How Can I make it Move? (Physics)
How Can I make it Change? (Chemistry)
How do I fit? How does it fit? (Biology and Ecology)
I also try to account for what I see the children exploring and where their interests lay. If an experience doesn't seem to pull children in that direction, I try tweaking it or simply removing it. Often, week after week, the children explore experiences over and over again but in deeper and more intentional ways.
This is why I always have the water table but with new additions. Water, an earthly element, is a substance that young children are consistently driven to try and understand. While, we don't hear what's going on in their heads, if you spend a few moments observing a child in water play, you begin to see the scientific processes being investigated.
How Can I make it Change? (Constructivist Chemistry)
Baking Soda and Vinegar
These two materials provide endless opportunities for experimentation as well as observation of transformation.
I am saddened when I see "activities" for children where they are not able to vary their own actions on the materials. How does one learn when there is no connection between their own actions and the resulting reaction of the material? This is one of the most important scientific processes!
The children were freely able to decide how much baking soda to add, how much vinegar... observe the reaction... and then begin again with more additions. Although it's difficult for adults to understand the large quantities of baking soda and vinegar that are being used, it's critical for the child to have free reign over the materials. Now, we are creating an experience for children, not just an "activity".
As you look through these pictures, you will notice many different combinations, intense attention to detail, careful observation, and even collaboration between children!
Our role as the adult can be to join in this experimentation by observing all the children at the table, even calling their attention to one another... "Oh, I see that Jasper scooped two spoonfuls of baking soda and is now adding the vinegar... Let's see what happens to his mixture?"
Upon observation of a bubbly mixture, asking: "How did that happen?"
While I also believe in letting children experiment without too much adult talk or questioning, it is a fine balance that observation of your child can lead you to know when intervention creates problem solving and intentionality.
Flubber is one of those delightful sensory experiences that provokes children into deep investigation and problem solving.
It's perfect for most children as it doesn't stick to their hands, so they don't feel the need to wash hands over and over again and without this distraction, they are able to discover the unique properties of this substance.
In today's class, the children discovered how it stretches, folds, drips, makes impressions, cuts, forms back together again...
And then we have the learning that takes place from being in a group setting...
Sharing, taking turns, ownership, being part of a community, using words to solve disputes, what words work to solve problems as well as what words work to communicate with a friend.
While I love having the flour in the baby pool as a full body experience, I have to mix things up and make sure I'm offering many different experiences. Not for the sake of being different, but to provoke new ideas and questions in the children. Some children wouldn't come near the flour in the baby pool but when Sand was offered they jumped right in. Sand is a familiar element for most children and some are reassured by the easy way it slides through the hands and off of the body. The pool creates a social experience where the children must work close together, not necessarily working together but definitely close enough to observe one another. It's interesting that even though most of these children are probably very verbal at home, they still do not use their verbal skills as a way of communicating with other children. Most of them still communicate by body language or by one or two words. However, they are all transitioning into the next stage of play which is cooperative play. Some get there sooner than others as with all child development they are all moving at their own pace.