“How does this work?” Hands-on science explorations

We’ve entered into a busy few weeks at work and home, which translate into less time to prepare “formal” lessons for L. That’s ok, though, because she’s in a really nice period of engaging in open-ended inquiry with interesting things!

She’s been pulling out and exploring this music box from Educational Innovations – you can put the pins in yourself and create songs. That’s been a big go-to.

We’ve also given her some new materials to explore. We’ve had a broken clock for… two years? You know, it’s been on the wall but not actually keeping time? Clearly I’m the only one with such an artifact in my house… =)

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t throw it away (see! I had a plan!) because the other day, I asked L to put on her safety goggles, gave her a flat head screwdriver and butter knife, and asked her to take it apart.

She definitely looked at me like I was nuts! I explained that it was broken and our choices now were either to just throw it away or see how it worked. She decided that exploration was the way to go!

Clock, meet your end

Clock, meet your end

She began reluctantly at first. She was still worried about breaking it – even though it was already broken! I explained to her that when she was done exploring it, it would be in about 15 different pieces, AND THAT WOULD BE OK! Having gotten the permission she needed, she proceeded like a medical examiner with an interesting case…

First, disassembling the plastic cover, hands, and motor

First, disassembling the plastic cover, hands, and motor

Then, all the parts were taken apart

Then, all the parts were taken apart

She was very interested in the copper wire and tiny gears. We talked a little bit about them.

We then moved into Snap Circuits. We have a kit on loan (as we decide whether or not to purchase one for Christmas). We pulled it out and talked our way through the first two builds in the project book: Batteries in Series (two LED lights) and Ticking Screeched (a simple speaker).

Experimenting with Snap Circuits

Experimenting with Snap Circuits

While working on the first project, we got to experience what happens if you put the LEDs in the wrong direction (the circuit won’t complete). This was a nice opportunity to talk about energy as a wave. During the second build, we followed the book’s lead and substituted in different capacitors. L noticed that the larger the capacitor, the smaller the sound. We talked about the role of a capacitor in restricting the energy flow. We noticed just as we were finishing up that there’s a light-reactive element to this build. We’re going to have to build it again to experiment more with that element! We’re also ready to explore our World’s Simplest Motor!

Finally, we worked on an art project. Art projects aren’t really my forte. I struggle with how much of what I find out there seems to have a predetermined final product. I know that I feel bad when my final product doesn’t look like it’s “supposed to”, so I shy away from them. We do a lot of markers/colored pencils/crayons and blank paper, but that’s kind of where my push ends.

In any case, I decided to make fizzy art with her. See! An art project! (Ok, it’s science. I know)…

I asked L to put food coloring and vinegar into small containers while I covered the surface of a cookie sheet (with sides) in a thick layer of baking soda.

prepping the project

prepping the project

I then explained to that she could use an eyedropper (fine motor skills!) to drop the solution onto the baking soda.




So cool!

In process

In process

She pretty quickly found out that you could drop two colors at once, or even a second color on top of a previously-fizzed spot, and create new colors

Making new colors

Making new colors

About 45 minutes later, the sheet was covered in brownish-black liquid. We got a chance to revisit the idea that black is all the colors. As we were cleaning up, she asked to do it again. That evening, we repeated the entire thing with my husband. Good times!

What I loved about all of these experiences were the grins that flashed across her face. She was probably learning. But she was definitely having fun! My goal right now is to keep her invested in the idea that learning is fun, so for us both, these experiences were absolute successes.


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