Young Scientists at Work!

This week we used the materials that families sent in (expired products from cabinets and pantries) to experiment and explore! The children were so excited to be able to mix, pour, drop, and just “see what happens…” using a large array of exciting products that they are not usually allowed to pour and mix with abandon! While I was also unsure about what would happen, I have realized how much valuable learning happened when allowing the children to explore freely. Here is some of the learning I observed:

– Some children used the planning sheet to frame their learning with questions, procedure, and a hypothesis.

– Some children had their list of materials “in their mind” and chose to create their experiments without a planning sheet.

– Some children had specific questions they wanted to find out about.

– Some children just wanted to see what would happen if they mixed together a bunch of stuff.

– The children asked and answered each others’ questions freely, posing more questions and hypotheses as they went along.

– The children naturally were social in their learning and learned a lot from each other.

– They had high levels of engagement and concentration when participating.

– They reminded each other about how to be safe while experimenting.

– One friend taught those who were using eggs how to crack an egg without crushing it and without getting shell in. Many children ended up using this technique and there was not a single egg cracking accident this week!

Here are some examples of individual experiments that happened this week:

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A friend teaches his friends how to do an experiment that will create crystals. This experiment may go on for several weeks!

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A friend designed an experiment with the hypothesis that lighting up vinegar soaked paper would produce a small explosion. After the hypothesis was proven incorrect, lots of thinking went on as to why it did not work.

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This friend’s hypothesis was that if he combined blue colored liquids with red playdough cut into small pieces, it would turn purple. It was still blue at the end, so his conclusion was that maybe we need to wait longer…

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This young scientist was trying to produce something that would be “slimy and gooey like silly putty.” While her results were slimy and gooey, she observed that it was “not exactly like silly putty.”

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This young scientist was making a potion. She mixed together sugar granules and sauce. She decided she wanted to pour it into another container, but it would not pour! She wondered why and explained her problem to her friends. After much thinking, one scientist friend suggested that she add some juice to her potion because it “was not liquid enough.”

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She took her friend’s suggestion. After adding a few drops, she observed that it was still not easy to pour out. It was suggested that she add more juice. She did and she observed, “It worked! It’s pouring out!” These young scientists have been collaborating and exploring the property of viscosity!

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This young scientist is trying to duplicate the results of an experiment we did earlier in the week- placing an egg in vinegar to see if the shell will dissolve. Scientists duplicate their results to make them credible!

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These young scientist friends are experimenting with yeast, warm water, and honey. They remembered from when we made bread that yeast needs food. They are trying to see if they can make the bottle explode! It was not until the next day that they realized that the bottle expanded and when they opened it, it let out a loud hiss of air. One scientist concluded that it was the yeast breathing and creating more gas inside the bottle that caused that reaction.

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This young scientist wanted to combine two experiments we had done. We had put one egg in vinegar and one egg in coke. Three days later, the vinegar egg’s shell had dissolved and the coke egg turned brown. She wanted to combine coke and vinegar to see if the shell would still dissolve and if the resulting “naked egg” would be brown. Results have not yet been observed, as in the process, lots of other ingredients were added and it is currently sitting on a shelf “stewing.”

Finally, here are photos of all of our scientific explorations this week…notice in particular how focused and engaged they are and how this kind of free exploration and learning naturally becomes a social process for them. Much of the learning that happened was from the children teaching each other. The teachers tried as much as possible not to interfere with what was happening. Despite the lack of teacher direction (or maybe as a result of), the children had no arguments, were safe, communicated effectively and meaningfully with each other, and remained focused on what they were doing. Besides asking some questions and reminding them to help to clean up at the end, teachers did not need to intervene or direct at any time. The children were in charge of their own learning!

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