Miss 5 has always had a very strong interest in science. She comes from a family of like minded people. There are numerous nurses, a scientist, a geologist, a doctor, a couple of engineers and a high school science teacher in our extended family. Added to this Husband is an engineer and a lifetime ago I started a degree in forensic pathology, so I guess the foundations for Miss 5s interest were always there. Husband and I have always encouraged her to test things, pull things apart to see how they work, experiment and think for herself, rather than give her the answers.
(On a side note, I think it’s amusing that when she was 3 and we did this, we were encouraging and nurturing parents, but now that she’s 5, and “should be in school”, the same people think that we’re “not qualified”). 😉
Miss 5 thoroughly enjoys hands on experiments, and loves nothing more than to “do science” with her sister. And the more theatrical, the better. Because, she’s 5 😀
So we try to incorporate some kind of science based lesson at least once a week. This may be gardening in the veggie patch, where they maintain, fertilise, weed, prune and harvest the plants. It may be finding and catching or observing creatures in the backyard. So far there has been Charlotte the Orb Weaver, two frogs, bees, a spider wasp, cabbage moths (they kept a caterpillar inside a container and watched it build it’s chrysalis and then turn into a moth), and our resident bob tail lizard. They have made crystals and also have a microscope that is often pulled out – and hopefully in the next 12 months we can think about buying Miss 5 her first chemistry set. Miss 5 has a few apps on the iPad that are science based lessons, one in particular My Incredible Body has been a huge hit, and there is usually some way to include something scientific in most of her units of study, if we aren’t already doing it in everyday life.
Keeping in mind that she is 5 and her sister is 3, so we’re not talking quantum physics here, but rather a real world focus on their bodies, the world they live in, how it works, how it grows, and why, as well as giving them the foundations for a life of critical thinking. I want my daughters to be able to think and form an opinion based on facts, and to have the confidence and the ability to question everything.
Sometimes, however, we like to “do science” just for the sake of doing it. Not to tie it in with a lesson, not to underline something that she’s been talking about or thinking about. But for no other reason, than it’s fun. And their smiles and giggles and gasps are just awesome to watch 🙂 So that’s exactly what we did this week.
I get a non-related, weekly delivery that happens to include a small bag of dry ice. So this week, we had some fun with it 😀
With the girls’ help, I set up a couple of dishes, one with warm water and blue food colouring, the other with milk and pink food colouring. We talked about solids, liquids and gasses, and Miss 5 learned that the fog or “smoke” they could see was water vapour mixed with carbon dioxide. She already knows about carbon dioxide, as she knows this is what we breathe out and what trees breathe in. With our previous experiments, Miss 5 is familiar with the terms like observation, hypothesis and conclusion. She initially observed that the ice in the warm water was bubbling and smoking more than the ice in the milk, which was basically doing nothing. Her hypothesis was that the dry ice worked better when it was in warm or hot liquid. She tested this by boiling the kettle and adding hot water to the cold milk. Which set the dry ice off, bubbling and smoking like crazy. I introduced her to a new term viscosity and we talked about whether the viscosity of a liquid might change the way the dry ice reacted. Miss 5 went running to the pantry to find something thicker than milk. She came back with a bottle of olive oil, and then observed that the olive oil didn’t cause the ice to smoke, but it did start to emulsify (or in Miss 5s words “it looks like it’s starting to freeze the oil and make it go hard!)
Once this avenue of playing with the dry ice had lost it’s shine, we packed away the dishes, and I showed the girls how to make a Dry Ice Bubble Machine! We used a large plastic tumbler, a length of rubber hose, a small funnel, a plastic bag and a bowl of “bubble mixture” – which was just some dish soap mixed with warm water. We poked a small hole through the plastic bag and fed the hose through it, sealing it with sticky tape. We then attached the funnel to one end of the hose, which became the “bubble end”. I added some dry ice and hot water into the tumbler and quickly put that inside the plastic bag, making sure the end of the hose was in the glass, but not in the water. The gas flowed down the hose and out of the funnel, which, when dipped into the bubble mixture, blew smoke filled bubbles. Miss 5 spent a good 10 minutes coming up with theories about these bubbles. From “I think that you could hold them in your hand, without them popping” to ” I think once you popped them, there would be a big cloud of smoke inside”. Some of her theories were wrong, and some were spot on. She had a ball playing with the bubble machine and consequently we burnt through the entire stock of dry ice doing it 😀
With our dry ice gone, and a little bit of milk left over, I decided to do one last experiment with them. It is one that I have done with Miss 5 before, when she was either 3 or 4, so I figured she wouldn’t quite remember it and would enjoy doing it again. Miss 3 had never seen it before, so she enjoyed it immensely. In a dish I poured some milk, the girls then added half a dozen drops of every colour food colouring they could find in our pantry. They then took turns adding squirts of dish soap. The dish soap reduces the surface tension of the milk and the effect is the swirling and churning of the colours. It looks like tie-dyed milk! Miss 3 claimed it looked like “a beautiful blue sea” 🙂
All in all, it was a fabulous morning. Miss 5 learned some new words and had a ball doing her science class. Miss 3, who still has a limited attention span, sat at the table and watched or participated when she felt like it, and when she didn’t, she floated off into the next room and did her own thing. We are lucky enough to have some actively supportive friends and family, one of which is a science teacher here in Perth. She is wonderful enough to email me examples of “kitchen science” experiments to try with Miss 5. We have a few saved up now, and Miss 5 is very much looking forward to next time 🙂