August 29, 2011

Walking Water Science Demonstration

We did family science today!  I love family science days.  Hannah Jane does her official science through the public schools online and the boys generally piggy back on with whatever she's up to.  Hannah Jane just finished her second grade science and her third grade science is on its way so we have a little while of winging it.  If I'm being honest, I prefer winging it to the standard curriculum.  We generally tick off a week's worth of public school lessons in a day and do what I consider to be real science (you know?  Hands on, nitty gritty, think about it, don't just memorize it science?) a couple of times a week as a family.  But it's been a while since we've gotten around to real family science since we've been road warriors all summer.

Today we got back to it with the walking water demonstration.  It really bugs me for things like this to be called experiments.  If I'm demonstrating a concept, even is I'm asking you to guess what is going to happen, it's a demonstration.  If, on the other hand, the kids ask a question on their own and we design a way to find the answer through investigation without a right or wrong answer in mind, that's experimenting.  Okay, I'm pretty sure my scientist husband is shaking his head right now and I'm going to get an earful when he gets home.  We'll see.  Anyway, recreating science projects for the sake of teaching is's just not an experiment.  That's all I'm saying.  Do it, but call it by the right name.

For family science, I generally have everyone make an journal page, but Hannah Jane's is required to be a bit more in depth than the boys'.  I pull out the white board and write out all of the must haves.  What everyone needs to write is in red and what Hannah Jane alone must write is in blue.  Everyone draws pictures of the set up with labels and details.  The only major difference between Hannah Jane's journal page and the boys' is that hers will usually include vocabulary words.  The boys get in on the vocab discussion, but let's face it.  They are 4 and 5, so I'm not going to have them write a ton.  I'm thrilled if they write their name correctly.  Hunter, for whatever reason, wrote his name entirely backwards today.  It was weird.  I told him to write it in the right hand corner, and as far as he could tell, that meant to start right and move left.  Silly guy!  Anyway, for vocab, we generally get every one's idea of what a word means (it's amazing how often a word's definition includes the word itself.  Makes me crazy!), then see what ole Webster has to say about it, and then agree upon a definition for the day that everyone can understand.  See "gravity" up there?  Well, we get that there is gravity on other planets and that earth isn't anything special, but being that they only ever observe things on earth, they wanted their definition to reflect what they can observe.  How can I argue with that? 

Now that I've explained our strategy for tackling science concepts in a multi-aged group, let's check out the project!  For walking water you will need 2 clear cups or glasses, paper towels, food coloring, water, and either steps or some sort of pedestal to make one cup higher than the other.  I used a larger glass turned upside down for our step.  Simple!  The high glass gets some water and food coloring.  The bottom glass stays empty (for now).

Once the kids drew out the set up, we placed the paper towel in the top glass, let it hang down into the bottom glass and sat back to watch while we wrote down our predictions.  This is a s-l-o-w process, so there is plenty of time to make predictions after you've already set the demo in motion.  Check out Hunter trying to sneak a peek at Hannah Jane's prediction while she's not looking.  Haha!

After a lot of waiting, Hannah Jane wanted to make sure no one missed what was happening.  The paper towel was absorbing the water and gravity was pulling it down towards the empty cup (at least that's what we decided was happening).  Exciting!!!

Eventually, the green water made its way to the bottom cup!  Success!  After hours there was a shallow puddle of green in the bottom cup.  Finally around dinner time I had to clear it all away and set the table.  We decided that the paper towel had done all it was going to do and it was no major loss.  Their thought?  There is a limit to the absorption level and we had reached it.  I can go with that.

The kids really enjoyed this one.  I got the idea from play based learning, and they used yellow coloring before realizing how much it looked like something gross!  Luckily, we were able to learn from their experience and make ours a more embraceable color.  And they did theirs outside, which makes sense when you're using food coloring, but it's unbelievably hot out there right now, so we decided to hide in the air conditioned kitchen. 

This was big fun!  Give it a try!

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