Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Small Change = Great New Discoveries

I'm almost certain we are all familiar with what I call "rainbow volcano".  It's where you fill a good sized container with a mountain of baking soda, then add bowls of colored vinegar, and for me, pipettes (from  Then you step back and let the children squeeze the color vinegar onto the mountain of baking soda all while observing colorful fizzing eruptions all over the place.

It is a beautiful, entriguing activity that the children in my program absolutely love, and can't seem to get enough of it!

Out of necessity while presenting at a conference during a blizzard in Grand Island, NE, I had to improvise in order to fill in for a speaker that was unable to attend. 

When one has no pipettes, colored straws can play the part as the tool that would carry the colored vinegar to the baking soda.

While playing and exploring, the awesome early childhood professionals in Grand Island discovered something totally awesome.  I then discovered that this something totally awesome becomes OVER THE TOP AMAZINGLY AWESOME when:
1) you use clear straws instead of colored ones and
2) you hand the ownership of discovery over to young children.

So then, what is this something over the top amazingly awesome discovery? 

Take a look:

This is simply a container of baking soda (the baking soda needs to be at least 1 1/2 inches deep), colored vinegar (colored with liquid water color from and clear straws I found at Walmart.
Use the straw to capture the vinegar, then stick the straw (with the vinegar still inside) firmly into
the baking soda, then let go of the straw and wait for the reaction to happen!  EXCITING!!!

It is SO fun to watch the force of the baking soda/vinegar reaction climb up and out the top of the straw!

In the photo below, we see Bergen focusing very hard on capturing the colored vinegar in her straw.  This was so challenging for her.  BUT...she did NOT give up!  She was motivated to succeed.  She tried again and again.  The other children were HELPING her by offering suggestions on how they successfully captured the vinegar.

See the learning?!  Life-long skills of persistance, problem solving, learning through trial and error and helping others are all being fine tuned.  This is much more then "just" the science of reaction.

When you change one thing, a lot of learning can take place.  Look at the learning the simple change from pipettes to straws inspired:

1)  The children needed to organize their muscles in a completely different way.  The process of capturing vinegar with pipettes requires squeezing, then unsqueezing to capture the vinegar.  Straws require no squeezing, and you need to cover the top of the straw in order to capture the vinegar.
2)  The results are completely different...and completely exciting.
3)   Trying something different is hard, and requires stick-to-itiveness (aka: determination and persistance).
4)  Succeeding at something new is great for our sense of pride.

When all the vinegar is gone..and the fizzing has all fizzed away, dump the excess vinegar that is on the
top, and you will reveal a colorful slimy new adventure!
Think of activities that your children enjoy.  The ones that get requested again, and again and again.  Make one small change, and see what happens!  Change the tool used, change one ingredient.  Change SOMETHING...then step back, have the camera ready, and document what happens!  Be prepared to dissect the fun of discovery to see the learning that's "IN THERE!"

And once again I say:  "PLAY COUNTS!"

Hungry for more? Here's some of my personal favorite blog entries:
Inspire Imaginations with Curiosity....part 1 (make sure to follow the link on the blog to part 2!!)
Check out the list of "popular posts" on the right side of your screen for more favs!