Me? Teach science?!
Even the thought can bring on an anxiety attack. Bringing science into your curriculum doesn't need to be scary, in fact it can be a blast - literally. Whether we know it or not we bring science into our classroom every day. Whether its watering the classroom plants and watching them grow or mixing yellow and red finger paint to make orange, it's all science. Science is asking questions, making predictions, observing, looking for answers, and simply noticing the world around us. Simply put, science is all around us and it's FUN!
For our latest science experiment or observation, read on!
150 marbles, 20 plastic golf balls, 6 plastic baseballs… What’s Next?
How do you solve the debate among preschoolers as to whether rivers flow downhill or uphill? Put it in their hands.
How to start? How about :
20 plastic golf balls
6 plastic baseballs
Cardboard Carpet Rolls (Ask your hardware store for the leftovers)
Plastic Rain Gutters (again the Hardware Store is your Supply Store)
Various Cardboard tubes, flat surfaces, cardboard
While the children were outside, I set up ramps all over the room.
The first reaction as they entered the room. "Gasp!", "What?!", "Look!"
No instructions were needed. They dove right in.
They played, experimented, explored and learned.
And, in the end, came up with the conclusion that things roll downhill. Tommorrow, we will see if water goes downhill.
Safety: This is for a group who no longer mouths objects. Although, the larger balls can be just as effective. We did, however, have a safety talk before hand so that they were aware of the parameters.
Put Science in Their Hands
Science is a great way to help children make a real connection to a concept that can cross over to vocabulary building and literacy. And it can be so EASY! Just put some eggs in those little hands.
Best prediction of the day: "If I drop it, it will hatch!"
How Does it Rain?
What fun it is to put on rubber boots after a rainstorm and stomp through puddles. Watching the water splash up over shoes and a mudhole get bigger and bigger has brought giggles and laughter for generations. It's gooey, it's fun, it's wet and when the sun comes out it's also a mystery. Where does the water go? The water cycle is both fascinating and fun.
When introducing the concept of the water cycle, we start with understanding that every living thing needs water to survive and that water is all around us, all the time, both visible and invisible. A picture or bulletin board depicting a simple water cycle sets the stage for telling the story of Mr. Raindrop. When we tell the story, Mr. Raindrop falls from the rain cloud along with his friends and lands on the ground near some trees. Some of the raindrops are used by the tree to grow and some travel down the land in other creeks and streams and eventually end up with lots of new friends in a big body of water where eventually they become too hot from Mr. Sun, evaporate and rise up and into a cloud. As more and more raindrops join together the cloud becomes heavy and can no longer hold all the drops. The raindrops fall and begin their journey all over again.
To help the children understand the concept of evaporation, we heat a kettle of water to boiling (the kids are kept back at a safe distance, this is a teacher demonstration). Once steam begins to form, we capture it by holding a plastic lid in its path. The water soon condenses and the children are able to see the water droplets on the lid.
To understand how a cloud releases its water we conduct another experiment. This time the kids participate. Each child is given a cotton ball and we talk about how it feels light and fluffy. We pretend the cotton ball is a cloud floating around in the sky. Next we have each child gently touch their cotton to a bin of water and feel how the cotton begins to get heavy as the water is absorbed. The child lifts the cotton above the bin and gently squeezes until water begins to drip (rain).
Last we make our own water cycle using construction paper, scissors, markers, and glue. The kids love telling the story of Mr. Raindrop over and over!
Shadows - Indoor and Out
Hands on Science that children can completely control themselves.
Close the blinds, turn out the lights, hang a sheet and give everyone a flashlight.
After exploring, we took turns guessing the silhouette.
The afternoon sun is just right for great shadow play outdoors.
They were amazed how they could control the shadow. Someone finally concluded that all he needed for a shadow was a flashlight or the sun. Pretty good for a 4 year old, eh?
It Sinks. It Floats. Wait, It Sinks and Floats!
How does it do that?
Pull out two clear containers, water, clear soda, and a handful of raisins and you’ve quickly set the stage for another fun experiment. The raisin experiment is always a hit. It’s easy and a perfect introduction into science terms like “prediction” and “conclusion” as well as engaging kids in problem solving through observation. But mostly, it’s just plain fun!
I start this experiment by arranging tables into a square and having everyone gather around. In the center of the table is a large vase filled with water. I ask, “what do you predict will happen if we drop some raisins into the water? Predict, means what do you think will happen?” The kids are always eager to share their ideas: sink, float, explode, grow… I use the word prediction to reinforce their suggestion, example: “your prediction is the raisins will sink.” We drop the raisins in and watch as they sink and stay at the bottom of the vase.
