This has been a week for celebrating science. We shared our science projects, and I loved watching our children answer questions about their work. But I've also been watching the children during recess time working out all sorts of scientific questions. The children have loaded up our turtle sandbox with water, snow, and ice. They argue about how much snow they can add and still have it be a liquid. They notice how fast the ice melts (or doesn't). They use every available bucket, pan, and pot to move the water, pour the water, and mix the water. They use pipes and noodles to bring the water from one part of the playground to another. They play with the angle of these pipes to see how fast they can make the water gush out or if they can hold water in the pipe. They build trenches, dams, and holding ponds to collect the water and notice what materials block the water best. Should they put a brick here or use stones or pile up the mud? I love watching their industriousness as they purse all these questions, solve problems, and ask new questions.
Theme: Science Projects
My gripes with many traditional science fair projects are numerous. One of my biggest misgivings is that there often isn't very much experimentation. Children make a baking soda and vinegar volcano. They know what is going to happen, and then they do it. I like a good science demonstration, and I love playing with the volcanoes, but I want children to be asking questions. What happens when I use different types of vinegar? What happens when I use different amounts of baking soda? What makes the most amount of bubbles? How can I tweak this?
Our science projects were around topics that the children picked. Their questions were ones they made, and their procedures were developed by them. This whole process took a long time, and I admit that I really wanted to just tell them what to do a few times, but I aspired to my better teacher self. We all got to be part of most of these experiments and learn with our classmates. As a class, we helped each other to figure out what happens when you mix different drops of food coloring and observed Oliver the dog to see what he would eat first given 4 yummy choices.
I enjoyed the chance on Wednesday to wander around and listen as children shared their process and their results. I was glad when they mentioned new questions they had and their plans to keep experimenting. This is what scientists do and how they think.
More Science: Chicks!
Our class is in love with baby chicks. We are working on a new song to play on the recorder and sing that celebrates our chicks. The children keep a close eye on them and always notice when they have filled up their water with woodchips or pooped in their food. The children are so very careful as they cuddle their little charges. It is amazing how you can almost see these tiny birds grow each day. They are replacing fluff with feathers and experimenting to see if their new feathers can help them fly. They can do a jump and flap combination that launches them up to the edge of their enclosure, but once they hang out in this new location for a few minutes, they jump back down. All of this is noted, honored, and extoled.
Industry in Choice
I love looking around during free choice time to see all of the children meaningfully engaged. On Friday we celebrated Theresa's birthday, and many of the children worked hard during their free time as they made her elaborate cards and wrote notes of love. A few children were carefully constructing some very tall towers. Others were making a series of ramps for their cars. One child read aloud to a small group. All sorts of learning was evident, and if you asked them what they did, each child would say, "I played."