Saturday, July 31, 2010

"We're Trying To Do Experiments..."

I mentioned yesterday that we were unable to erupt our new volcano on Tuesday as planned because we'd gone through our entire gallon of vinegar doing other things. Specifically, it had been used as one of the 3 liquids we'd employed to make mixtures, formulas and concoctions.

Mixing random things together is one of those activities that is always a hit and this was no exception. Our chemists had relatively free access to several white powders: baking soda, flour, corn starch, Ivory Snow (a type of detergent that is only soap), and salt, as well as the liquids of water, vegetable oil and vinegar. I say "relatively free access" because I've learned that entirely free access to these types of materials inevitably leads to the group think idea of just dumping everything together in a big pile and that's that. Years ago a parent donated a massive quantity of small, disposable sample cups, so I'd asked my daughter Josephine, who was working the station, to ration the supplies by providing them in these little cups.

She was very busy for the better part of an hour, keeping those little cups full.

In fact, the workbench was so slammed for most of the morning that Joshua's mom Heidi had to pitch in.

It didn't take them long to figure out that the baking soda-vinegar combination produced the most dramatic results, hence the massive usage of vinegar.

This was going on simultaneously and adjacent to our rainbow room project (a phenomenon that prompted Thomas to say, "Teacher Tom, this is the best school ever!") which involved using squirt bottles of liquid water color to decorate coffee filter sea weed. It wasn't long before those paint bottles had migrated over to the workbench adding a fourth liquid to our experiments.

And while I hadn't anticipated the paint finding its way into the mix, I had intentionally set up our sensory table, full of water, nearby with the idea that our small bowl experiments would ultimately need a larger field of play, not to mention serving as a quick, informal wash up opportunity. And that's where it went.

There were a few water toys in the sensory table and the children, on their own, decided that one half of our divided table would be for experiments and the other for toys. Nice! Of course, soon the experimenting began to include the toys as well.

Now as this was happening alongside the rainbow room, I was wondering why the forest house, on which I'd worked so hard the day before, was standing unused. Duh. It doesn't take much reflection to figure it out now. Still, at one point I spotted children playing in there . . .

Yay! They were discovering it . . .

When I got closer I saw that they were engrossed in an old tire. Josephine (the 5-year-old, not the teenager) said, "Teacher Tom, can you move all these branches out of the way. We're trying to do experiments in the tire and we have to keep ducking."

The forest house would just have to wait until tomorrow. At least I'd been right about the sensory table!

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Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

I love how the experimentation continues without boundaries :). Our little ones cannot get enough of the vinegar and baking soda. I started buying cases of the stuff! We intentionally add color to ours to teach the secondary colors. (I don't know if you saw my post about previously- The children tend to remember how to make colors by mixing others :). I love how there are no boundaries to your activities. The children were allowed to move freely in your space.I've seen many situations where children are very limited to a table or certain station with materials. Keep up the good work!

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Oh they look they are having so much fun...but the hair on the back of my neck stood up a little bit as I thought, "look at that mess!" We have such little time for experimenting/art that we have to be neat and efficient or we spend math or reading time cleaning it up. I think you've got loads of parent help, which makes this type of thing least I think you do and if you don't then you are more of super teacher than I ever thought! :)

Scott said...

The forest house sounds like more of the "teacher agenda vs. kid agenda" that you have spoken of before. Isn't it always interesting how we plan for some fun learning and exploration and they take it in another direction... or just get so involved in one thing.

Maybe the forest house will be on their agenda next week.

Deborah said...

Haha - clearly the science experiments were taking priority over any other agenda! I love it!

Let the Children Play said...

Our kids call this 'making potions' and it is also one of their favorite things to do. We are always been asked to pull out the potion-making stuff. And Tom - you should know by now that paint ALWAYS makes its way into the mix!

Teacher Tom said...

@PD . . . Oh if you think this is a mess, wait until you see the mess we made on Thurs. I'm almost afraid to run with that post. It was so messy that I felt guilty asking a parent to clean it, so I'm taking care of it myself this weekend! It's very rare that I do this, but sometimes things go farther than I expected . . .

@Scott & Deborah . . . Yes, I'm very glad they discovered the forest house on Weds.!

@CCS . . . It's interesting, but I notice materials wandering from station to station much more outdoors than indoors. I wonder if taking away the walls literally frees our minds???

@Jenny . . . Yes, ever since I decided that everything outdoors is a legitimate target for paint, everything has, of course, become a target for paint! My kids seem to prefer the term "concoctions."

Anna said...

Making a mess....I, too, teach and direct a parent cooperative preschool. I teach the 4 and 5 year olds. One time I thought it would be fun to let them "build" with very large styrofoam pieces. Well....we turned our backs for just a minute and when we turned back we had a snowstorm of styrofoam all over the children, the rugs, the walls, you get the picture! LOL! The kids had a great time, but the two moms who cleaned it up, I should have bought them dinner! It did kill one of our vaccums!

Play for Life said...

It's nice to see that life with children all over the world is never dull Tom!
Donna :) :)