Simple experiments

We’re getting ready to launch into a science unit on the sun (which will be adapted from How the Sun Makes Our Day: An Earth and Space Science Unit). She’s pretty interested in the solar system right now (watching lots of They Might Be Giants, practicing rotating around the “sun” [flashlight] with a globe, playing with her model of the solar system, etc) as well as weather and nature in general, so it seems like a good fit.

I don’t generally like canned curricula, but I’m excited about this one because it seems to a) contain a lot more content than many curricula I find commercially available, and b) focus on scientific processes and her role as a scientist. I worry that we focus on “cute” activities to the exclusion of kids’ involvement with predicting, manipulating, and explaining…

Anyway, to scaffold what’s coming up, we did a quick experiment to review the process of science. We decided to do the classic drops-on-a-penny experiment. We began with our predictions (L’s was 1, mine was 5). We then took turns carefully dropping pennies onto the fronts of our pennies twice (so, four trials) and the backs of our pennies once (two more trials).

Between trials

Between trials

We didn’t do the math, but I was pleased to see that L decided that the rule was “a penny can hold about 30 drops of water.” We then talked about recording what we did. L narrated the process to me (We wanted to see how many drops of water a penny could hold. We used a dropper and carefully dropped one at a time on the pennies. A penny can hold about 30 drops of water). I gave her the choice of doing her writing or her illustration first, and she chose illustration.

(from left to right) view of the penny with water from the front, views from the top including the dropper)

(from left to right) view of the penny with water from the front, views from the top including the dropper)

We worked a lot of perspective (what does the penny look like from the top? How can we show the half-circle of water on the top?). We also stopped to watch a video explaining the concept of surface tension.

She was getting pretty tired by the time we were ready to write, so I decided to focus on her capturing her most important ideas rather than focus on mechanics, spelling, or handwriting. I simply wanted her to experience recording her work. When she was finished, I asked if I could write down her words with the spelling the way other people have learned so that she could share her work with others (We have spoken a lot about how you can write words however you’d like, but if you don’t spell them the way other people know them, they won’t know what you mean – and there are times she sticks to her invented spellings and other times she asks for conventional spellings.). She agreed, so I transcribed her words at the bottom.

All considered, it was a fun experience for us – we are going to the Cincinnati Museum Center tomorrow for her to trade in points for a (drumroll, please…) dinosaur bone! For real!! Post to follow…


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