Monday, May 14, 2012

Cleaning Up After The Volcano

Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday last week our 3-5's class went through two gallons of vinegar and 8 pounds of baking soda in the process of performing free form experiments with the world famous chemical reaction. I'm not counting the two bottles of pink liquid water color they went through as well, mainly because we went through it so fast on the first day that it really wasn't a part of what we did.

We do some version of this several times a year. Typically, I introduce the materials by erupting our homemade paper mache volcano to much fanfare. Then I repeat it, this time waiting for the kids to instruct me on the proper step-by-step method: baking soda, dish soap, paint, then vinegar. (For those of you who don't know, the dish soap makes it a frothy, long lasting eruption.) Then the materials are turned over to the kids.

There's probably a better way to do this. It's certainly tidier when performed in our sensory table, but that's a heavy piece of furniture that only really only comes outdoors in the summer when I know it can stay out there for awhile. I try to control their use of baking soda by giving them specimen cups for scooping it and asking an adult to dole out the vinegar one specimen cup at a time, but there are usually so many of them working so fast creating this fast chemical reaction that we typically burn through the materials in a half hour or less.

In the end, we had several large yoghurt containers partially full of left over pink goo, and a workbench covered in a thick, pink paste of baking soda. Normally, being Seattle, we just let messes like this ride, relying on the rain to wash it clean, but we're currently enjoying a run of warm, dry weather, requiring us to take matters into our own hands.

But that's okay: the Pre-3 class got the job of cleaning it off, employing warm soapy water and sponges for the job. It wasn't the big time popular activity that the previous experience had been, but a crew of four worked hard, for at least as long as it took to make the mess, scrubbing away the "pink snow."

In fact, they cleaned the table several times. They found the yoghurt containers (which I'd sat a few feet away, hoping they'd discover it) and used plastic spoons to scoop more onto the table for a second and third cleaning. 

We then discovered that a wet sponge, when first applied to the ground or other surfaces, could be used to transfer some "real dirt" to the already messy table top. So there we were for a good half hour, cleaning, dirtying, then recleaning the workbench, wringing out sponges . . .

. . . playing with bubbles. . .

. . . and scrub, scrub, scrubbing all the while.

Before we left the scene, we sloshed a couple buckets of water across the table top to rinse it off.

In the meantime, over the shoulders of the crew that had taken on the task of cleaning up after the older kids, a fairy and a pirate played in the cabin those same older kids had built for them the day before.

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