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Chemistry

Learning Experiences

From the classroom of Marcia, Janyce, and Sandra at Palm Beach State College Center for Early Learning

We worked with Alka-Seltzer, water and camera canisters to create a chemical reaction.

We filled the canister half way with water, then we added half of the Alka-Seltzer to the canister and quickly closed the lid.

Children predicted what would happen and watched from a safe distance.

Sometimes the lid would pop off. Other times the lid would pop half way off and the bubbles would come out of the canister. Some of their reactions were, "It's coming out!" or, "It's bubbling out!" and, "It's bubbles!"

After the large group introduction to the chemical reaction, some children decided to work in other areas. So we moved the science experiment to a smaller table.  Children were free to experiment on their own with the canisters and water.  (see eyedroppers and test tubes)

The teacher would show the children the different sizes of the Alka-Seltzer and ask, “Do you want a whole one or half of one?”It is impossible to underestimate how important it is to use the language of math with young children in organic, naturally occurring ways. This establishes connections in the brain and develops understanding of foundational concepts they will build on in the future.

Then the children would put the Alka-Seltzer in the canister add the water and watch for the chemical reaction.

As almost always happens with preschool scientists, while experimenting, some children made some exciting discoveries.

Budding scientists discover that Chemistry is thrilling!

Brody decided to cover the canister with his cup and watched closely to see what would happen next. The conversation went like this:

Brody: It jumped!
Ms. Marcia: What jumped?
Brody: The cup, it jumped up.
Ms. Marcia: Carbon dioxide gas makes the cup move.
Brody: Cabin Diod?
Ms. Marcia: Yes, carbon dioxide, that's what makes the bubbles.

It’s exciting when children create their own scientific investigations, develop research questions (like, “I wonder what would happen if I tried to trap the gas under a cup”), develop an experiment to discover the answer to their question, and then report the results – “It jumped!"

Look at that concentration, focus, fascination, and joy!  That’s the development of a love of science.

These experiences will build a strong foundation for Brody’s future, even if he decides that he wants to pursue a career outside of science.

Even after all the bubbles fizzled, children remained fascinated and created new ways to investigate more. They extended the experiment to pouring the “bubbly water” from one cup to the other cup.

Guest Contributors

Marcia RyanMarcia Ryan
I have worked with young children for over 20 years. I have earned my Associates in Early Childhood Education and I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management. This is my first year at the Center of Early Learning at Palm Beach State College. The C.E.L. provides a low teacher to student ratio which makes it possible for children’s interest to be explored until they direct us into another direction. I enjoy creating S.T.E.A.M. activities using children’s interest as well as taking their pictures while undertaking the activities.

 

Janyce GonzalezJanyce Gonzalez
I have been teaching for over 17 years! I have been at PBSC for 10 years. Science was not my area of expertise and/or interest, until I was expose to STEAM about 3 years ago with Kat Lai and the PNC Grow Up Great STEAM program. It was then, that my interest for science was peaked and it has just flourished from there. With the support and encouragement from my co-teachers, we have been able to expose children to new vocabulary words, such as chemistry, chemical reaction, and engineering. We have also been able to show children were things come from, by  recently starting a garden, (planting a pumpkin)and teaching the understanding of time--for there is a beginning, middle and end.

What I enjoy the most in the classroom, is the children’s willingness to try something new! They have no fear yet.  They ooze curiosity! That's what makes teaching the best for me.

 

Ms. SandraMs. Sandra
I have been in the teaching profession for over 40 years...If it wasn't for the STEAM pilot program with the support of Palm Beach State College, I really do not know HOW I would have been able to teach children science or math.  I was able to be successful for two reasons: 1) I am fortunate to have a director that supports my passion. 2) Through the PNC Grow Up Great trainings, we were given amazing extension materials to bring back to the Center for Early Learning, to help encourage and foster what we have learned.

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." – Mark Van Doren

STEAM learning opportunities that encourage children to think and discover do not need to be complicated or expensive. They need only be facilitated by skilled teachers who ask questions that stimulate thinking.

Try offering children safe, non-toxic materials like corn syrup, vegetable oil, water, and liquid watercolors along with dishes and eyedroppers. Then, allow the children to investigate, develop their own experiments, and make their own discoveries.

  • Be sure to ask children questions like:
  • “What are you noticing about what happens when you mix those together?”
  • “What do you think will happen if you add some red?”
  • “What are some things that are the same about the corn syrup and the oil?
  • What are some things that are different?”
  • “How could you find out more about that?”

