teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘science’

Fathers Day Sneak Peek :)

We started our Fathers Day gifts today and I have to say, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about them πŸ™‚

Most Dad’s Day gifts revolve around ties and business shirts, tool boxes, fishing or cars. I know that I hate to be generalised about, so why should it be any different for the Men in our lives? This year, we happen to be in a ‘science’ theme in the lead up to Dad’s Day, which has seen us explore popcorn and pendulums, ramps and magnifying glasses, electricity and imagination. So the first stage of our gifts fit right in with our current learning. We are making bowls. For Dad to put his keys in, his coins in or eat popcorn out of πŸ™‚

Want to know what we are making them out of? We’re recycling materials – yes again! πŸ™‚ – and using heat….

Here’s a hint. We need a pair of tongs, an upside down drink bottle and large surface area of simmering water – so we’re using the electric fry pan.

It’s records! Let me just say, that before we even went near hot water – or the safety talk that preempted it – I showed the kids a CD, then a cassette tape, then a record. For interest sake, I’ll let you know that the kids recognised a CD as a ‘movie’, a cassette tape as a ‘video’ and had no idea what a record was. This led to a discussion on how music is stored, as best I could anyhow.

The children were asked to slide their record in like they were going down a slippery dip, no splashes πŸ™‚

Once fully submerged, it only took about 30 seconds for it to become bendy:)

Some of the albums were thicker than others, which affected the length of time they required to get truly flexible.

(sorry for the blurry shot – hot water and kids meant my camera skills dropped a few levels!)

the final step needs to be done quickly – but if you’re not happy with your result, you can just dip it back in and start again!

I forgot to take pics of our first step ‘end results, so I’m linking you up to one-off the net.

We are hoping to paint them up – but I need to look into appropriate paint and lacquer techniques before we travel down that road!

Now, stop looking at this page, google record bowls and set the oven or fry pan up, ready for all your old LPs!


Pendulums and the art of community Recycling


One of the things I like about being me, is that I like the feeling I get from making a great activity from recycled goods and other peoples trash. I thing this works well in childcare because the kids will get hands on and learn from things that might stick with them as they get older. Not everything has to be recycled in a bin, you can change it to something new and fantastic – and if you are super creative, you can even move into upcycling!

This next photo involves the most expensive part of our activity. Plastic cups and paint. Once we figured out the best consistency for the paint to be, we used the bottles the paint can in,Β  picking colours that had ‘run out’ and were destined for the bin. I always add a drop of dish washing liquid to my paints, because it helps the colour wash off of surfaces and clothes. So this mix is paint, water and a good dollop of dish washing liquid – in anticipation of the mess we could possibly make!

A4 card (donated by parents who work in IT) was slipped into old protective sleeves from ring bound folders, then curler into a cone with a very small opening at the end. We’d cut a strip off the card and attached it to the sides with tape to create a handle.

Pegs tied to string hung from large frames that I’d bought at my daughters school fro $1 each. Their previous use was for storing hanging bags with stories and games in them as part of their library displays. The base was covered in large packing cardboard that one of the Dad’s donates to us. He installs solar panels and this it the ‘trash’ from a days work, but is an invaluable tool for me! The large sheets of paper come from a local architects office, where they throw our reams of this stuff every week! I know many centres are still buying ‘clean’ copier paper or butcher paper for their kids to use. But when real estates and architects offer both these resources with printing on one side only, I’ll always grab it!

The gentle motion of the pendulum creates groovy patterns, but too thick a paint doesn’t run and too thin a paint creates puddles. This is definitely and activity that requires paper on hand for replacing along the way before everything turns to mush!

You can see how we tried working in teams, but it didn’t work so well in our environment – the swings got more wind and more and more paint ended up on the cement and kids than on the paper! So my fantastic Kally redesigned the area to back up against the fence which was walled off with tarps, created small walls for the sides of the book racks and made it a cleaner, more successful, individual activity to enjoy πŸ™‚

I’ve seen people use swing sets for enormous pendulum painting on a tarp, smaller versions hung form ceiling fans above covered tables and mid sized ones using mini soccer goalsΒ  with the net removed. I wonder what will work best for your environment? I can’t wait to see how this evolves over the coming weeks!


It’s Electrifying!

I feel like so much has happened in the last week! I haven’t written any posts because I had a surprise visit form a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade πŸ™‚ And as everyone working with kids should know, it’s important to look after yourself and not try to do everything at once. However, I was still taking pictures and still thinking of what I was doing and what I wanted to write about.

