This week, children were observed blowing the bubbles created when a wash basin was prepared for washing paint supplies. I captured the moment when a group of girls took out the beautiful decorative butterflies found in a treasure box and placed them in a small branch on the table. Included in this picture you will also see small, plastic caterpillars (found in the same box) lined up end to end by one of the girls in the same group. After carefully setting out materials in the “Science laboratory” it was a pleasure to see many children pump colored vinegar into the baking soda poured out on a tray. The result was a chemical reaction that inspired the children to shriek with excitement. After one child pumped a little bit of vinegar and got the baking soda to fizz, he was inspired take the pump off the bottle and pour the entire content of vinegar onto the plate of baking soda.This created an explosion of color and fizz. When another group of children experimented with eye droppers as a way to apply vinegar to the baking soda, it was discovered that the jar of vinegar fizzed and bubbled over when a handful of baking soda was added to the jar. In this case the child exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call a potion!”
These are all examples where the children are working with materials in a physical manner that encourages them to become better observers, communicators and classifiers while having fun. These are all types of activities defined (in one of my favorite textbooks from my early years of studying child development and early education) as “sciencing” – a verb whereas “science” is a noun – a thing..
A sciencing activity can be carefully planned and materials gathered and set up as an enticing invitation. Or what often happens, children are drawn to an informal or accidental event such as a paint spill where we can observe an example of density and gravity in action or bubbles in a bin of wash water. Both planned and serendipitous events are part of our day. Both offer exciting and fun possibilities where we observe, make predictions, articulate a hypothesis, quantify or classify a group of objects.
What’s next? With the help of my student teacher Lori, I will be adding display space and storage, new supplies such as test tubes and a variety of basic ingredients and a work table that will help the children do what they do naturally: follow the scientific method. While the children pursue such things as the art of making “potions,” it is my goal to help them pursue such basic science themes as objects are made of basic units, basic units come in three forms: solids, liquids and gas and finally, objects change over a period of time. Happy sciencing!
*Newman, Donald A. Experiences in Science for Young Children