Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Co-op Science Weeks 13, 14, 15

Oops!  I thought I'd get around to writing these up over Christmas break, but I was too busy Christmassing.  And, alas, I seem to not have notes about what we did, which is annoying, because there were some things that were worth passing on to other people trying to lead a co-op class for this age group.

Week 13 was another class on Light, using experiments from a book series which, unfortunately, I don't have written down.  One of those science series that looks so good on the shelf, the photos are so cool and the directions so clear ... and the experiments don't actually work.  Such a fail.  Unfortunately we were doing the experiments on the fly during class since I thought that it would be a good chance for the kids to learn to read about and set up this stuff.  Wow, I didn't expect every. single. one. to fail.

I think this was the week that I lit a candle in a darkened room and we looked at it through 2 popsicle sticks held close together (idea I found online).  We also tried looking at it with our eyes squinted up so we were seeing it though our eyelashes.  Then I handed out refraction glasses I'd gotten cheap online (again, sorry, no memory of the vendor, but I got a box of 15 or 20 for a cheap price and quick delivery off of Amazon.com).   Annabeth took a picture of our Christmas tree by holding a pair of glasses up to the camera.  For the record, our tree has white lights only.

Week 14 was on Sound.  I had tried several cool looking experiments from  the book on Sound from the above series ... again, failure.  Fortunately I figured this out at home, so I came up with some alternatives. I took in a slinky to show the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves; also, we could see the "echo".  

We set up dominoes to show the difference between sound going through a liquid and air (dominoes closer together represent a solid, farther apart represent air -- which group falls faster?).  The dominoes took FOREVER to set up, and about 10 seconds to knock over.  The girls in the group did okay with it, but the boys complained it was boring.  I also gave a brief discussion about how sometimes science IS boring, or at least seems that way -- you have to do all this detailed work to figure stuff out, and it can seem tedious at times.  

We blew across bottles (I had learned last year that plastic water bottles are tough to do this with due to the flimsy plastic, so I had collected both glass bottles and more rigid plastic bottles from sparkling mineral water, and took in a huge assortment).

We stretched plastic over a bowl, put blue sugar sprinkles on top, then made noise to make the sugar sprinkles jump with the vibrations.

And week 15 was the final week before Christmas break.  We had a half day of co-op, and a party starting at noon.  I suspected the kids were going to be a little wound up in our midmorning class, so we did an engineering challenge -- how high can you build a structure using uncooked spaghetti and mini marshmallows?  They worked in groups, usually on some sort of plastic tablecloth to help prevent marshmallow smashing into sticky messes on the table tops.

Wow, they LOVED this activity, and could've worked on it for hours and hours.  And it was so fun to hear their discussions about how to accomplish their building visions.  My biggest regret is that we did this in an upstairs room, so we couldn't easily show off their creations -- we needed to either make them on something that could be transported to the common area where we later held the party, or else have made them in that area in the first place.  For the record, the structures tended to sag over time.  Also, not only did kids want to eat the marshmallows**, they wanted to eat the dry spaghetti.

**"Okay, understand this -- you have a FINITE number of marshmallows.  You do know what 'finite' means, right?"  Oddly, several of them didn't. So we had to define that, then discuss the implication that if they ate a bunch of their group's marshmallows, they would not have as many marshmallows to build with, and thus probably have a smaller tower.

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