Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Wind at Work, Paper Airplanes, and Remote Controlled Helicopters

Guess who's 46" tall, plays with toy ponies all day, and will be walking the runway in the 2013 Trashion/Refashion Show?

It's Sydney!!!

Syd is super-stoked, already working on her runway routine, and will absolutely throw a fit when I tell her that I will NOT permit her to wear the clear acrylic stripper heels that I wouldn't let her wear last year, either. I tell you, what's wrong with a nice pair of cherry red Converse high tops?

The down-side of the big news is that one of the dress rehearsals overlaps our homeschool Science Fair, so Syd chose to withdraw her entry, and Matt and I will be playing man-on-man this month--him at the Science Fair with Willow, me at the fashion show dress rehearsal with Sydney.

It turns out, though, that Willow is REALLY interested in her topic, flight, and without another kid's project to focus on, we've been able to double-down on a pretty epic unit study with her. Wind and air temperature, as you may know, are integral to flight, so along with paper airplanes, the remote-controlled helicopter, lots of science encyclopedias, and attempting to figure out what on earth to use to sculpt a kid-sized set of wings,  Willow and I have been working through some applicable experiments in our copy of The Wind at Work, given to Will by the publisher. 

The first experiment in the book is great science on a lot of levels, and Willow picked up a surprising number of new skills doing it. The experiment basically asks you to compare the temperatures of three different elements several times a day over a period of days. This required Willow to learn how to create a chart to record these temperatures--

--to think through how to set up an experiment properly--

--to be responsible for collecting data at specific times, no matter the weather--

--to learn how to read thermometers--

--to record information in a consistent manner (with legible handwriting!)--

--to read that chart for its information--

--and to create a line graph, using a ruler and different colored pencils to record the information on it:

Surprisingly, this last task was the one that Willow balked at. I don't know--perhaps the amount of information to record looked daunting, or she didn't quite understand the purpose of copying it in a different way, or the temperatures all looked similar enough that she didn't see the value in the extra work?

After I persuaded her to actually begin, however, she was immersed in the graph-building almost immediately, and when she finished, it was clear that the line graph presented the temperatures in a much more readable manner, with patterns and trends easily evident: 

And then Willow, who is at heart a reader, couldn't get enough of it. She noticed where temperatures dropped and where they rose, she noticed what elements held a steadier temperature and what elements frequently fluctuated, what element stayed closer to air temperature and what element held the previous day's warmth.

This particular experiment is a build-up to studying global wind patterns, but it also makes just a really cool stand-alone experiment. I've already promised Willow that we can repeat it again in the summer (as opposed to the snow, sigh), and that we can add more elements to compare--gravel, I believe she suggested, and our compost heap, which will lead to an entirely new series of science inquiries, I'm guessing.

As I told Willow, this is real science that she's doing, the stuff of real scientists. "Probably nobody but you," I said, "compared the temperatures of different elements on these exact days in our exact town this week. If anybody ever wants to know that specific information, they're going to have to ask you."

At that, my scientist beamed.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Yeah Syd! So excited for you guys and can't wait to see the video.

Your young scientist sounds like she had a good time. Good job on Willow for sticking with it!