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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Exploring Electricity with Squishy Circuits

squishycircuits

In March both the Wonderworks preschool children and school age kids of Explorers Club explored electricity with squishy circuits, inspired by this post on Electric Dough from PBS Kids:

http://www.pbs.org/parents/adventures-in-learning/2014/02/electric-play-dough/

More directions for squishy circuits are available at: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm

With both age groups, I began by sharing the Schoolhouse Rock video “Electricity.” Many parents remembered this one!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5dhPas_18w

Then we read Oscar and the Bird by Geoff Waring.

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Next we listened to the song “Electricity Game” on Nancy Stewart’s Sing a Song of Science.  It plays a sound and then children guess what makes that sound, which was was the perfect followup to a recent sound storytime.

I also read parts of What is Electricity? By Lisa Trumbauer and we talked about static electricity, using a balloon rubbed on a person’s head as an example.

Then we talked about moving electricity, which is described in Oscar and the Bird, and how electricity moves through wires. “Circuit” was the main vocabulary word for the Wonderworks group. The word sounds like “circle” and electricity must have a circle to move. We used an energy stick to demonstrate this idea. Gather kids in a circle to show that electricity flows in a circle – if one of them drops their hands, it won’t work anymore. (they can take turns being the switch!) The switch makes the connection or drops the connection (turns things on/off).

Next we played and danced to the Hap Palmer song,  “Switch on the Music.”

We had two main activity stations: Static Jars and Squishy Circuits.

Static Jars

Kids explored static electricity with static jars and balloons. We had prepared the static jars ahead of time, but you could also have children make their own.

The idea for the static jars was found in “Static Electricity: The Shocking Truth” by Peggy Ashbrook in Science and Children magazine, from the National Science Teacher’s Association, March 2013, pp. 30-31 and a related blog post here: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2013/03/06/static-electricity-something-we-experience-before-were-old-enough-to-understand-it/

To make static jars  you need: plastic jars (soda bottles), tissue paper, foam scraps, scissors, various types of cloth to rub on jars, also plastic wrap to rub. Tear little pieces of tissue paper, cut foam scraps, and put in jars. Rub the outside of the jar with various materials to see what happens – which make static electricity? Also try rubbing the balloon on the outside of the jar. Get the balloon charged up (by rubbing it on hair or cloth first) and then try to see if it makes a difference.

Squishy Circuits

All instructions for squishy circuits, for conducting dough and insulating dough, are clearly explained on the Squishy Circuits website: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm We had 5 battery packs and children worked in groups of 2, after we demonstrated the project for the group.

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The green playdough is non-conducting and regular playdough with salt is the conducting playdough.

 

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