February 17, 2005

Science and Math Hands On Day

Today we ended up having a spur of the moment science and math day. After a rough morning we headed over to an area community college. As a practicum for some of their education students they had a science and math lesson day at their preschool. I was hesitant to go at first, picturing required registration or pitch for the preschool program. I was pleasantly surprised, it really was about offering the students practical experience and a place to test their projects and a nice service for community preschoolers.

Both Rhiannon and Ciaran participated - Sirah rode around in her backpack taking it all in. The activities were set up in two rooms with a variety of stations with student teachers at each of them. They never even asked our names or anything - we just went from station to station, I was there with them, there was no strict order or organization and they could wander based on their interests. There were 12 science stations and about 8 math stations. The science were more interesting to my kids as they both (even Ciaran) found much of the math skills too easy.

The math stations covered classification (matching cards), patterns (using cards and objects), serials (smallest to largest, widest to thinnest, etc), Matching (sets, memory, card games), counting, matching numerals and sets, matching unlike sets, shapes and colors, and ordering (a plant life cycle). We ended our day in this room and they did enjoy themselves here though neither felt very challenged by the activities. To them it was more busywork.

The most interesting to Rhiannon was the wooden serial sets (wooden pegs of varying sizes ordered from smallest to largest). Ciaran really enjoyed a wooden box that had 10 slits in it and across the top were 10 numerals on one side or 10 dot sets (3 dots, 5 dots, etc), each number sat over a slit in the box. He was handed some cards with different pictures on them and had to put them in the right number slot. So he received a card with three trees on it and he needed to count the trees and then find the corresponding dot set to put the answer into. He really enjoyed this activity and did not want to leave it. He also enjoyed the pattern cards were he got to set little clowns on top of cards - he had to match the clowns to the cards and make patterns.

The other room had 12 different stations, we visited all but one. This is the order in which the kids chose them and they were not at all in this order in the room. They walked around first for a little while before they choose their first activity which was somewhere tucked off more in t he middle though. We began with an experiment with two cups filled with water and vinegar and raisins. To one cup the leader added baking soda to make it bubble and then show how the raisins rose. She did not explain the reasons why.

Then we headed over to a paint pendulum. I felt bad for the student teacher here. She must have been sure the kids would love her activity as it was a fun and messy one. However, due to the way the day was set up kids were not prepared to be dirty and most kids (mine included - who were wearing a white shirt and a favorite dress) were hesitant to participate as they did not want to get dirty. You could just see this woman in her mind thinking - but I was sure kids would love an activity where they could throw paint around!

Next we moved to the volcano - a hit with both kids and Rhiannon's favorite from the day. Typical volcano experiment. She let the kids take turns adding the baking soda, dish soap and colored vinegar. Rhia and Ciaran made so much lava it spilled over her pan. They were very excited and sad to give others a turn.

Next station was about sound. Here there were five different cups made of different materials (plastic, ceramic, glass, tin, and something else I forget) and each was filled to a different depth. She had three different spoons (metal, plastic, and wood) and the kids took turns banging on the cups. I will say this student teacher did the best job explaining to the kids the science behind the experiment and really took time with each child. She would have them bang on one glass and then change the amount of water in the cup and ask what they would expect to happen. Then after the child banged again she would explain about how water absorbs sound and so on.

Then we moved to a station showing cohesiveness - though the leader could not even explain the term nor how the experiment showed the concept. However, the kids liked the experiment. A bowl full of water, dump some pepper in the bowl - then add one drop of dishsoap and immediately all the pepper jumps evenly to the sides. The first time the kids were so surprised they had to do it again. Ciaran thought it was so cool he did it 5 times!

The next station showed gravity and weight. Using a wooden plane and two baby food jars (one filled with water and one empty) the kids had to guess which would go faster and then test their theory by rolling them down the plane and keeping track of the results. They did it several times and then looked at the most consistent results.

Next was my favorite experiment and one I am sure we will replicate here. Painting with magnets. Using wooden blocks to prop up a piece of plexiglass and then placing painting paper on top of the plexiglass. The kids took turns dipping a paperclip or metal washer (ties with a long string to avoid having to touch the paint) into fingerpaints. They placed the paperclip on the paper and took a hand magnet and placed it under the plexiglass and moved the paperclip with the magnet from underneath making fun paintings. The kids did this for awhile until there were other children waiting for a turn, they were able to bring these home.

Ciaran's favorite of the day was next and it surprised me. It was a touch experiment, simple but the kids really enjoyed it. The student teacher had taken 10 paper bags and placed an item in each bag and then stapled it shut and numbered it. She printed out 5 pages of pictures (each pages with two items) and if a student got stuck she would show them the page and ask which item it was. She also had two bonus bags with items she did not have a picture of both Ciaran and Rhia got these (a pinecone and a dinosaur). Ciaran wanted to do them all and this was the station he talked about on the ride home.

There was a station on static cling. She placed three of those plastic gladware tops on the table and taped them down. Under each was the one of the following (sand, styrofoam pieces, rice). The kids rubbed either felt or fur over the top and then traced with their fingers to move the items below. The rice did not work well at all but the other two were fun.

Last station they went to (somewhere we missed one) showed how oil and water do not mix in a clever way. In little plastic tubs the kids placed a sheet of paper. Then each received two eye droppers and two different paints. Asked what they thought would happen when they dropped blue into yellow they all said it would become green. They were surprised they were wrong. One paint was oil based and one water based, so they did not mix at all they just made separate spots and the paint kept chasing each other. The kids enjoyed this one as well.

This was a nice change of pace for us and a welcome one for me as science experiments are honestly not my favorite thing to do. It was just the right amount of time and short simple activities they could do and grasp. We can follow up on anything they are interested in and I picked up some quick and easy ideas to show science concepts. It was nice to see how the student teachers interacted with the kids and there was no pressure or signing in or anything. We just walked in and took advantage of what they had to offer and they got to interact with our children. A nice way to get science done for awhile!



  1. Wow! That sounds great! I wish I could have had my kids there.

  2. Anonymous3:17 PM

    May I ask what college this was? I am in the Twin Cities also.


  3. northwest technical