Tag Archives: playground

Ice and other Investigations of the Properties of Basic Materials in Nature

This year we have been even quite intentional across the whole school as we encourage on-going investigations of the properties of basic materials like sand, mud, water and ice, and to encourage children to think about changes in these and other materials over time. We’ve also been thinking about ways to make connections between our investigations indoors and outdoors.

We decided to set up an area specifically for mud play outdoors. This is very basic – two big containers with garden soil are near the sandbox along with a work surface and a variety of buckets, scoops, pans and other tools. If it’s been dry, we bring water over to the space as well – otherwise we encourage children to notice the changing texture of the soil as the weather changes.

Indoors we’ve made a point of using both kinetic (moldable) and fine sand in a variety of ways along with our classroom water tables. We’ve thought together about what we need to be able to mold sand, and children have enjoyed using a variety of tools to create shapes, sand castles and more. They have been interested in cutting kinetic sand into pieces, and have made the connection between all these materials and the natural clay we’ve introduced for art projects.

When the weather first got cold, children were excited to find ice outdoors, and there were many investigations of ice and hard sand and mud. How can we break the ice? How can we get things out of the ice? What makes ice melt? Why is the sand hard to dig hole in when the weather is cold? Each day children have been checking for signs of ice or water. Some children have been quite convinced that it is the light of the sun that makes the water. Others associate melting with warmer weather and think about how the sun brings light but also warmth. Many were unsure about where the water came from on days the ice was gone, and one child said “The sun came and made all the ice go away up into the clouds! I don’t know where the water came from.”

On another very cold day children excited to discover that in a bucket of ice, they could seeing mud and water moving under the ice! How could that happen? Why is it that when we try to reach the water we only feel the hard cold ice?

One day a small bucket was frozen inside of a bigger bucket. Children pulled and pulled until one child pulled it out, and found he had a circular piece of ice with a hole n it where the bucket had been!

Indoors there have been many ways we have investigated ice. We froze a variety of plastic animals into containers of ice and children worked to “free” the animals, concerned for their ability to get pretend food and care for their babies. We used shape molds to create 3 dimensional shapes of ice at our light tables, noticing how long it took before water was on the table too, and noticing which shapes could spin or slide best as they melted. We added liquid watercolors to the molds so that we could better see ice crystals form and other textural changes in the shapes as the ice melted, and enjoy he resulting “rainbow puddles” that formed as the ice melted. We froze paint in ice cube trays so that we could paint with ice as it melted.

Outdoors, we’ve been investigating plants, including a pumpkin, over time and children have been fascinated watching the changes in texture as time passed and as the weather changed. Our pumpkin went from a hard shell, to a soft, flat one, to a frozen disc that was softer or harder depending on the weather. We are still watching as it breaks into smaller pieces.

We’ve encouraged children to share their theories about what they are observing, and this led to small group discussions when children devised some experiments to check their theories. In one class, where some children have been convinced that it is light not warmth that leads to melting, children suggested 2 different experiments which we tried:

– Take 2 shapes, and pour warm water on one and cold water on the other. Would using warm water melt more of the ice than using cold?

– If we left our light table on all day (instead of turning off the light when no one was using it as is our habit) would the ice melt faster from the light?

All this science requires is access to some very basic materials indoors and out, time to observe, a willingness for adults to listen and then encourage further questions, and enthusiastic investigation!

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Summer Science and Arts

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to think about summer programs!

This year’s program runs from June 9th through July 17th, Monday – Thursdays.  Children can come either two days or four, and bring a lunch (peanut free please!).  The program is conducted almost completely outdoors, except when it rains.  And the beautiful expansive playground is a cool and breezy place to play even on quite hot days.

The program features an integrated arts curriculum with a focus on the natural sciences, art, music, and creative movement – with lots of time for story-telling, drama and puppetry, too. There are small groups every day, along with time for snack, free play activities, and outdoor play and exploration. The groups are organized with each child’s experience, development, and individual styles and preferences in mind.

Here are some photos from last year’s program.

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