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11 years 47 weeks ago
Excited to roll out our website and share some fun science experiments for teachers, students and families! Stay tuned. #Science #Education

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Whelmer?

A Whelmer is a captivating hands-on science activity from the collection of Wizard IV.
For nearly 200 years, whelmers have been performed around the world by people interested in learning and teaching science 

Why do a Whelmer?

Whelmers are specially designed to engage you in science thinking skills while having a lot of fun. They are fairly easy to perform, inexpensive, and very satisfying. You will learn a great deal of science while performing whelmers.

Are the activities safe?

Yes….if….you follow general safety instructions as well as the safety hints provided in the directions of each Whelmer. ( see “Safety Rules” )

Are Whelmers to be used in the classroom?

Yes. Whelmers are designed to be used as supplemental activities, for most classroom science curricula. Whelmers are aligned with accepted science education standards and curriculum design benchmarks.

Are Whelmers approved/accepted by educators?

Yes. Whelmers are used in classrooms around the world. Here is a review describing their use.

Whelmers-McREL's Accessible Science Series

Target Audience
Grades - 4-12

The Whelmers website is a tremendous place for simple presentations and demonstrations. Activities are closely aligned with the National Science Education Standards and provide direct links to the Standards from each activity. The teacher is given background material, research, and the objective of the activity.

Each month, there are 20 activities available online. Authored by Steve Jacobs, of Jake’s Attic and Mr. Wizard Studio, each activity provides the materials and the "how-to's" of the activity. Even the teacher who is unsure of him/herself or is just beginning to go beyond the textbook, will feel comfortable using these activities.

The multiple types of assessment (i.e. individual, small group, etc.) are included, saving instructors tremendous amounts of time. This website is great for teachers trying to broaden their horizons and increase their knowledge in many areas of science. As a 20-year veteran of the classroom, I found activities that I will use. This site should be bookmarked, made available, and promoted to all K-16 science teachers.

Reviewer Name: 

   Susan Y. Nichols

Reviewer Affiliation: 

   American Association for the Advancement of Science

Site Title: 

   Whelmers-McREL's Accessible Science Series

Site Developer: 

   Mid-continent Research for and Learning (McREL) US Dept of Education


   Jake’s Attic Productions / Faraday Studios

For what age group are Whelmers designed?

Whelmers are best used in upper elementary grades, through high school. 

What if the Whelmer doesn’t work?

As most scientists will report, there are more “failures” than “successes.” In scientific work. However, whelmers activities have been tested for decades and most of the “bugs,” have been worked out.

If you have bad luck with any Whelmer, the first step is to re-read the instructions and check quantities and measurements of materials used.

How many Whelmers are there?

At last count, the wizard files contain approximately 20,000 activities, collected over the past two centuries. This web site was formed to begin the process of formatting those activities into Whelmers format and making them available to scientists of all ages and experience.

Where can I get more Whelmers?

This web site will continually add to the available Whelmers collection. HI Zinc and ACE Hardware stores also make Whelmers available in both the Wizard’s Science Secrets and Hardware Store Science series.

A Whelmer is what kind of science?

Whelmers are designed to engage users in certain science process thinking skills. For convenience, Whelmers available on this web site are categorized into several science disciplines; Chemistry, physics, Earth/Space Science, etc.

However, the skills employed in performing a Whelmer are the same skill used by scientists in all disciplines. An astronaut, a chemist, a marine biologist all use scientific methods and thinking skills a whelmers user will practice.

Whelmers are appropriate to any and all disciplines of scientific experience.

Are wizards…for real?

Yes. There have been four acknowledged wizards in recent history. The original definition to the term “wizard,” was….wisest one. A true wizard has nothing to do with witchcraft, magic, sorcery, or evil of any kind; just the wisdom that comes for an understanding of and enjoyment from the processes of scientific thinking.

And, yes, the current wizard, Wizard IV, is getting old and in the process of looking for……Wizard V !

( see History of Wizards link )

What is the origin of the term, Whelmer?

The term Whelmer was coined by Wizard IV approximately 40 years ago, when he was a chemistry instructor. Read the story below to learn the history of the term.

A long, long time ago, in a school far, far away, I was a classroom teacher. Before writing science activities for television and working at the Mr. Wizard Studio, I experienced the joyous and demanding life of teaching. Early in my teaching career, my school Principal assigned me a challenge. He wanted me to teach a large class of students who had failed previous attempts to pass a basic science class. I was wary to leave the relative calm of teaching Physics and Advanced Placement Chemistry. However, the Principal found a crack in my defenses. I have a soft heart. I accepted the challenge.

When I arrived at school in the fall, I learned the “class” had grown to two large classes. I had assigned to me 80 students. My enthusiasm for teaching those students soon waned. In no uncertain terms they informed me they did not want to be there. They did not like school. They did not like me. They did not like science….not one bit….unless it involved blowing something up !

I learned the kids were bright and intelligent, but the natural curiosity they surely had as children was gone. I could not engage them in any meaningful learning activities. It was clear to me I was competing with severe complacency; the result of a lifestyle that included many family, emotional, and cultural problems. Also, the students seemed to be hurried and impatient; the antithesis of a good science student. They suffered from “Hurry Sickness.”

I tried everything to get my students involved. I found myself slipping into the pattern of performing whiz-bang demonstrations: pop…bang….fizz! There oft was not much depth to the demonstrations and many had limited educational value. But, at least, the students kept quiet and gave the appearance of learning something.

I was doing a poor job, and I knew it.

One of my elders, an experienced colleague suggested that I should not expend my efforts trying to overwhelm my students all of the time…..that I gave them an incorrect view of science.

That was true…..but, these kids were not self-starters as were those enrolled in physics and chemistry classes. How could I get these new students engaged?

Perhaps, instead if overwhelming them with flash, I should try to just…..”whelm” them a bit. It worked !!!

Thus was the birth of Whelmers.

For the next forty years, I collected activities and demonstrations that whelm students; activities that spark their curiosity; activities that catch, even for a moment, the eye and mind of even the most indifferent student.

I found that the whelming process opens the door to involvement in other science curricula. It also yields the opportunity to engage in the science processes used by all scientists, while introducing bits of science content.

At a Whelmer workshop in Aurora, Colorado one of the participants coined the phrase: “ Hook, Line and Thinker.” The term hook, refers to the engaging phenomena characteristic of a Whelmer. Line, refers to the body of content; facts, figures, and other scientific information. Thinker, refers to the best part of a Whelmer; the science process skills that are used and modeled in the activity. I suggest using the Hook, Line and Thinker method for using and participating in Whelmer activities.

Whelmers is a tool to be used in the classroom; not as a curriculum, but an adjunct to support it. Many Whelmers cane be performed at home….and just for fun.

By the way….. all 80 students passed science that year, …..and, with a smile on their face !

Wizard IV