Monday, February 22, 2010

Science Fair: Observations of Ingredients--Non-Newtonian Fluids

I've been inspired by the Science Fair over at Ordinary Life Magic to put a little more science into the lives of my babies. The fact that it was difficult for me to come up with scientific concepts that the girls might have fun playing with tells me that we need to do this a LOT more often.

Remembering that mostly, however, the girls just like to play with stuff and get messy, this morning I set up a little project for them on the observation of primarily non-Newtonian fluids--i.e., I let them play with ketchup.

To do this project with two kids of about the same skill level, I put four similar substances, each on its own large, roomy plate, on the table. I wanted the girls to experiment with the viscosity of various non-Newtonian fluids (in preparation for making oobleck later), so I set out molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, and olive oil--the olive oil is a Newtonian fluid, so it's serving as the control, and also the yogurt and honey that I buy are too expensive for me to want to let the girls piddle around in them: I had each girl wet a dishtowel and put it next to her for wiping her hands on, and then I set each up on her own chair at the table, with two plates in front of her. I labeled a notecard for each girl for each substance, and I encouraged them to make observations, which I noted for them on the card.

I encouraged them to taste each fluid, which was a big hit with some substances-- --but not others.

I encouraged the girls to smell each substance, but I ended up not recording any observations about this since, alas, my poor babies have head colds and thus assured me that each substance smelled "like nothing, Momma."

I encouraged the girls to touch each substance, and recorded all their observations of sticky or slippery or smooth or yucky----but I really wanted them to make some subtle observations about each fluid's viscosity and its response to pressure, so I encouraged them to draw a picture in each substance and then tell me what happened. Both girls noticed that you couldn't draw a picture at all with the olive oil, that you could draw a picture with the maple syrup but it would "erase" right away, that a picture drawn with molasses would stay for a while and erase more slowly, and that a picture drawn in ketchup would stay forever: When each girl had finished her observations about the two substances in front of her, they switched chairs and observed the other girl's two substances.

The girls could have played with their non-Newtonian fluids all day (and licked maple syrup and ketchup off of their fingers ALL day), but after everything started looking well-licked and a little grody, I sent them off to wash their hands and faces REALLY well, and when they came back I set them to work drawing a picture of each substance on the front of its notecard.

Will's pictures were fairly true to life:
Sydney's pictures were HIGHLY interpretive:
The girls LOVED this project. They've already asked to do it again, and so tomorrow I'm thinking salt, and nutritional yeast, and brown sugar, and perhaps some weird spice that I'm ready to get rid of?


Stephanie said...

Great fun! Maddie loves experiments like that. Especially if they're in chemlab tubes and bottles. :)

Anonymous said...

That is great! I still have a little book of experiments from when I was really young. I did every experiment in that book and I don't think I could ever part with it. I'll send you the title if you want.

cake said...

yogurt is too expensive, but maple syrup is not???? that stuff is like liquid gold!!

looks like a lot of fun though. cosmo really enjoys doing "taste tests" that are set up like that, with a chart and all. lately we have been trying different cheeses, with little toothpick flags as labels.

julie said...

I'd LOVE the title!

Well...I go through $50 of maple syrup as a baking sweetener maybe every eight months? I go through $50 of Trader's Point Creamery low-fat vanilla yogurt every--oh, dear--NOT eight months. I'm flirting with going vegan, and one of the major benefits is that there aren't any gourmet, local, CRAZY-expensive soy yogurts on the local market.

Anonymous said...

I finally remembered to get the title of that book for you! It is called _My First Science Book_ by Angela Wilkes. It was published in 1990. I checked on the age range, which is K-3rd grade. Oh, and they have it at the library! Three copies, in fact. I hope you'll check it out. :)

Anonymous said...

P.S. If you do decided to check out that book, I thought I'd let you know that I loved the Bottle Volcano experiment especially well when I was a tot. (But they're all good!)

Tina said...

Thanks for the great links in this post! My daughter turns 5 this year and though we have been unschooling all along, I feel like now is a good time to start "teaching" her more by leaving more interesting things around the house.


Debbie's World of Books said...

What a good idea! I'm going to have to try this with my daughter. She's only 4 so a lot of the other science stuff is a little old for her and I've been running out of ideas. -The Non-Creative Mom :)