Stuff - Shalini's Science Box experiments lift lid on kid's curiosity

Picture Credit: Mark Taylor/Stuff

As a young girl, Shalini Guleria would look at milk heating on the stove and wonder why it took longer to boil than water.

Her curious nature caused her to ask questions about the world around her and eventually led her to study science at Waikato University. An inquiring mind is a trait she's hoping to kindle in children.

The 24-year-old recently set up Science Box, a collection of science experiments she takes to schools.

"All the experiments that I have in my box are basically things I've found at home. I use them to set challenges for the children and help them understand the science behind it," she said.

In one challenge, students are asked to clean a tarnished 10 cent coin using only a lemon. Students discover the citric acid in the lemon can remove the tarnish, whereas water alone can't.

After completing the challenges, students present their findings to their peers.

"In science, you need to be able to present ideas. Anyone can be a scientist, you just need to be curious about things around you. It's curiosity which makes you wonder why something happens rather than just accept the fact that it does."

Guleria's two-hour science sessions are free to any schools who want to host her. The sessions are aimed at children aged five to 10.

Eventually Guleria hopes to secure funding and expand her Science Box initiative by having other university students create science boxes and visit schools.

To date, she's visited two schools - Te Totara Primary School and St Peter Chanel Catholic School.

Guleria is currently studying toward a masters degree, focusing on tissue engineering for breast cancer research.

Her studies involve using commercially available cancer cells to create three dimensional models of breast cancer tumours. It's hoped her studies could lead to more effective treatments for women with breast cancer.

Prior to her masters study, Guleria tutored high school students in science.

"I seem to be able to connect to kids and the feedback from teachers has been really positive. I had one child who said he didn't like science but at the end he came and pulled on my white lab coat and said when he grows up he wants to be a scientist like me. That brought tears to my eyes."