One of the things I like about the PEEP science curriculum is the option to share videos—short clips from the show that can either introduce a topic or expand our discussions. As I observed the children watching the animated PEEP story Fish Museum this week, I noted their delight with Peep, Quack, and Chirp and their antics. They were especially engrossed when Quack tried to pull a balloon under water. I asked them, Why doesn’t that balloon stay down? They offered a variety of explanations, from It doesn’t want to to Because it’s full of air to The water is pushing it back up. This type of conversation reveals their level of understanding and helps me individualize learning goals for each child.
The live-action videos featuring real kids are also superb. Each is less than two minutes long but adds another dimension to our explorations. For example, our school’s urban location and the frosty New England climate have prevented us from experiencing outdoor water flow. No video could substitute for the authentic experience of visiting and interacting with a real stream, but when that option isn’t possible, the videos provide a glimpse into another aspect of water flow that we can talk about. Students were especially impressed with the clip Water Moves Things, and we will revisit that concept in the spring with either a field trip or our own stream engineered out of a garden hose.
In addition to viewing relevant PEEP clips, the children continued their hands-on investigation of water flow. I watched closely and listened to their conversations trying to get a feel for what they still had questions or misconceptions about. During small group instruction, we filled in the “W” (Why?) chart. Things the children still wanted to know included Why does water go down? How can we get water to go up? and How can we get the water in the tubing to go around in a circle? It was this last question that the children became most interested in and it thus became our mission for the week!
When focused exploration begins, the teacher’s role changes. The children have decided the focus, but there are certain experiences I want them to have; and in order to ensure these things happen, my role becomes more active. The first thing I did was eliminate extraneous materials—anything that didn’t facilitate their experiment was removed. The challenge was announced: Today we will work with the materials at the water table to try and find a way to get water to move in a circle inside the tubes. Which tools do we need? The children selected funnels, tubes, connectors, cups, and bottles for pouring, as well as basters.
Right away I noticed two things: 1) The challenge attracted more children than usual and I needed to temporarily suspend my 4-child limit at the water table to allow all interested parties a chance; 2) There was immediate collaboration. Children who last week did “their own thing” in open exploration, playing side by side on individual tasks, were now conversing, planning, and helping one another! It was time for me to narrate—I simply describe what I see. I notice that two people are working on this side with a funnel . . .
I see that you are stretching the tube out very long
Hmmmm. There goes the water, it’s traveling down. It stopped. I wonder what you need to do to get it to move up into the loop? This helps the children redirect their attention to problem areas and clarify their thinking. When one says, We need more water to blow it through, I restate his thought: Oh, you think more water will help push the water that’s already in there. I also help point things out. I notice Jaidin keeps lifting his end of the tube up. What happens when Jaidin does that?
The children decided they needed the tallest child to hold one end of the tube up high and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them try to figure out who was the tallest by measuring themselves against each other with their arms raised!