 

Learning opportunities like this are open-ended. The teacher does not expect the children to learn only one thing, or to do something in a particular way. Instead, these experiences allow children to become interested in different things and investigate what makes them curious. Children will learn the important scientific skill of developing experiments to find answers to their questions. They will learn to think and discover. Most importantly, they will learn to love STEAM and believe in their skills as learners.

From the classroom of: Janyce, Marcia and Sandra at Palm Beach State College Center for Early Learning

So often (especially these days with all the zillions of blogs and websites, Pinterest, Facebook, Insta-gram and all the others I don’t know about because I’m old), we see cool pictures of things to do in our classrooms.

They look great! They’re so beautiful, so colorful, so STEAMy!...But so often, they are demonstrations that we show to the kids.

You get 6 or 8 or 10 or 20 kids sitting calmly (ha!) in a circle. Then you show them something cool. You mix some stuff together and they watch what happens. They love it! You talk about it and explain to them what’s happening and the science behind it. Science box checked off the lesson plan! Sweet!

It’s not a bad thing (necessarily) and sometimes, it’s the safest way.

But, as Ben Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

I like this analogy – children can love going to the ballet. They will remember it and it can greatly bene-fit them…

But they’re not going to learn to dance until they do the dancing.

Dancing so hard, so fast, we're blurry!

But they’re not going to learn to dance until they do the dancing.

When children manipulate variables themselves, when they ask themselves questions like, “What happens when I…” or, “What if I do this a different way?” and then investigate to discover the answers to their own questions, that’s when they are truly being scientists. That is when they will really learn.

Effectively, they design their own experiment, run the experiment, and observe the results. Science in action.

That’s why teachers like Ms. Marcia, Ms. Janyce, and Ms. Sandra provide children with materials to explore like Bath Dropz.

Here, as Ms. Marcia says, “Children moved the blue water and red water from the cup to the test tubes using eyedroppers. They mixed red and blue in the test tubes and commented, ‘It's purple!’ as they noticed the colors changing in the tubes.

 

Some children decided to fill the test tubes faster by pouring the cup of colored water instead of using the eyedroppers.”

In other words, they experimented and they discovered. They used logic and reasoning and drew on their past experiences. It may seem simple to adults, but that’s complex thinking and reasoning for a 3-year-old. The freedom to explore like that empowers them for future scien-tific experiments and discoveries.

By the end of the experiment, children added more colors to the test tubes and discovered various colors (and concentrated more on using the eyedropper and less on pouring the cup into the test tubes).

Learning certainly can occur through demonstrations, where the teacher shows the children some-thing cool and exciting, but if you want your children to engage with science, to really learn both how to be a scientist and to discover and learn about scientific concepts, let go of the control, throw a towel down to clean up the mess, and let them investigate and explore.

When you see those “great” STEAM demonstration activities on Pinterest (or wherever prepackaged demonstrations are “sold”), ask yourself, “How can this be an opportunity for them to design experiments and make discoveries instead of me showing them?” It’s much more valuable.

From the Classroom of:

Marcia RyanMarcia Ryan
I have worked with young children for over 20 years. I have earned my Associates in Early Childhood Education and I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management. This is my first year at the Center of Early Learning at Palm Beach State College. The C.E.L. provides a low teacher to student ratio which makes it possible for children’s interest to be explored until they direct us into another direction. I enjoy creating S.T.E.A.M. activities using children’s interest as well as taking their pictures while undertaking the activities.

 

Janyce GonzalezJanyce Gonzalez
I have been teaching for over 17 years! I have been at PBSC for 10 years. Science was not my area of expertise and/or interest, until I was expose to STEAM about 3 years ago with Kat Lai and the PNC Grow Up Great STEAM program. It was then, that my interest for science was peaked and it has just flourished from there. With the support and encouragement from my co-teachers, we have been able to expose children to new vocabulary words, such as chemistry, chemical reaction, and engineering. We have also been able to show children were things come from, by  recently starting a garden, (planting a pumpkin)and teaching the understanding of time--for there is a beginning, middle and end.

What I enjoy the most in the classroom, is the children’s willingness to try something new! They have no fear yet.  They ooze curiosity! That's what makes teaching the best for me.

 

Ms. SandraMs. Sandra
I have been in the teaching profession for over 40 years...If it wasn't for the STEAM pilot program with the support of Palm Beach State College, I really do not know HOW I would have been able to teach children science or math.  I was able to be successful for two reasons: 1) I am fortunate to have a director that supports my passion. 2) Through the PNC Grow Up Great trainings, we were given amazing extension materials to bring back to the Center for Early Learning, to help encourage and foster what we have learned.

Catherine Stefano and Janyce Gonzalez

“Exploding Milk” is a high-interest learning opportunity! It was a wonderful way to help children exercise their thinking skills to guess and observe. We intentionally asked several open-ended questions to help the children practice predicting and noticing changes.