I was enthused last month to rediscover the joys of maths with my Kindy Kids, and seeing their interest and enthusiasm fuelled a new learning area – Science and Discovery πŸ™‚Β  As it often happens in my life, when I think I’d really like to find something, the universe lays it out there for me. I was taking a detour through Kmart and happened to pass a small display of Plasma Balls. I know these are fantastic and ended up buying one for school and one for home. For those of you not familiar with them, they are usually glass balls filled with a specific mix of invisible gases that show up the electric charge being sent out by the centre unit. (google it for a more in-depth analysis!) They react beautiful when your hands, fingers and noses touch the outer ball, with the free running electrical currents coming in to focus on your touch.

Here you can see a child’s hand illuminated by the electrical connection.

The stream of ‘lightning’ will follow your fingers and share its energy between different points, if more than one hand is touching the globe.

Which is just as well really, because this previously ‘dead space’ in my classroom, is now a centre for sharing space, hypothesising and exploration!

Because of the lightning like effects, it has opened up discussions on weather and thunder, asΒ  well as the opportunity to ‘play’ with electricity whilst learning to be respectful of it. Which comes in handy when we want to explore the effects heat has on popcorn. We used a large electric frying pan (something I’d not done before) because it had a larger surface area for the kids to see how the popcorn reacted. It was a lot harder to shake the popcorn around in, so we did end up with more uncooked popcorn and burnt pieces than I am used to! The kids were more than forgiving as they eagerly lined up to be taste testers!

Figuring that most children would be able to connect to popcorn as a savoury we opened up our taste testing with plain popcorn, then salted, then icing sugared and finally a batch with a cinnamon-sugar topping. Smelling the ‘raw’ ingredients and connecting those to flavours and previous knowledge lead to a great discussion!

Applying the toppings is always fun and filled with complex physical skills as well as intrinsic learning – but we don’t have to tell them that πŸ™‚

Sifting and shaking take different skills, but ones that many of the children already practice in the sandpit.

I’d love to end this with a group shot of happy children trying our the flavours and picking their favourites – but it was a busy time and the camera was less important than sharing discoveries and seeing what flavours we preferred. Salt came in a solid first place, with icing sugar a close second. The Cinnamon mix was dead equal with the plain – both having only two people who counted it as their favourite…despite this, each bowl was empty at the end of the experiment! Which means it was a rather successful event, yes? πŸ™‚

Outdoor Classrooms

Our Centre is not one that can easily support indoor-outdoor play. We ensure a large amount of play time in both areas, but are just not equipped to fully supervise both areas, without putting too much pressure on staff, thereby losing quality interactions with our kids. It’s something we have learnt to work with and although we dream of the centres who can allow free flow between their indoor and outdoor learning environments, we rate the quality of our interactions and supervision higher than that wish.

Which is why I love coming across images like this on the computer πŸ™‚

This shows me that the girls from the other room have valued their children’s interest in water play and have tried to encourage it in a positive way – especially during our colder months! You can see here the old boat run we have. Some of the rubber stoppers have worn away and it is prone to leaking. It has been used for ball runs and water play in summer months, where puddles abound and the kids can enjoy the cooling water on their feet.

The children are actively involved in getting the water moving, using scoops and watering cans to add more water to the track – which extends into the sandpit and disappears until the sand forms walls that push the water further down its waterway. The concepts of maths, science, environmental effects and sharing jobs and space would all have come into play. Not that they knew the words, but they certainly learnt the ideas!

More building and construction to continue the waters flow, working together towards a common goal – not an easy task as any teacher form a two-year old classroom will tell you! This activity was done over the school holidays, so the mixΒ  of 3-4 year olds in with the 2 year olds probably helped with the sharing of ideas and building on the raw concepts. It’s a great activity, I wish I was there to share in the fun! But I’m so glad that this happened while I was away too πŸ™‚ It just goes to show the quality of our team, the pride they take in creating play based learning experiences, and the love they have for our kids! Well done girls!

Magnifing Times

At one point I’d bought a little bug inspection kit. A container with three tubs on top with magnifying lids, tweezers and a small magnifying glass. My kids explored it and then passed it over. As my kids know, anything that is not looked after or left lying around quickly makes it into a bag destined for the op shops or school! Anything that can be reused or refashioned will get an overhaul, but we are not hoarding toys and knick knacks that are uncared for!

So these magnifying lenses had made it as far as my handbag….intending to go to school, but just hanging out invisibly on the bottom of my bag πŸ™‚

As I was about to leave work the other night, a few of the remaining kids noticed ants coming out of the skirting board. Now whether these are regular ants or termites, I don’t know, but the opportunity was there to extend the kids interest as well as get the lenses out of my bag!