Next I put a second clear vase of similar size on the table and ask, “what do you predict will happen if we drop raisins into soda?” The kids can still see the raisins sitting on the bottom of the vase with water so most will say the raisins will sink. I love this because what they are doing is using the knowledge they gained from the first half of the experiment and applied it to the second. Their observation at this point is bringing them to their conclusion.
We drop the raisins in and watch as they sink to the bottom. This always results in an explosion of cheers because they predicted correctly. However the raisins soon begin to float to the surface, which causes a whole new round of excitement. Shortly the raisins begin to fall to the bottom and then float back to the top, repeating this action over and over. So I ask, why? Why are the raisins falling and floating? What is happening? I listen as the kids bounce their thoughts back and forth while they watch the raisins dance up and down. Little by little they start to put the pieces together until someone notices the bubbles carrying the raisins to the surface and then popping causing the raisins to fall. With the mystery solved, I steer the conversation so the kids come up with the conclusion of this experiment: raisins in water sank because there were no bubbles to carry them to the surface; raisins in soda were carried to the surface but when the bubbles popped they floated back to the bottom to be carried up again. They predicted, observed, and worked together to form a conclusion. And they had a lot of fun while doing it.
Why Leaves Change Color
Objective: Learning about our world around us. Understanding leaves contain all their colors but only show certain colors at different times of the year
Experiment: pulling chlorophyll from the leaf to reveal hidden colors
Best time of year is early fall before leaves change.
assorted fresh deciduous leaves
magnifying glasses (one for each child)
jar (baby food or small canning jar works well)
something to crush leaves (spoon; mortar and pestle)
paper coffee filters
Activity: Find the leaf’s hidden colors
1. Take the children outside and look at the leaves on the trees. Notice not all leaves look the same. Have them bring samples of leaves from different trees.
2. Have the children work in pairs or small groups. Each group or pair has one type of leaf. Have them look closely at the leaf using a magnifying glass. What color do they see? Next have the kids tear or cut the leaf into small pieces and put the pieces into the jar. You won’t need much, maybe a quarter of the jar filled. Tape to the outside of the jar the type of leaf in the jar.
3. Note: adults may want to do this step. If children help, make sure they wear safety glasses. Carefully add a small amount of rubbing alcohol, just enough to cover the torn leaves. Begin to crush the leaves with a spoon. Notice the alcohol begins to change color. This is the chlorophyll coming out of the leaf.
4. Cut a strip of coffee filter - about 1 inch wide - and place one end of the filter in the alcohol.
5. Let it sit for at least a half hour. Notice the color bands on the filter strips. These are the colors in the leaf. Leave the filter in the alcohol overnight and see if more colors appear.
6. Place the strips on a paper towel and let dry. Have the kids look close at the colors using magnifying glasses. What colors can they find? Compare the findings to the other leaves.
Ask the children what they think happens to leaves in the fall? (Most will tell you leaves “change” colors.) Explain that leaves have all their colors from the time they are tiny, but in the spring and summertime we only see the green because the green is covering the rest of the colors. In the spring and summer the tree is busy “eating” the sun and "drinking" the rain and making food for the tree. The food is called chlorophyll and is the green in the leaves. There’s lots of sun in the summertime so the tree is able to make a lot of chlorophyll. We can’t see the other colors because there is so much green in the way. As we get into fall, there is less sun and the tree isn’t eating as much. Pretty soon there is less and less green and we are able to see the other colors hiding in the leaves.
Some time during the Fall, we would have done our best to do everything on Pinterest to a Pumpkin. We have weighed, rolled, estimated, compared, sank or floated, measured, painted, glittered, carry, climb over in the pumpkin patch, purchased, hammered with golf tees, cut, scooped and busted. I thought we were finished. This area of discovery usually ends with "Ms. Peggie, why is it so black and squishy?"
But for the greatest of recycling, take it outside, dig a pumpkin size hole in the garden, ground, flowerbed, planter or playground, drop it in, place the remaining dirt in the scooped out pumpkin with about an inch uncovered. Walk away. Soon you will have other pumpkins growing. For the kids making the first of the Farm to Table connections, it is exciting.
Lemon and Lime Juice
Objective: Discovering how to get the most juice from lemons and limes
Materials: fresh lemons and limes, knife, equal-size containers to catch the juice
There is so much you can do with lemons and limes in the classroom. Beautiful lemon and lime prints in art, counting the seeds in each fruit and measuring the juice for math, smelling and tasting for a sensory experience, and of course having fun with science.