My own curiosity and interest impacted the children’s excitement. There was a great anticipation of the unknown. No matter how many times over the years I have done this activity, it still excites me. You never know exactly what you will see; the change of colors, light to dark, the swirling effect, it changes every time.

Materials

  • Milk
  • Tray or other large container
  • Food coloring

The children were curious about what the materials were for. Our goal was to have the children prac-tice guessing and predicting, so we asked several questions:

  • “What do you think we’re going to do with these materials?”
  • “Are we having a food experiment?”
  • “I think it’s going to turn green.”
  • “Are we going to make a picture?”

I told them we were going to do a science experiment on exploding milk. There was great anticipation of how that would happen! It was also important to assess what they thought exploding milk was, so we asked them. The children offered several theories about “exploding milk.” I was amazed how many children knew the definition of the word “exploding.” Some of the comments were:

  • “I think it’s going to go up in the air.”
  • “It means fire’s going to come out!”
  • “It makes me think it’s going to explode.”
  • “I think it’s going to turn gold.”

We wanted the children to think about and guess what might happen to the other ingredients when soap was added. So we asked them, “What do you think is going to happen after the soap is added?”

  • “I think it’s going to turn gold.”
  • “I think it’s going to get all soapy.”
  • “I think it’s going to change a bunch of colors.”

After watching the chemical reactions, children made their own observations. Even after one child saw that the milk did not turn gold, she offered again, “It’s going to turn gold.” So I asked, “What else do you think we can do to make it gold?” Asking follow-up questions is a great way to help children extend their thinking. The children continued observing the chemical reaction taking place.

“Look, Miss Janyce! It’s swirling like a swirly pool!”

“It looks like a ka-leidoscope!”

“So many colors!”

We asked a question to help the children experience the concept of time:

“What do you think will happen five minutes from now?”

  • “I think it’s going to turn into a flower. What do you think?”
  • “I think it’s going to turn into a big fish.”
  • “I think it’s going to turn gold.”

Some of the answers the children gave may have seemed silly, but we ALWAYS value the children’s answers! We accept every guess, and thank them for their contributions, be-cause their thinking matters! Children’s comments represent their effort in thinking. It takes time and practice for them to think about cause and effect, sequence, and to think logically. So we always com-pliment their effort.

We waited five minutes, and then we observed the outcome.

 

 

The children were very curious! They asked:

  • “What happened to the col-ors?”
  • “Why is it not swirly?”
  • “Why is it all pink?”

At this point we introduced the word monochromatic. During a learning opportunity like this, there are several vocabulary words you could introduce about color.

Vocabulary of Color

  • Monochromatic
  • Hue
  • Muddy
  • Primary colors

The investigation continued after we rinsed the tray. One child observed that “it is not soapy.” Then some of the children asked if we could do it again in the afternoon. So I asked, “What else could we use to hold the milk instead of the tray?” One child responded, “Let’s use a bug jar!” This showed great planning.

The children can’t wait to do this experiment again!

The next time we offer this learning opportunity we will have enough materials for each child to expe-rience their own exploding milk. That way the children can use the colors of their choice and make their own observations. Also we would provide an opportunity for the children to record their own data and perhaps we could graph it. In the future, we will have the children create ARTifacts to show what they observed, before, during, and after the reaction.

From the Classroom of:


Catherine StefanoCatherine Stefano

I have been a Pre-school teacher for 25yrs and have been at PBSC Center for Early learning for 16 of them. Whether I am working inside the classroom or outside, I am the teacher that is not afraid of “a mess” or not knowing “the answer”. Participating in the STEAM program with Kat Lai helped give me a deeper understanding of what I was doing with my children and also helped me explore new things that I was once apprehensive about. The most wonderful thing that happens in my day with children, is when you see the expression of pure exhilaration spread over their faces while being allowed to safely discover and explore something new.

 

Janyce GonzalezJanyce Gonzalez
I have been teaching for over 17 years! I have been at PBSC for 10 years. Science was not my area of expertise and/or interest, until I was expose to STEAM about 3 years ago with Kat Lai and the PNC Grow Up Great STEAM program. It was then, that my interest for science was peaked and it has just flourished from there. With the support and encouragement from my co-teachers, we have been able to expose children to new vocabulary words, such as chemistry, chemical reaction, and engineering. We have also been able to show children were things come from, by  recently starting a garden, (planting a pumpkin)and teaching the understanding of time--for there is a beginning, middle and end.

What I enjoy the most in the classroom, is the children’s willingness to try something new! They have no fear yet.  They ooze curiosity! That's what makes teaching the best for me.

 
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