Monday, August 13, 2012

Volcanoes, Geysers and Ice tunnels!

    I decided this morning that school is starting which mean no more screens until dinnertime (unless it's something educational I decide to let them watch).  The boys were pretty upset at first and Evan declared he wasn't going to do anything all day.   Ian wanted to go outside and play in the sand with his trucks.  He's made an entire rock quarry in our back yard this weekend complete with house and garage, it's really quite inventive.  He enjoys digging and making things in the sand and while I love watching him create, today I told Ian if he wanted free play time he needed to make sure to do some reading, math and some other subject of his choice every day.  
       He wanted to start with science and just looked at me.  I told him to think of an experiment or something he'd like to learn about and he choose volcanoes.  I handed him a book I had that had a page all about volcanoes.  I told him to read it, then read the "how to make a volcano" page, gather his materials and try his own science experiment.  I'll help but I don't want to always be the one planning everything.  There is something to be learned in every failed science experiment attempt and if he's motivated enough he'll keep trying until it works the right way (though luckily this experiment was a huge success!).    I want my kids to be independent learners and enjoy learning just for the sake of learning.    I let him conduct this experiment and his brothers watched eagerly.  As the volcano died down the boys immediately began questioning what would happen if they added more baking soda so I told them to try it and the volcano erupted again!  They were thrilled.  Then Ian wondered what would happen if we added even more baking soda to the volcano as it was erupting and it continued to erupt.  They were all smiling, laughing and squealing.  We talked about lava volcanoes and ash volcanoes.  They already knew volcanoes can form new land masses like Hawaii.  I explained that this was a branch of science called Earth science.  They remembered a volcano movie we saw at the Dinosaur State park with Bill Nye the science guy and we talked about that some too.  It was a great scientific discussion.

      We cleaned up and headed to the grocery store.  The kids and I discussed how we're going to organize our days and our learning.  I think we've come up with a pretty good solution.  We're going to do a bit of math and reading everyday and then focus on one subject in- depth each day; science, world history, us history, art/music, etc. and just keep rotating.  I think we'll get to cover a lot that way and really immerse ourselves in what we're learning about without worrying about the time it's taking.  They each read a book on the way home from the grocery store and Alec and Ian sat down to do their math books while I put groceries away.  Math is the one subject I bought a curriculum for; teachers manual and workbooks for grades 2 and 3 by McRuffy.  I wasn't sure how it was going to work with them each learning something different but this is the one subject where Ian is definitely ahead of Alec.  I needn't have worried.  After reading the instructions for each of them they finished in a flash and told me "it was easy peasy!"  It was too.  In fact I was worried it was too easy but for now they love feeling confident and I think tomorrow when I say math they won't groan because they'll remember it was so simple.  
        We bought supplies to make a geyser (Mentos and diet soda) at the grocery store.  For directions click here.  We decided to try our geyser at the end of the dock and wow, you really do have to move fast!  Alec wanted to be in charge of the geyser since Ian did the volcano this morning but he kept dropping the mentos into the lake so I tried to help him and by the time the 5th mento hit the bottle it was bursting; unfortunately we hadn't yet moved out of the way and my camera was nearby so I could take pictures.... there just wasn't enough time and now my camera, while still working, is a bit sticky! But they loved it and it was pretty neat to see.  This led to a discussion about the difference between volcanoes and geysers.   I was surprised to find out that they already knew volcanoes shot out lava and ash while geysers shoot out hot water.  Ian also remembered seeing a geyser outside our hotel at Disney (4 years ago!).   I love when they can tie what we're learning and discussing to something tangible in real life that we've seen or done. 
      We had one last science/ art project on hand we wanted to try today.  We made Ice Tunnels! (this link includes a printable lesson plan).  We had frozen some water balloons a week ago so we pulled them out of the freezer and pulled off the balloons.  They boys noticed that the balloons had cracked and when I asked if they knew why they were able to tell me because it gets bigger when it freezes and there wasn't enough room for the ice inside the balloon.  So I repeated back to them "you're right liquid expands when it freezes into a solid!"  They had a blast using droppers to drop colored salt water onto the frozen balloons and within minutes they had colorful ice tunnels forming.  They worked on this project for almost an hour.  By that time the ice had pretty much melted completely even though we worked in the shade the whole time.  We talked about how salt lowers the freezing point of water like when we made sandwich bag ice cream and the outer baggie was just to cold to hold.  By this time it was afternoon and they were free to go swimming or use play- doh out on the picnic table; anything outside in the fresh air was just fine by me. 

using our droppers to make tunnels 

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