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Mar 05

DIY with SPL: Little Scientists with a Lovely Twist

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 11:51 AM by Angela Sumner

Many people think science is something that only happens in a classroom, but it is all around us. Science tells us about the weather, about how our cookies will turn out, and about how to make a loaf of bread.  Science also provides the foundation for many life skills that are important but often underrated.

For example, science encourages us to ask questions and practice our critical thinking skills.  This practice can begin at any age, not just in a middle school chemistry class.  This is why the Suffolk Public Library includes Little Scientists in our regular Preschool Fridays programming.  The purpose of Little Scientists is to get preschoolers thinking critically about scientific questions and, most importantly, to show them how much fun science is!

Most children learn best when they experience learning first hand rather than just being told about something.  Experiencing learning leads to higher retention rates and engagement and it lets children take part in making their own observations and discoveries.

For our Little Scientists program this past February, we covered many different scientific topics with easy activities anyone could practice at home.  Also, many of these activities can be easily themed to match the season as we showed by injecting a Valentine’s theme into our activities (a little food coloring goes a long way). 

Dancing Hearts

Most everyone knows what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar but do you know what happens when you add a little water and some conversation hearts?  The hearts dance! You can use this experiment to ask questions and prompt your own conversation:

  • What do you think is going to happen when we mix the baking soda and vinegar?
  • What does the vinegar smell like?
  • What do you think is going to happen when we add the hearts?
  • Why do the bubbles form in the mixture and why do they stick to the hearts and make them dance? 
  • Why do some color hearts seem to float more easily than others?

Even if you don’t answer the questions, just asking them is a critical step in the learning process.  Also, the reaction between baking soda and vinegar never seems to get old for kids or adults so looking for ways to adapt it to new situations is a lot of fun for everyone. 
Dancing Hearts Experiment

Supplies:

1 clear plastic cup or glass cup

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ cups water

Conversation hearts (3)

¼ cup vinegar

Mix baking soda and water in a clear cup.  Add 3 hearts.  Slowly add vinegar to the mixture and watch the science at work!  (Caution:  adding vinegar too quickly can cause your mixture to bubble over the edges of your cup so make sure to do this on a surface you can easily wipe clean)

Scavenger Hunt

This was a really simple concept that quickly grabbed the attention of the preschoolers.  I had some bags of pink and red crinkle paper (the kind that looks like confetti that you get at the dollar store to put in gift bags).  I added simple, everyday items to the crinkle paper and the items immediately became precious treasures that the Little Scientists had to hunt for.  I included beads, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, cookie cutters, string, marbles, and whatever other interesting items I could find.  I also gave the children magnifying glasses and child-friendly tweezers so they could practice with scientific instruments, too.  The children then searched through the bins to find the various items on their list as they practiced important scientific skills like observation and record keeping.
Scavenger Hunt Activity

Supplies:

Crinkle Paper

Treasures *see above for ideas

Scavenger Hunt Checklist

Love Potion

This is an adapted recipe for “elephant’s toothpaste” with a little red coloring and the name, Love Potion.  This experiment involves mixing a little yeast, dish soap, water, and peroxide to make a potion that foams up and grows.  This was really exciting to watch because the reaction occurs quickly and then lasts for a decent amount of time. It just grows and grows!  This is another great activity that lends itself to questions and conversation, which is essential for language and brain development.

I set up each potion in one cup of a cupcake tray and that way I had 18 potions ready to go and when those ran out, I dumped the trays and refilled them.  This was a great way to cut down on dishes and the love potions looked kind of like cupcakes rising as they bake in the oven. Also, I promise your Little Scientist will want to try this more than once. There are so many great scientific questions to ask here but I liked asking about how the bubbles might be in part from the addition of soap.
Love Potion Experiment

Supplies:

Cupcake pan (you can do this experiment in any sort of cup really)

Cookie tray to put the pan or cup on and catch overflowing bubbles

2 teaspoons yeast

Enough water to dissolve the yeast in (about 1/6 cup or so)

One dollop of dish soap

Food Coloring (optional)

¼ cup Hydrogen Peroxide


Mix the yeast and water until yeast is no longer lumpy

Add a dollop of dish soap and whatever food coloring you wish

Slowly pour the Hydrogen Peroxide into you mixture and watch it grow!

BONUS Math DIY: Candy Heart Sorting

This simple activity pairs with a worksheet I found online.  There are many, many free resources online and all you need is a printer.  If you are having trouble finding candy hearts you can print ones to cutout, too!  The kids then took a bowl of assorted candy hearts and sorted them into each color category.  This would also be a good activity to practice using tweezers in order to work on growing motor skills! Being able to pinch thumb and forefinger together is one of the first milestones toward learning to hold a pencil and starting to write.

We hope you can replicate some of these February-themed science experiments and even put your own twist on them for different seasons. And just remember, it’s all about observation and conversation for the little guys!

This DIY session is brought to you by Jane Gagne, Youth and Family Services Coordinator

 

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