In this experiment the children will explore different ways to get juice from the lemon and lime, measure the amount of juice obtained, and make their own conclusion as to the best way to get the most juice from the fruit.
Start by asking the kids what they think would be the best way to get juice from a lemon or lime. Chances are they will have all kinds of ideas. Encourage them to say what they think and be positive with your reaction to their ideas. Brainstorming ideas to solve a problem should be fun and safe. By giving value to their ideas and responses you are also building their self-confidence and encouraging them to speak their mind not only this time but next.
Eventually steer the conversation toward cutting the fruit and squeezing it. Now ask the kids if they think it will make a difference if the fruit is first rolled around on the table to make it soft before cutting and squeezing. Use words like what do you predict will happen. Have the children make their own predictions and record so all can see (it could be verbally and you record, having the child make a tally mark on a yes/no chart, adding a cut out of a lemon or lime to a yes/no chart, or whatever you want. Be creative!)
Divide the class and have one table cut their lemons and limes and began squeezing out the juice. Note: adults should do the actual cutting. Have the second table roll their lemons and limes first until they are very soft then cut and began squeezing. Using same-size containers (test tubes, baby food jars, canning jars) have each table collect their juice from the lemons and limes (be sure to keep the lemon juice separate from the lime juice). Use a magnifying glass to compare the results. Again, use appropriate vocabulary - what was their conclusion?
Fragile as an Egg
Or is It?
When we cook in class, it’s an honor to be the person chosen to hold the egg. Being asked to hold the egg means you are trusted, responsible, and careful. The kids know an egg can easily break. We use words like breakable and fragile to describe the egg. Kids know eggs need to be treated gently, but is an egg really stronger than we think?
Following are a couple experiments to test the strength of the egg. Before beginning, we always start with a little background on the egg. We learn animals hatch and animals are born. Those that hatch from eggs have no hair or fur and are called oviparous. As a group we brainstorm as many animals we can think of that fit this category. We read books to learn about more and even hatch our own plastic eggs containing oviparous animals. Oviparous is a great word.
Next we look at the shape of the egg. Ask the kids questions like, if an egg is fragile, how does the animal survive? Why doesn’t the egg crush under the weight of the parent? Remember to use correct language: oviparous, survive, weight, parent. Ask if they think the dome shape of the egg helps keep the animal safe. Look at books that show the use of domes in buildings and bridges or build your own dome structure using blocks to show its strength.
Now for the fun part: You will need several dozen eggs, books of various weights and sizes, a large mess mat and a bin of sudsy water. Last but not least, you’ll want a camera handy. The results are amazing!
Hold an egg in the palm of the hand, wrap fingers around, and squeeze.
Egg Shell Weight Test:
With the pointy side of the egg face up and using the egg carton cup as a guide, draw a circle around the egg using a permanent marker. Drain the egg out the pointy end. Tape masking tape along the circle drawn on the egg. Carefully cut away the shell to the masking tape. Remove tape. Repeat 3 more times making sure each shell is approximately the same size. Place the 4 shells dome side up forming a square with a shell at each corner. Begin stacking books. Count as you stack. After eggshells collapse, weigh the books it was able to support.
Walking on Eggs:
Take off your shoes and socks. Spread a plastic tarp on the floor. Heavy duty garbage bags taped together or a shower curtain work well. Have a basin of sudsy water or antibacterial wipes handy just in case an egg breaks. Stagger 4 or 5 dozen eggs (in their cartons) to create a path. With an adult on either side of the child, help them step up onto the center of a carton of eggs and walk across. It’s amazing!
I Wouldn't Eat That if I Were you!
Is that snack or is it another art project or science experiment?
One of the best-kept secrets at school is the freezer. Bagels and popsicles move aside, we’re freezing mud pies today! The freezer is just an extension of the classroom, a cold little box that answers the question, “what will happen if …”
For a young child, pouring a cup of water and putting it in the freezer to later discover the water has turned solid is fascinating. Watching that same cup of water thaw and become a liquid again is like magic! Use the freezer for a little science by freezing freshwater and saltwater or use the freezer to help with cooperative play and fine motor skills by freezing toys in water and then giving the children the challenge of freeing them from ice. The freezer is also great for art; creating with frozen paint and shaving cream, or frozen finger paint and water is simply “cool” fun with amazing results!