I spent the past 5 days manning the Imagination Station at VBS. What does that mean? I, Erin Hall was Mr. Wizard. Too old for you?..Bill Nye?…Beakman? Wow. Sid the Science Kid?! Growing up, my brother and I loved these shows but for this generation, once you out grow Sid, it’s slim pickins.
I decided to look into it and was able to find Dragonfly TV on PBS and Crash! Bang! Splat on Discovery Kids. Sadly, even I had no idea they even existed. So I asked our room helpers, the teenagers, about the science they were doing in school and the response was “Well, we got to take apart an computer chip and that was pretty cool.”
To my science teaching comrades, I share in your face palm. On the bright side, I brought magic and excitement to 90 kids who had no preconception regarding the things I was about to do. This was our schedule.
Day 1: Oobleck
Oobleck is the simple cornstarch and water solution we’ve all played with at one time or another. What you probably didn’t know was that oobleck is a non-newtonian fluid. What? Yeah. It can be poured like a liquid but will maintain its shape like a solid. Ketchup and glue are pretty straightforward examples of this. More interesting is that the name “oobleck” is a Dr. Suess reference from Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. In the story, greenish glop fell from the sky and caused some major problems for the kingdom at hand.
I’ve been asked several times for the recipe and frankly, we didn’t use one. We used trial and error and by my 3rd class, the oobleck was just right. I did find this: ttp://www.instructables.com/id/Oobleck/ so I’m hoping you’ll try it and let me know how it goes.
With that said, our biggest obstacle was not having enough oobleck. We used 8 boxes of cornstarch! These kids as well as their teenaged counterparts could have spent hours with the stuff. Next time, we will have at least 2 tubs full.
Day 2: Magnets
I bought the largest pickle jars I could find and emptied them of their contents. Their labels were removed and both jars were washed out with soapy water. If I had planned ahead, I would have run these babies through the dishwasher to nix the pickle smell but we all know that’s not just not my style.
1 pack of 100 count multi colored pipe cleaners had been cut into 1″ bits and was divided among the jars. We used long handed magnets, 2 per jar and let the kids play. They were amazed by how many pipe cleaners their “wands” could hold and that the wands also worked through the glass jars. Some even found that by flipping the wands, they could repel one another, allowing me to delve into the laws of attraction.
These jars, despite my best efforts were played with for 3 days without complaint.
Day 3: Balloon Rockets
On paper, I was going to run 3 strings across the room. Each string would be run through a straw with a deflated balloon taped below it. (tape over straw holding balloon) We would take turns inflating the balloons and send them down the lines. What actually happened: I couldn’t puncture the walls to secure the lines. I decided to bring a bike pump, inflate the balloons and let the kids release them over head. The challenge was keeping up with demand and keeping the children from blowing them up themselves out of frustration.
These balloons had to be reused and began to collect saliva. It was a germaphobe’s worst nightmare and the balloons suffered for it. Their mouth pieces began to stick together internally and the weight of the saliva caused flight defects. Despite our problems, the kids had a blast.
If I had to do it again, I would use 2 plug-in tire inflaters to blow up the balloons. Additionally, there each child will be give a balloon with his or her name written on its side with permanent marker.
Day 4: Rain cloud in a Jar
I began my lesson with a quick discussion about the water cycle. While most of the children knew that it rained when the clouds got heavy, few had witnessed that part of the process in action.
Two clear plastic cups were placed on each table. The cups were then filled 2/3rds of the way with water. We used Barbasol Original shave foam to give each cup a cloud. Don’t be stingy with it! You want a pretty cloud don’t you? In a separate cup, we mixed blue food dye with water. Your colored water needs to be dark enough to be clearly visible as rain. We sprinkled each “cloud” with 2-3 spoonfuls of the mixture and moments later, it began to rain.
Why does this work? Like the clouds in the sky, the shaving cream cloud got too heavy to hold the colored water and so it slowly filtered through as rain. This was a real crowd pleaser and the jars kept on raining as the kids completed their crafts.
We used a bubble machine as well as the magnet jars to eat up the remaining time. All in all, it was a good day.
Day 5: Colors out of Darkness
This lesson came as an abstract take on Psalm 119:105- “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Pause. Yes, I just put scripture on this blog; I was teaching science at VBS. Bare with me friends.
I explained that when I heard this verse, I imagined standing in a dark room and finding that one light. You know, the one light that helps you find the light switch to turn the lights back on? They giggled. I went on to say that in darkness there is (God’s) light and I intended to prove it.
Each child was given a folded paper towel. A coffee filter would work too. The paper towels had one black line drawn 1″ away from the bottom. You have to use washable marker or this experiment will not work. In front of each child, was a small clear plastic cup filled half way with water.
I asked the children what color the mark was on their paper towels. “Black.” They yelled. “That’s right!” I assured them. “Do you see any other colors on the paper towel besides black?” I asked. “No!” They responded.
I asked the children to dip their napkins into the water just far enough to dunk the black line. Then, I had them slowly pull the paper towel back up. What they found was astonishing. “I see purple!” “I see green!” “I see blue!” They squealed. “What are those colors doing in there?!” I asked. Clearly, they were impressed. We collected the wet napkins and let the kids paint before the next activity.
… and cloud dough
In the back of the classroom, I had set out a bin of cloud dough. Cloud dough is a 8:1 ratio of flour and oil. I used simple all purpose flour and corn oil except on a much grander scale. We used 15 lbs of flour and 48 ounces of corn oil exactly. The oil was added slowly to ensure a thorough mix. A few handfuls of craft gems were added as buried treasure.
If you’d never played with cloud dough, it’s exactly what sand should be. It’s very smooth, super mold-able and fairly clean.
While this wasn’t technically a science project, it did make me realize the importance of sensory bins I keep reading about on Pinterest. My teenage helpers built a cloud dough snow man. The adults buried their hands and made it rain cloud dough on to the little hands below. The little ones were thrilled with their new found treasure.
This activity was extremely popular and a must do for next year.[xt_divider]You may notice I have no pictures in this post. In order protect the children and the church I serve, I cannot share the pictures I took this week at VBS. Kylie, Logan and I plan to continue our experiments at home this summer and I will add our personal pictures as they become available. Until then, I encourage you to share these simple activities with your little ones and let me know how it goes!