Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

More with Light & Dark

As the days are getting shorter, or more accurately, the hours of light are getting shorter and it is dark for longer periods of time, it seemed a good time to explore light and dark. I’ve explored similar topics before, but this was a different combination of books and activities.

We began with Lemony Snicket’s The Dark. It’s October, and I appreciate that this book can empower children to overcome their fear of the dark. We talked about who sleeps with a nightlight, and how the character uses a flashlight.oscar_and_the_moth

Then I shared Oscar and the Moth by Geoff Waring, one of a series of fantastic preschool science books featuring Oscar the Cat. It talks about animals that come out at night (like the moth) as well as animals that make their own light (like the anglerfish). And it talks about making shadows, which was one of our activities. I set up the projector on a blank wall, and the kids and parents made shadows. Such a simple activity — and it was so popular!

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We also painted with light, using iPads and flashlights. See this post about how to paint with light.We used the LongExpo Free app (which works on iPad as well as iPhone), though there is probably a newer app as well (recommendations welcome!)

Another station was a light table — fun to mix colors and build in the dark!

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We also put on our safety glasses and explored with squishy circuits. We had done a dance (Hap Palmer’s Switch on the Music) and explored electricity with an electricity stick. The main idea was that circuit sounds like circle — and the electricity has to go in a circle in order to work. We can see that when the lights light up! See this post on squishy circuits.

 

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That’s how we ROLL!

For our second summer science program we explored Wheels & Gears. In addition to the stations mentioned in the post from last year, we added two stations featuring Lego Duplo Simple Machines:* a spinning top with a crank and a hockey playing robot. Check them out in the photo gallery below!

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*Note: These were purchased with a Target Education Grant received in 2014. 

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Fun in the Sun (or the Magic of UV!)

The first Summer Science program was a great success! We learned about the sun, UV rays, and talked about ways to stay safe in the sun.

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I read The Sun, Our Nearest Star by Franklyn M. Branley (HarperCollins, 2002  ) from the Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series to introduce some ideas about the sun (it’s a star!), size and space, and the life-giving qualities as well as the reasons to be careful. Next we made a circle and walked (orbited) to “Sally Go Round the Sunshine.”

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Next I read part of The Sun by Nuria Roca, Carol Isern and Rocio Bonilla (Barron’s, 2014) The friendly narrative tone of Alice and Oliver’s experiences with the sun reinforced the earlier ideas about size, space, light, heat and UV rays. Most kids can relate to the frustration of an ice cream melting on a hot day! To give them an idea of scale, I brought in volleyball to represent the sun and a pin to show the relative size of the earth (as described in the book). Children passed the volleyball around, while I showed them the pin.

But the idea of invisible light from the sun we cannot see? A much harder idea to grasp. To try to “show” them the UV light, I brought in UV beads. These are clear, but turn colors when exposed to UV. I had asked them how they protect themselves from the sun. Answers included hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and staying in the shade. I showed a short sun safety video featuring the Minions, which repeated these ideas.

With pipe cleaners, pony beads, and UV beads, we created UV friends (or cats, or dogs, or bracelets . . . etc.). This turned out to be a great activity for fine motor skills as well as a science experiment.

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After construction, the kids took their creations outside to watch the UV beads turn colors in the sun:

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“Is it magic?” one three year old asked her mom. Next, the young scientists were given an assortment of materials they could use to test if they blocked UV rays: sunscreen, light and dark cloth, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and sunglasses. The beads change back to clear about a minute after being taken inside (or covered up — away from UV light.)

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This was a fun way to make the invisible rays of the sun visible to the kids. Many tried all the options and left thinking of other things they might try at home to see if they block UV light. Hopefully they will also remember to wear their hats and sunscreen this summer while having fun in the sun!

