at

Exploratorium officials say their Web site averages more than eighteen million visitors a year. That makes it one of the most visited museum Web sites in the world.

And millions of people see displays designed by the Exploratorium at science centers around the world.

The museum has a Teacher Institute and is working to help teachers improve science education at all grade levels. There are professional development materials that teachers can download from the Web site at no cost.

The Exploratorium also offers professional development programs for scientists. This is a joint effort with the University of California, Santa Cruz, and King’s College London. also includes experiments that people can do at home. And it offers many Webcasts -- including a show called “Iron Science Teacher.”

The idea came from the popular "Iron Chef" cooking competition on Japanese television. At the Exploratorium, people watch science teachers develop demonstrations around everyday objects. The teachers have ten minutes to put together an interesting classroom activity.

The teachers come to the competition already knowing what the object will be. Recently it was fruit. Winners are chosen by the reaction of the audience. The loudest applause went to a science teacher at Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, in New York City. Linda Paparella stuck pieces of zinc and copper into oranges cut in half.

The oranges acted as a "fruit battery." Free electrons naturally stored in the fruit flowed through wires connected to the pieces of metal. There was enough electricity to power a calculator. The teacher also demonstrated with a stopwatch and a buzzer.

Museum officials say the "Iron Science Teacher" competition started as a joke. It was meant to be just a one-time show, but it was so popular they continued it. The next live Webcast is set for nineteen hours Universal Time on August eleventh.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Transcripts and archives of our reports are at You can also find a link to archives of Iron Science Teacher Webcasts. I’m Steve Ember.