September 9, 2009

Particle Motion with Preschoolers!

Hannah Jane is doing a lapbook on the water cycle this week and one of the activities is a vocabulary flip book. Words like evaporation and transpiration are big words when you have no concept of particle motion. We talked briefly about particles when she asked the big questions about black holes last week and I said, "Who knows what happens in them? Maybe they squish all of your particles together until you're the size of a speck!" Hence the you are made of particles and even your solid body has teensy weensy spaces between its particles that are bigger than the particles themselves conversation. Yeah, I know. Big talk for a 5 year old. But in my defense, she did ask!

Back to the water cycle. To understand these concepts, I thought it would serve our purposes to get a feel for how particles move and why they might decided to hang tight like solids, give space like liquids, or run wild like gasses. So we did a little particle play.

I recall telling a teacher that I worked under once that I planned on having her kids get out of their desks and be particles during her science class and she almost hit the floor. "What?!?! No, no, no. You don't know them. They'll run all around and once you lose control you'll never get it back. Bad idea. Let's do a worksheet." But I explained that the only way for me to learn that lesson was to try it out and see for myself. The kids had a blast. Understood particle motion in a personal way, and compliantly returned to their desks. Score 1 for the student teacher!

Well, if it worked for 5th graders, why non my little 1st grade scientist and her preschoolish brothers? We had fun. They practiced it over and over, giggling all the while. I would call out a state of matter and they would immediately behave like the particles therein. I once called out gas after solid and Hannah Jane corrected me saying they couldn't go from solid to gas, obviously. I thought sublimation a too grown up topic even if she was just begging for it and just said, "You're right. My mistake!"

So after recruiting the boys to help sister with her science lesson, I now have a 2 and 3 year old who have a very abstract understanding of how particles behave at different temps and in different states of matter. I later caught Hunter yelling, "Solid!" and then hugging his brother really tightly. So cute.


  1. Anonymous9.9.09

    I want to be just like you when I grow up. Your children are so blessed to have a Mom like you!

  2. Great idea! My 5 and almost 4 year old have been doing a lot of freezing and thawing ice lately--I will have to try this activity on them and see what they think.

  3. So, Queen of Carrots, can you tell me how to get my daughter to eat carrots? That's a trick I could use!


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