At first the boys tried to catch the ants under the lens to see it. But after a bit of practice they could zoom in and out to change their view πŸ™‚ Once they got it, the only limitation was the space. Three boys just couldn’t’ squeeze in tight enough! But that’s OK, because the room had lots more to explore through these ‘new eyes’!

Personally, I love lenses. Magnifying glasses, reading glasses, binoculars or a kaleidoscope! I remember being at a seminar on learning environments and hearing a woman talk about how she had placed binoculars by the windows for the kids to look out and see what was in the park next door to them. I thought it sounded fantastic, but my classroom had frosted windows to reduce the Queensland summers heat. Now I have clear windows again and a view of trucks, buses and cars going past….but that’s not going to stop me from sourcing out some binoculars for my windows! I figure a hook to hang them off will entice the kids to keep them there and have them always accessible. Yet another item for my wish list, but it’s a worthy one!

No Mess Tie Dye

I found this interesting activity on the Internet, but didn’t have all the ‘ingredients’ on hand.  The process calls for scraps of material, preferably white or light coloured and definitely cotton,not polyester πŸ™‚ (old sheets or pillow cases from  your local op shop would be great!) A rubber band, small bucket or large bowl each, a medicine dropper or syringe, permanent  markers and rubbing alcohol.

I didn’t have coloured permanent markers or rubbing alcohol, so I initially tried it with water and washable markers.   

It kinda worked, but the  colours really did wash  out. Pretty, but not permanent πŸ™‚

Seeing as the kids enjoyed the activity so much, I decided to was worth it to go buy the missing ingredients. After the activity was complete I had to wonder if I could have just used the antibacterial hand gel that is everywhere? It removes permanent markers from walls and most surfaces, so if watered down into a liquid form, it should work too. Actually, “Impulse” and other body sprays also remove permanent markers from laminated surfaces and whiteboards, so it might be interesting to try this too! Admittedly, that would be a bit much for a class of kids, but interesting to try with my spray obsessed little man!

I asked my kids to draw big swirls and circle patterns, which my girl took to a new level πŸ™‚ I was meaning something simpler and drew one on my son’s work sheet so that he understood what to do.  Choosing complimentary colours and avoiding using black would be my only hints for this.

Once the kids were happy with their designs, we came to the syringes. My kids are fairly familiar with these as water toys and using as hydraulics (a small plastic tube between syringes and coloured water!) So the control they have is pretty awesome. Other children might like to practice with water first, before using the more expensive stuff! For our large cereal bowls, 10 ml was enough. If they squirt the liquid all in one spot, just tip the bucket/bowl upside down and roll it round πŸ™‚

Almost immediately you will see the colours start to travel. To give more even spreading or for new effects, tilt the bowl to a side and watch the colours change direction!

As the material dries out, over the next hour or so, the colours continue to spread over the edge of the bowl, so if you were to hang them up, I can only assume this means the colours would run down! I’m looking forward to doing this one at school, using buckets from the sandpit as our bases and creating our own flags or banners πŸ™‚ The thing I love about ‘slow release’ activities is that the kids can come back and see their art grow and change in short periods of time. Keeping them attached and their curiousity piqued opens doors to some amazing conversations!

As for the ‘no mess’ part, clean up involved putting lids on markers, rinsing syringes and washing bowls. Heaps easier than traditional tie dye and no stained hands in sight!

When looking at maths, it’s best to just look around you

Welcome to July and our new program “Maths Concepts”Β  We already started with our tall paintings, which look great hanging from the wall with their towers still on πŸ™‚

Especially the one that was lucky enough to have a ball roll over it during it’s weekend of drying time πŸ™‚

Opening up our minds to height, weight, length and numerical concepts has allowed us to be quite free with play areas. It’s great to get down and build towers again as we explore directionality, balance and space.

So I put some paper up on the adjoining wall to trace and measure our blocks on. Besides exploring size concepts in a tangible way, I’m hoping this will also help with packing away safely, as they connect the shapes on the block trolley with where the blocks are meant to go!

As another exploratory area in the room, we’ve also added a gravity see saw. OK, I just made that name up, but it kinda works! Basically it’s two long tubes and the stand from a glass coffee table. I’ve filled the tubes with marbles and sealed them in (after a trial run without sealing them and having to chase marbles everywhere) with plastic cups and sticky tape. Adding some loopy screws and elastic has supported the tubes to stay in place and not be lifted up, which lowers their damage potential .

I’m hoping this in one of the areas that engages the kids and teaches them to look out for patterns – the marbles always come out in a different order. I’m hoping it teaches them to work together and express their explorations. I’m hoping this makes them question and think. But most of all I’m hoping it lasts and doesn’t break in the first week!