Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Rain Isn't Green"

We gave this a go, inspired by seeing it over on Deborah's Teach Preschool blog. She set it up as an exploration of clouds. I tried Deborah, I did, but I couldn't sell my kids on it.

The basic concept is to use clear glass containers, fill them partially with water, then top them off with a shaving cream "cloud."

The kids then use pipettes to drip liquid water color onto the clouds until it eventually works it's way through and begins to "rain" on the underside in fabulous rainbow-y swirls.

We set ours up in our magnificent sensory table. I knew the kids would want to do it over and over, so the idea was to experiment on one side of the two-sided table, then dump the resulting water-paint-shaving cream solution in the other side to free up the container for the next round. I figured the soapy, colored mess that resulted would make a decent sensory experience in its own right.

"See? Here's the cloud. You squirt some paint on top and then watch for it to rain down here."

Addison said matter-of-factly, "Those aren't clouds. Clouds are made from water." 

"Well yeah, but it kind of looks like a cloud, right?"

He shrugged, "I think it's shaving cream," no longer interested in the conversation as he went about his business of injecting paint into the jar.

"Look! Look! It's raining underneath!" I was selling, Deborah, but the kids were far too absorbed in the process to even be bothered with bending down to peer through the glass.

I left them to it and went about my work elsewhere. Archie's mom Natasha, our parent-teacher managing the project, was kept busy rinsing and re-filling containers in the system of buckets I'd provided for the purpose. She turned the shaving cream part of the project over to the kids, at least to those who could manage to depress the stiff buttons.

I tried a couple more times to get the kids to bend down and have a look at the "rain" coming through underneath, but they were far more interested in coloring their "clouds," which they persisted in calling either "shaving cream" or, alternatively, "foamy soap," after I answered Charlotte's question, "What is shaving cream really?" 

It was a wonderful mess alright, one that the kids were making all their own, which, I guess, is what we've taught them to expect at Woodland Park. 

In the meantime, the dumping side of the table was shaping up nicely.

Addison used it for making poison potions in a spare jar. Lily and others were just reveling in the mess of it all.

I said, "Hey, these are like rainbow ice bergs floating on the ocean." Simone dismissed me, "Ice bergs aren't rainbow."

Then I had an epiphany. Maybe the reason the kids aren't interested in watching the "rain" fall from the "clouds" is that they have to bend down too far to peer through the sides of the containers. Maybe they just can't see it clearly. Maybe if we raised them up closer to eye level . . . I dumped out the contents of a small storage crate and inverted it in the sensory table making a small platform.

I got a couple jars ready, asking the kids to just wait a second so they could see something cool.

"Look, look, the rain is coming down!" Crickets.

"See? See how its swirling in the water? It's so cool!" 

Finally, George took pity on me and made a show of bending down, briefly, after which he looked at me as if to say, Are you happy now?

Then they went back to coloring their foamy soap and I left them alone for the rest of the morning. Despite how it might sound in this post, I hope you realize that my "disappointment" is tongue-in-cheek. I knew even before the children arrived that the cloud theme was only a sort of jumping off point, an adult agenda that I would have to be prepared to set aside once the children discovered their own agenda for the shaving cream, containers, paint, pipettes, and water. Nothing I had to say could possibly be more important than that. I'm just happy that George and the others indulged me, even if only to exercise their critical thinking skills by shooting down my ridiculous theories about clouds and ice bergs and whatnot.

It was a very, very successful project, one that will likely enter our regular repertoire, but for us at least, it was emphatically not about clouds. And just to drive the point home, I'll once more quote Simone: "Rain isn't green."

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Deborah said...

I love that you tried this Tom with your class - and that they didn't buy the whole cloud idea! Too funny!

Chris said...

Brilliant. Adult expectations does not = child's reality! They loved it but in their way!

j. wilson said...

Our kids totally reveled in the mess of it all as well. The noise was quite joyous. They also didn't care to look under their "clouds" to see the rain...no worries. The next session I led, I used a very large and very tall jar and had each kiddo add their own squirt or two and then we watched. Once they saw the "rain" they got into the idea and worked on their individual jars which became all sorts of experimenting. Their enthusiasm was awesome, my favorite kind of fun.

Monica said...

Thank you for this fun activity! I did it today with my son and he loved it!!!! I also posted it on my blog and a linked you too! Thanks! Monica http://tatyland-montessori.blogspot.com