Note: This science storytime was inspired by and based on the activity “UV Kid” from the Science-Technology Activities and Resources (STAR_Net) program, developed by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, which I learned about through the workshop “Creating Out-of-this-World Children’s Science Programming With Free NASA Resources” at NASA workshop at ALA Midwinter, January 10, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Encouraging Fledglings

Every year I introduce birdwatching to families in our Wonderworks (STEAM) Storytime ) and encourage them to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s bird count is this weekend — February 12-15, 2016 — which is a long weekend for many people. My  interest stems from my family’s experience of participating in Project Feederwatch, in which you count birds in your yard over a series of months (November-April). The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great introduction to citizen science as it requires only a very brief time commitment. It takes place over four days, but you can count just once, just for 15 minutes, or every day. You can count on a visit to a park or on a wintery hike, or in your backyard. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (the same folks as sponsor project Feederwatch) the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. It’s grown into a global phenomenon, as you can see from a map showing last year’s participants, who counted over 8 million individual birds.gbbc-2015This year they are encouraging experienced birdwatchers to introduce young people (fledglings) to birdwatching — to take the pledge to fledge. It’s easy to join in this worldwide phenomenon — instructions and bird guides are available online.

In storytime, I read Simon James The Birdwatchers and About Birds: A Guide for Children by Catherine Sill, illustrated by John Sill (2nd editon; Peachtree Publishers, 2013)About birds

Next the children made birdfeeders with paper towel rolls, crisco, and birdseed.

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I also introduced children to the Merlin Bird Identification app (free, iOS & Android) which helps identify birds. It is very child-friendly, requiring very little reading. The app asks for the size of bird, then gives a range for them to choose from. It ask for up to 3 colors spotted, and where the bird was seen (on the ground, at a feeder, in flight). After a few questions, the app returns a list of possible birds sighted. IMG_9196

 

For each bird, it includes bird calls as well. We identified one bird together  — I told them I had seen one on my way into work that day. I had four iPads with the apps for them to experiment with, with their grownup’s help. Some used a bird book to test out the app; others used the Great Backyard Bird Count poster to see if they could identify the bird depicted (a nuthatch!)

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The interaction between parents and children was genuine and all seemed to really enjoy the activity — one even downloaded it for their phone before leaving the program!

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Why don’t you try out Merlin & join the world in counting birds this weekend? It’s fun and easy and you’ll be contributing to science!

 

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Bridges with the Three Billy Goats Gruff

IMG_8484(2)We began with The Three Billy Goats Gruff, illustrated by Janet Stevens.  Check out the eldest of the Gruff brothers, one of the hippest, toughest brothers I’ve seen in a picture book!

IMG_8487We tapped the “trip-trap” sound of the goats hooves on the bridge, getting louder as the brothers grow in size, finally hitting the floor to make the loudest “trip-trap” sounds with the biggest brother. The children enjoyed repeating the sounds when we acted the story out after reading the book.

Next I read part of Ken Robbins Bridges (Dial, 1991), a lovely nonfiction picture book with evocative hand-colored photographs and short and very informative explanations for why bridges are built different ways. The book includes London’s famous Tower Bridge, which features a drawbridge (bascule) that goves up to allow boats to pass underneath.  We watched a simple animation of a drawbridge, and then built our own drawbridges out of cereal boxes. It is a fairly simple project, but cutting cardboard, punching holes, and measuring the yarn required adult assistance.

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It was great to see the interactions taking place — lots of scaffolding here, with parents guiding little hands to thread the yarn through, having them help measure the length, etc. And when it’s over, pull the yarn to lift the bridge and put it over your shoulder to carry home. One child used his portable bridge to carry a library book safely home!

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Bones, Bones, Bones

One of my favorite science storytimes is all about bones. (See:“The Foot Bone’s Connected to the Ankle Bone”) Partly because I just love S.D. Schindler’s outrageously funny illustrations for Skeleton Hiccups. bodybonesThis year I added a new find: Body Bones by Shelly Rotner and David A. White (Holiday House , 2014), with stunning illustrations that allow children to literally see inside people and animals — to see how bones support and structure living things.

The follow up activity is one I remember from my own childhood: lying down on a huge sheet a paper (huge from my childhood memory) and having someone draw around you so there is an outline of your body.  Accompanying adults are encouraged to participate in Wonderworks, and activities like this require it.

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I love the interaction that you can see going on in the photographs below. I provided a basic outline of a skeleton, and many children and parents chose to use these as a reference, to draw in the bones where they go.

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I overheard great conversations like, “yes, that’s where your ribs go, but I think they are a little longer than that. Can you make them longer?”

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I think the Body Bones book encouraged more children in the past to try this. One child did bones on one side of the paper, then flipped it over and drew their clothes!

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As in the past, I was delighted by the range and variety of their creativity.

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Would you like to live in a treehouse?

