Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Freezing & Melting

Ideas: States of matter, reversible change – water to ice & vice versa (reversible change)

Materials: popsicles, labels, crayons, cups or bowls, spoons

As children come in, they choose a popsicle, unwrap it and put in a cup, write their name on the cup and leave the cup on a table in the window, then come back to the center for stories and songs.

Opening song: “Energy” from Nancy Stewart’s Sing a Song of Sciencewhatistheworld

Book: What is the World Made Of?  All About Solids, Liquids and Gases by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (selections) and/or Freezing and Melting by Robin Nelson -we passed an ice cube around and talked about how it felt holding it (cold!!) and how our hands felt after we passed it to the next person (wet — why? because it melted a little).

Talk about solids, liquids, gases & have children demonstrate each (being perfectly still, moving a little—waving arms, slowly, then excitedly for gas)

Video/Song: “Solid, Liquid, Gas” by They Might be Giants from Here Comes Science tmbg

Book: Why Did My Ice Pop Melt?  By Susan Korman

Talk about liquid vs. solid

— what else melts? (chocolate . . .)

–how can you make things melt? (warm it up, put it in the sun); some things melt, others burn (reversible change vs. not reversible: paper, wood burn)

Pass around ice cube!

Song: “Rock & Roll Freeze Dance” from Hap Palmer’s So Big: Activity Songs for Little Ones

Take a bite ( or a drink) of popsicle – has it melted??

How could you make it melt faster??

Suggestions included warming it up with a hairdryer and putting it in the microwave.

shareBook: Should I Share my Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

Song: “Ice Cream” by Asheba from Putumayo’s Picnic Playground:
Musical Treats from Around the World

   –Free dance with scarves

After all this waiting, it’s time to eat popsicle soup!!

For more ideas, see Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry K-5  by Karen Ansberry (National Science Teacher’s Association), Chapter 6: Freezing and Melting.


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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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Rolling Along: Wheels & Gears

I opened with What Do Wheels Do All Day? by April Jones Prince, illustrated by Giles Laroche. (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) This was a great introduction for preschoolers. The children had fun talking about the many different objects with wheels in the various pictures. Sometimes only a very small part is pictured, and the kids debated whether one was a dump truck or a school bus (all that is pictured is a large, bumpy wheel with a bit of yellowy orange color around it.)


Then I talked about wheels being a tool; people had to invent them (they don’t just occur in nature). This was our main idea. Wheels were invented over 5,000 years ago.  Wheels make it easier to move things. You can move heavy things that you could not otherwise move and can travel faster with wheels, whether bikes or skates or wagons or buses or trains.

Preschoolers always need to move around, so we did Jim Gill’s “Sliding, Rolling and Jumping.”


Gears Go, Wheels Roll by Mark Weakland (Capstone Press, 2011). Another great introduction at the preschool level. There is a large two page spread of a girl pulling two other children in a wagon. I asked what if the wagon did not have wheels? Would she still be able to pull them? The immediate response was no! too heavy! so they understood the point of a wheel as a tool. A gear is a type of wheel that has teeth. Turning one gear can turn another, or even many others. It was important to understand a gear as several stations involved gears.

Wheels & Axles by Valerie Bodden (Simple Machines series, Creative Education, 2011) would be a good alternative/additional book.

Kids explored gears at several different stations, playing with how the teeth interlock, which way one gear moves when another touches it, etc. They also raced cars on ramps and constructed their own vehicles out of legos to try out the ramps. I set up three ramps at different heights to begin with and asked them to try them out to see which was the fastest. We talked about making predictions before they began. It wasn’t long before some began moving the supports for the ramps in order to make them even higher. This is just the sort of experimentation I like to see during the activity time.


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Let the Pumpkins Roll!

I began with one of my favorite pumpkin books, Wendell Minor’s Pumpkin Heads. The kids were especially giggly tonight, laughing throughout this one.pumpkin-heads
Action Rhyme: I’m a Little Pumpkin

I’m a little pumpkin
Short and stout
Packed full of seeds that you can scrape out.
When you’re all finished, then I’ll be
The cutest jack o’lantern you ever did see.

Next I read Ken Robbins Pumpkins, a nonfiction picture book illustrated with photographs showing the growth of a pumpkin from seed to sprout to vine to flower to fruit.


