This week the children remained busy at the water table, duplicating some of their former experiences, and coming up with new questions and ideas. I am giving them time to continue this process before we meet to reflect and move into a more focused exploration phase.
Meanwhile, another exploration was taking place at the science center where children worked with water drops. My goal was to have children observe the behavior of individual drops of water. They used eyedroppers and pipettes to draw up water much like they have already done with turkey basters. The new challenge was to release a single drop from the eyedropper. This in itself was a valuable experience, since the children needed to learn exactly how hard to squeeze to get a single drop and not a stream.
For many, the squeezing was a trial and error process. Determination and concentration were qualities I observed as the children worked. I was pleased to notice even the youngest members of my class were able to accomplish this task successfully. When examining the drops up close with magnifiers, several children gave descriptions of what they saw: It’s round, This drop looks like a circle, It looks like a bubble.
Once they had mastered the method of squeezing out a single drop, I asked children to place a drop on a variety of surfaces. These surfaces included construction paper, a towel, some wax paper, a piece of vellum, and a few other interesting choices. Magnifiers were provided to support the intense inspection. At first, the towel was the most popular surface on which to place a drop. I found the children’s description of absorption interesting. When I asked What happened to your drop? I received a variety of responses including, It disappeared. The towel sucked it in.
I asked the same question when they placed a drop on construction paper. At first some children said It disappeared, too. When I drew their attention to the wet spots on the paper some of them changed their thinking. It got bigger! It got bigger and flatter! The drop went under. Noticing these differences stimulated their drive to find out more. Let’s try it on the table, the glass, my sweater… Once they placed drops on the wax paper and vellum, they had new thoughts to share: It doesn’t melt. It stays the longest. Not only did they have more time to observe the drops on the impermeable materials, they were able to try some new ideas. One was to use the end of a pipette to push a drop next to another drop. The two drops make a bigger drop. Another idea was to lift and tip the vellum and observe the drops’ movement. Alexia was especially fond of this activity. I can make it go fast. Watch this! A transparent piece of plastic was available. Alexia chose to place her drops on it and observe their behavior when held vertically. Sometimes they just go fast and fall off. Sometimes they get together and make big drops. This one was going fast, broke into a lot of little, little, drops.
The water drops exploration provided an excellent illustration of the inquiry cycle in action. Questions led to investigations. Observations of those investigations led to new questions. Exploration became more purposeful and the children were able to discuss and compare their data.