At the Books & Blocks program at Westerville Library, we explored treehouses.

jackjilltreehouseWe read Jack and Jill’s Treehouse by Pamela Duncan Edwards (HarperCollins, 2008), which is written in a cumulative “house that Jack built” style.

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Then we read part of Adventure Homes by Gerry Bailey (Crabtree, 2013) which has a great outline of the structure of a treehouse, and includes information and photographs of the Korawai and Kombai people of Papua New Guinea, who are known as “the tree people” because they build their houses high in the forest trees.

Afterwards, the children built with a variety of materials: wooden blocks, legos, magnetic blocks and large cardboard bricks.

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They also used ramps and balls, envisioning having slides to descend from the treehouse.

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Books & Blocks: Castles

The Books & Blocks program at Westerville Public Library is fun, simple, and engaging. We start by reading a book or two, singing a song and moving around, and then build! With wooden blocks, legos, or other materials. Last week we explored castles (though children are free to build anything they want.)

Book: Mr. King’s Castle by Geneviève Côté

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Book: Castle: How it Works by David Macaulay

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Song: “Up Goes the Castle”, from Sesame Street

In the photos below, you can see one child building a castle with an outer wall, central keep, and four watchtowers, just as Macaulay describes in Castle.

“Up Goes the Castle” is a wonderful, quiet (and silly) song where the castle is on your stomach! The children are lying down with their hands making the castle on their stomach — as the breath out, the castle goes down; breathe in, the castle goes up. Great for a program like yoga tales as well. I was delighted at how well a quiet song worked in a preschool storytime.

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Under the Kapok Tree

Or, what happens after a children’s librarian visits the rainforest?

robinI first explored a trees theme in Wonderworks in the Spring of 2013:

https://cultivatewonder.wordpress.com/category/trees/

Yesterday we revisited the theme with a different twist. On a trip to Costa Rica the previous week, I saw a kapok (ceiba) tree. Of course I’m familiar with Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990).greatkapok

But after seeing a 400 year old kapok tree in person, it took on new meaning. To say it was impressive is an understatement. It was simply an amazing, awe inspiring, wondrous thing.

Here are some pictures that I shared with the children:

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kapokcanopyI left these picture BIG because the tree is just so big and majestic itself.

I also read Debbie Miller’s Are Trees Alive? (Walker, 2003) as an introduction to trees and used the songs mentioned in the earlier post about trees.

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Space, Rockets & Gravity

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The morning of this storytime, Wednesday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m., I checked the NASA site looking for a good video clip to show to accompany the books I had chosen. Turns out, NASA was conducting a solid rocket booster test, broadcast live, at 11:30 a.m.! I couldn’t believe my luck! So I pulled up the link on the new SmartBoard, Internet was working beautifully, and had the NASA TV live broadcast playing as children entered the room (for once I opened the doors a bit early!) And it turns out that a solid rocket booster test is a pretty impressive thing to see — lots of fire and smoke! And it all began with a real countdown (10-9-8 . . .) and many of the children joined in. You can watch the replay here:  http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html#.VQ2_PY5mqpY and read more about it on the NASA site.

After this opening, we talked about rockets and travelling to space. I asked if anyone had ever been to Mars or the moon, and this group knew a surprising amount about space (no air, robots have been to Mars, but not people).gravity-cover

I read Jason Chin’s Gravity (Roaring Brook, 2014) and they were totally engrossed by the illustrations.

Then I conducted a mini-rocket launch (the reliable Alka-Seltzer in a film caster type), complete with safety glasses and countdown. After putting the glasses away, we watched/read Eight Days Gone by Linda McReynolds (Charlesbridge, 2012) in Tumblebook format.

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I also showed them the physical book afterwards and we talked about some of the images and travelling to the moon. I showed them the two-page spread below, and asked them what the blue green object was.

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They all responded with “the earth!” So I asked, but isn’t the earth round? To which one said, “it’s night on the other part” and another said “it’s there — see how you can’t see any stars where the earth is?” I was amazed at how closely they were looking and observing and thinking about things.

This book is featured on RIF’s Multicultural STEAM Booklist for 2012-13 and their website offers suggested activities and handouts for parents.

Next, we danced and moved to “Rocketship Run” by Laurie Berkner, which featured even more counting backwards.

For the activity, kids made their own paper rockets, powering them with a straw.

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