Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bath Time Science

Kids are curious.

I want to nurture that curiosity. I want my kids and students to wonder about the world around them, ask questions, and explore answers.

So when my 6 year old daughter was having her bath the other night, we had a great opportunity to nurture curiosity. She was playing with her floaty bath toys and noticed that one of them had sunk to the bottom of the tub.

L: Look Daddy! My octopus sank.

At this point, I believe I have 2 options in how to respond.

1) Explain

Me: Yes, it sank because it is filled with water. The water makes it heavier and it displaces a greater volume of water so it sinks. Here, give me the toy and I will show you.

This approach is OK. She learns something (although my explanation might be a little much for a 6 year old) and I nurture her curiosity by responding to her observation and offering an explanation. I even offer to show her a demonstration by taking the toy and showing her how it floats or sinks.

2) Not Explain

Me: Yes, why do you think the octopus sank?

This is much better. I still nurture her curiosity by engaging her in conversation. But I turn it back on her. She needs to be the one to provide an explanation. Her explanation will be:

  • based on her own observations
  • in her own 6 year old language
  • her own (not mine)

L: I think it sinks because it is filled with water.

Now she has a hypothesis. And again, I am faced with some choices in how to respond.

1) Confirm

Me: Yes! That's right! Good for you! High five!

This approach is OK. I confirm her understanding. Her self-esteem is through the roof. And there are lots of high fives and splashing.

2) Demonstrate

Me: Hmmm. Let's try emptying the water out of the toy and see if you are right. If it floats without water in it then we know it sinks because of the water.

This is much better. I don't just tell her she is correct. I provide a way for us to test her hypothesis. We can perform an experiment to see if she is correct. And she can verify her hypothesis through observation and collecting "data".

3) Not Confirm or Demonstrate

Me: Hmmm. What do you think you could do to see if you are right?

This is so much better than much better! I still nurture her curiosity. I still lead her to think of a way to test her hypothesis. But I turn it back on her. She needs to be the one to design the experiment. Her experiment will be:

  • based on her own hypothesis
  • based on her own creative/critical thinking
  • her own (not mine)

L: I could empty the water out and see if it floats?

Me: OK, why don't you try that.

L: It floats! It floats!

I am not always good at making the best choice for inquiry in the spur of the moment. In my classroom, this has been a huge learning experience for me and an ongoing struggle.

But I am proud to say that during Bath Time Science, I made all the right choices.


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