Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Experimenting In A Frictionless World

In yesterday's post I mentioned our ongoing need to suck water out of rugs. Well, this is a big part of the reason why. 

This is our 2-liter bottle based water play set up. 

We've cut several bottles in half, leaving us with an equal number of "funnels" and containers to which we've added some lengths of flexible blue tubing from the hardware store, and "fittings" for connecting tubes together as well as to the bottoms of the funnels. We chose tubing that was the same diameter as the bottle openings so the same fittings work on both.

I've found that milk crates are a great way add height to these set ups, not only because they are plastic and allow water to pass through them, but because it's fun to weave tubes through their holes.

I usually start things off with a rig like this: funnels on top that are connected to tubes that emerge from all four sides of the crate. Kids are forever pouring water into the top, then studying to see where it comes out.

We also have a couple of old Brita brand water cisterns.

It's a wonderful free-form experiment station, primarily involving preschoolers handling 1-liter containers of water, which is probably all you need to know to explain the need to suck water from our rug. And without the rug, we just wind up with a slippery floor.

I know you might be thinking that this would be a station better left for outdoors, and we do move it out there sometimes, but doing that, I've found, really changes the play as massive amounts of organic matter gets included in the system. This is all well and good, and quite educational, one of the primary lessons being in clogging and unclogging the works.

Physicists, I'm told, will sometimes need to postulate a frictionless world in order to better understand the dynamics of the rest of a system. Playing with all this indoors, to me, is our version of "frictionless" water play. We have plenty of naturalistic water experimentation outdoors anyway with our cast iron pump set in a world of absorption, mud, and wood chips.

This works more like a laboratory, one in which we've controlled some of the variables in order to develop and test theories about how things work.

"Look, Teacher Tom, I captured water!"

In addition to the basic supplies, we also, over the years have added a number of odds and ends: other gauges and types of tubing, as well as other kinds and sizes of fittings, and full-sized 2-liter bottles.

These are in a box nearby and usually don't come out until the second or third day of play with this apparatus.

I love watching the kids stick things here and there, perhaps not as systematically as a professional scientist, but still taking mental notes, noticing what happens, developing theories on the fly, and always testing.

And then repeating these experiments until they're certain they'll get the same result each time.

There's really not a lot for the adults to do here but provide vocabulary and towels . . .

. . . and to, at the end of our play, suck the water out of our rug.

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Anonymous said...

Wow! That's ingenious! I have had to buy a membership to the local Children's Museum to get this kind of activity -and you're doing it for free.

Floor Pie said...

Anonymous, it's actually not free.

We pay tuition, we work at the school once a week (or more when we substitute for each other), we fundraise, we buy and serve snack, we wash dishes, some of us serve on the board or extra committees for side projects. We coordinate field trips. We run out to the store before school starts to get supplies for the day's activities. We take home the laundry once a week and do it in our homes. We take home the food waste. We mediate conflicts, we wipe noses and tears, we change diapers, we put up with each other's quirks and moods. We bring OUR ingenuity and brilliance to the classroom...and then we clean the bathrooms.

It's a cooperative. It's every bit as wonderful and frustrating and spiritual and loving as being part of a family. But it's not free.

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