Counting Rhyme: Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins by the barn door
An owl took one,
And then there were four.
Four little pumpkins, as you can plainly see,
One became pumpkin pie,
And then there were three.
Three little pumpkins feeling very blue,
One rolled far away
And then there were two.
Two little pumpkins alone in the sun,
One said, “so long”
And then there was one.
One little pumpkin left all alone,
A little boy chose him
And then there were none.

Pumpkin Song
(tune: Clementine)

I saw a pumpkin, a big fat pumpkin
It was growing on vine,
______ came along and picked one
Took it home and said “It’s Mine!”

For this song, have each child come and pick a pumpkin off the “vine” (green yarn strung like a clothesline).


Song with Shakers: Pumpkin Patch Polka

Additional Books:

Esbaum, Jill. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie.
Hall, Zoe. It’s Pumpkin Time.
Levenson, George. Pumpkin Circle. (a great video as well!)
McNamara, Margaret. How many seeds in a pumpkin?

Activities included:

Sink and float (Do pumpkins float?)


What does a pumpkin look like inside? I provided spoons and a dish to scoop out insides to get a closer look.


Pumpkin & gourd weighing and balancing


How fast do pumpkins roll?
Children tried out new ramps and chutes with small pumpkins.They extended the chutes in ways I didn’t expect and even tried to make the pumpkins roll up . . . and were pretty successful!


These materials were funded by a recent Target Community Grant and I anticipate they will get much use!

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Opposites Attract: Magnets

Picture Book: Marta’s Magnets by Wendy Pfeffer (Silver Press, 1995) – Though this picture books is a little old, I really like the many ideas for playing with magnets incorporated into the text.


Informational Books: Push and Pull: Learn about Magnets
by Julia Vogel (Child’s World, 2011)Image

Or Magnets Push, Magnets Pull by Mark Weakland (Capstone, 2011)


After sharing the books, we experimented together. Each child took a turn fishing from a bin full of small objects to discover what was magnetic. They made predictions: would it pick up the spoon? the toy car? the coin? the marble? the nail? The fishing poles and objects were left out as a station that children could explore on their own.


We also used a magnet make a paper clip jump and tried to see how long a string of paper clips we could make with a wand-like magnet.

All children were able to make refrigerator magnets to take home.


Several sets of bar magnets were another station where kids could explore polarity. The ends were red and blue, and it was fun to have them try to match ends of the same color together and discover they really wouldn’t stick. In fact, they could push the other magnet around without touching it!


Another station was a train set, as magnets are how the cars stick together. The cars only attach one way to the engine. This station reinforced the idea of polarity — that opposites attract!

Magnets are part of so many toys! We provided building toys with magnets.


And then there are magnetic letters, which are pretty familiar to preschoolers.


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Sink or Float

Will it sink or will it float?  This was the question that we asked during our Wonderworks program this week.

We opened our program with the picture book Who Sank the Boat?, by Pamela Allen.  In this story, which continually asks the listener, “Do you know who sank the boat?,” a group of animal friends all take turns boarding a row boat until it is finally so heavy that it sinks.  Which of the friends finally sank the boat?  Our storytime participants all had a fun time guessing until the very end.

who sank the boat

After our picture book, we all pretended to board our own row boats and sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat, adding a variety of different verses.

SongRow, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

Bump, bump, bump your boat….

Sway, sway, sway your boat…

Row, Row, Row your boat underneath the steam

Haha I fooled you

I’m a submarine!

For our non-fiction book, we used the book Will It Float or Sink?, by Melissa Stewart.  The text of this  book discusses many different objects that will sink or float in water and why this is so.  As we read, we demonstrated to our storytime participants how each object mentioned in the book either floated or sank in water, using a clear plastic tub.



After our demonstration, it was time for the children to discover for themselves which objects would sink and which would float. We let them test out numerous items in our plastic tubs of water.

In addition to testing out which objects would sink or float in water, the children were given sheets of aluminum foil which they could use to fashion into small boats to float on the water.  They could then experiment to see how many pennies it would take to sink their boats.  Some of the children tried floating other items in their boats in addition to the pennies.

Our strongest boat held over 50 pennies!

sink or float

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