Young children love to play with water, so I’m excited to start this new unit. My primary goal this week is to engage the children in water play and build upon their existing experiences with how it flows. I also want them to become familiar with vocabulary we’ll be using while we explore water over these next few weeks.
The children have used our classroom water table every day since the beginning of school in September. They have used a variety of tools such as spoons, ladles, measuring cups, whisks, and assorted containers for pouring, stirring, filling, emptying, and so forth. During Monday’s circle time, I introduced some new tools and made sure we had a common language when referring to them. I presented turkey basters, a shower head, funnels, squeeze bottles, clear tubing, and connectors. I gave children an opportunity to become familiar with handling them and learning their names. I purposely gave no instructions about how to work with the tools. Reminders to use smocks, roll up their sleeves and try to keep the water off the floor were all they were told. I also tinted the water slightly to make it easier to see when flowing through a clear tube or baster. My role after that was to observe and listen.
The children quickly figured out how to fill the basters by squeezing the bulb, submerging the tip, and releasing the bulb to draw water up. After doing this for several minutes, they turned the baster upside down with the narrow end up. They proceeded to try filling the baster up by pouring water into the little hole. This same process happened again and again with different groups of children. Most were using funnels to help get the water in.
By week’s end, children were beginning to use the equipment in more purposeful ways. I saw them connecting the tubes and sending water through by using a baster attached to a funnel. It was now time for me to point things out and ask questions that would give me insight into their thought processes. What happens when you do that? Oh, look here, I notice that the water is coming through. I wonder why you chose that tool? What makes the water move?”
The children’s actions and language provided evidence of their new-found knowledge: Stephen called out, Look everyone! Destiny made the shower! Carmen said, This is how I push the water through…I squeeze here. Chenniel helped his friend, It works better when you lift it up. I was satisfied that my students had experienced a bit about gravity, force, exerted force, water pressure, air pressure and altitude. While they can’t currently explain things in those scientific terms, they are internalizing the information through their experiences. My challenge now is to use what I’ve learned in my observations to plan a more focused exploration.