This week we’re going to do Science Week at The Children’s House!! Science is something that’s so easy to get excited about; there are lots of easy fun experiments to do, & also you can demonstrate how it exists in many activities that we do without even noticing it, so we’ll be giving a lot of different ideas for experiments for the week which you should mostly be able to do with things you already have at home.
Observing change is a great place to start with science, e.g. when boiling a kettle, point out that the water is changing its state from liquid to gas; in making ice cubes water changes state again from liquid to solid. Making ‘goop’ is a really fun experiment to do at home – just mix cornstarch with water (about 2:1 ratio of cornstarch to water) to make a mixture that becomes hard & crumbly when you put pressure on it, then becomes a gooey liquid when you release the pressure; when you this is called a non-Newtonian fluid – like quicksand! It’s best to do this in something like a shallow basin, or out in a tray in the garden – it’s addictive to play with & can get very messy!!
Making predictions is another interesting activity which can really get children thinking – tell them you’re going to go for a nature walk in the garden/ by the canal, get a notebook or paper & ask them to think about what they might find on the walk? Do 2 headings e.g. ‘what we might find’ & ‘what we found’; write down their ideas under the 1st heading, go for the walk & mark what you found under the 2nd heading, then compare the 2. Don’t limit yourselves – use the senses when predicting & recording what you might hear/ smell/ touch as well as see! (Just not sure about tasting random things on a walk!!!)
Following on from this & to encourage your little scientists, try to reply to their questions with ‘well what do you think?’, ask them open-ended questions like ‘I wonder why we need the sun…’ or ‘what if there was no rain…’; this encourages a philosophising mind, which might sound very long-winded for preschoolers, but is just a way of encouraging them to think for themselves, & not to take things as set in stone but to question them – such an important tool for life, & one that preschoolers are well able to do!!! (On a random side note, books such as the Frog & Toad series by Arnold Lobel are wonderful for starting discussions, e.g. you could use Dragons & Giants to ask ‘what does it mean to be brave?’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ang_5Gao33Y ) Anyway, back to science!!
Demonstrating how different liquids have different densities is such a fun experiment to do! Just get a nice sized clear container e.g. a large glass, pour in equal amounts of honey, water (add food colouring if you have some) & oil; these will sit in layers on top of each other in order of density – honey at the bottom, water in the middle & oil at the top. For added fun, drop in small objects to see whereabouts they settle e.g. a grape, metal bolt, ping pong ball…anything you have lying around – just make sure you have tongs long enough to get them back out, as it’s messy putting your hand down into the honey!! A variation on this which looks amazing is using oil, water, food colouring & alka seltzer… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evIPJSP_qwo&list=RDCMUC3339WgBDKIcxTfywuSmG8w&index=1
Lots of you might have already created homemade volcano ‘explosions’ before with your children using vinegar & baking soda, & you can also use the chemical reaction between the two to blow up a balloon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq-jeGOzZs4&feature=youtu.be
Dancing raisins is also a really simple activity that the children love in Montessori – all you need is a glass, raisins, & carbonated water or 7up – when raisins are dropped into the fizzy water, the bubbles accumulate on the surface of the raisin, eventually lifting it up to the top of the water where the bubbles burst, the raisin sinks down to the bottom of the glass, & the process starts again!
Static electricity experiments are such fun to do, & all you need is either a plastic comb or a balloon, & a head of hair!! Rub the comb/ balloon on your chosen head of hair (or a woolly jumper if people are getting upset about frizzy hair…) & this will transfer electrons onto the comb/ balloon which makes it negatively charged. This means it is attracted to the positive charge of other items – so if you move it very slowly towards a very fine trickle of running water or tiny pieces of torn up tissue, the water will bend towards the comb/ balloon, & the tissue pieces will jump up to it! Encourage your children to try out different variations on this experiment & let us know what they discover!!
Another experiment we would usually do in school is to show transpiration – at the beginning of the week, we put stems of celery in 3 jars – the first with no water, second with water, third with coloured water. We then ask the children to predict what will happen, & observe during the week to see if they were right. This really shows how plants transport water all the way up the stem to the very top, & if the plant doesn’t have water it will die – as the first poor celery stick does! The second survives the week & the third not only survives but looks an impressively different colour too! You can track the journey of the dye up the stem of the celery too. An extension of this is to use white flowers e.g. carnations & put them in jars with various different colours dyed water. https://theimaginationtree.com/dyed-flowers-science-experiment/
It’s a good time to talk about the importance of water & learn about the water cycle as it doesn’t seem to be raining so much at the moment! The earth recycles water by heating water in oceans, lakes etc so it evaporates as water vapour up into the sky, then it cools down in clouds during condensation, and eventually falls in the form of rain, hail, sleet or snow during precipitation – then the whole process starts again. This process of evaporation, condensation and precipitation happens all around us all the time. You can relate this process to events that the children see all the time in their own environments – evaporation when water is heated like the steam from a kettle, condensation when that steam/gas cools like the droplets in the bathroom when having a shower/bath, and precipitation as the droplets fall as rain, which the children are very familiar with!
Science activities can also bring in a lot of maths – if baking a cake/bread you might need to use a measuring jug to measure liquids, a weighing scales to weigh solids – and using descriptive language e.g. hot/cold, heavy/ light, hard/ soft… Encourage your children to come up with their own experiments – 1 of the years a child spent most of a week standing on a chair to drop 2 different objects to see which was heaviest & so would reach the ground first, I had to stop him climbing onto the tables to get extra height at one stage, he was so enthusiastic!
Children are born with a natural curiousity about how things work in their world and they love to experiment and discover in their environment – their questions should be encouraged as their potential as scientists is unlimited!!
The Water Cycle (to tune of She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain)
Water travels in a cycle yes it does!
Water travels in a cycle yes it does!
It goes up as evaporation,
Forms clouds as condensation,
Comes back down as precipitation –
Yes it does!!