Saturday, March 24, 2012

It All Flows Together

"Hey! I just put ice in here. Where did all this water come from?"

There's always a pause as we stand around looking at the large and small chunks of ice in the sensory table before someone says something like Luca did last week, "The ice melts into water." Or as Erik, from our Pre-3 class said, "Ice gets into water."

I freeze most of the ice in large yoghurt containers. Getting it out is one of our first challenges.

"I wonder how it gets into water."

That's when they all start using the word "melts," even the youngest children. It's a word they all know, having experienced ice before.

I'd already spent a session with our oldest Pre-K kids, using ice to explore the states of matter. Some years one of those guys will pop up with words like "solid" or "liquid," if not, I make sure to say something like, "This is solid water and this is liquid water." There are gloves for the kids who want them, but most of them handle it with their bare hands.

A few steps away, we were working with another kind of melting: drawing with crayons on foil covered warming trays. We can use much of the same vocabulary here, although the warning that the drawing surface will be hot is a fundamental difference. Here, we have to be careful; we must take responsibility for protecting ourselves with a sense of caution and bodily control.

At the ice table, the kids hold small pieces of ice in their fists, water dripped down their arms as a result of their body warmth. At the art table the greater heat of the warming trays is reducing wax crayons to liquid that the kids are carefully swirling around the foil. Here we use the gloves to protect our hands as we press paper onto our melted creations to make prints.

The children quickly figure out that our classroom is too warm for the ice to survive, predicting that it will all turn to water eventually.

I know that it will take several hours for all the ice to melt at room temperature, time we don't have today, so we break out some rock salt to accelerate the process. The children tend to mound piles of salt atop the ice, which in turn begins to bore holes into the chunks. As the smaller pieces melt away entirely, the larger ones become cracked and creviced. This is when we move on to pipettes and liquid water color.

Colors are flowing at the art table as well as the children become less timid, exploring with more colors and more wax.

We're amazed at how quickly the wax can go from too hot to touchable in a matter of seconds.

For some of the kids, it was back and forth between the two extremes, but for most it was one or the other this week.

As the icy sensory table evolved through many stages of beauty on its way to the usual pre-school gray, we kept wiping the warming trays clean for each new artist. 

I have no photos of the finished work -- our encaustic monoprints -- because they rushed them to their cubbies right away to make sure they went home at the end of the day. If you want to see some, click the link.

Hot, cold, melting, solidifying, caution, protection, color, solids, liquids, beauty . . . It all flows together to make our world.

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1 comment:

Kristi M.Ed said...

I really like the idea of having the two different forms of melting (chemical change). I just wish more preschools and schools would allow warming trays. This is a great opportunity to allow children greater choice to explore the same content.