Saturday, May 19, 2012

Turn Bubble Time, into Science Time

Once upon a time I "consulted" for the Kindergarten teachers at the school where I was teaching middle school because none of them felt confident with their science knowledge.  So, once a month I did a lesson in the kindergarten.  In September, we blew bubbles to learn about the scientific method, and then again in April or May, we blew bubbles to learn about geometric shapes.

For scientific method, variations to the bubble blower were the key.  We asked, "what is required in a bubble blower to make good bubbles?  We always did three sessions.  In the first session, we studied "bubble blowers" I brought in and discussed which properties they all shared and I demonstrated each blower's bubble blowing abilities.  I had different sizes, shapes, and even things like coat hangers and circles of ribbon tied to a stick.  This was our "research" session.  

For the next class, kids brought in something from home they hypothesized would be a bubble blowing breakthrough.  Kids brought in spatulas, the little tools with which you dip eggs at Easter, one kid even brought in a toilet brush (which his mom reassured me was new and unused) "because bubble wands have those fringes on them" he said.  They had to share their individual hypotheses with the class about, "what made a good bubble blower, good". 

After this first portion, They were broken into four smaller groups and each group was given a giant sheet of paper on which, The teacher's assistant, principle and myself drew pictures representing each of the bubble blowers the kids brought in (we did this as they arrived at school with their blowers).  There were already grid lines drawn ahead of time so it would become a table for recording.  From left to right the columns said,  "blows bubbles",  "blows a bubble or two", "sometimes makes bubbles with difficulty", and "doesn't make bubbles".  The group had to make a hypothesis about each blower by checking the box they thought would be most fitting for each of their blowers.  Then, with a differently colored crayon, they ran their "tests" and marked the results.  All during this, the four of us adults monitored group discussions, used scientific vocabulary as it relates to the scientific method over and over again, celebrated successes with appearances of bubbles and generally had fun being teachers and watching the kids learn while having fun. 

At the end of the session (about 90 minutes total) we spent about twenty minutes discussing our results, drawing conclusions and summarizing the day's activity with an interactive lecture/discussion method.  I always made sure to review the steps of the scientific method we had taken and associated those steps with the actual actions that matched each step.

For the last five minutes or so, I asked the kids if they had any new questions about bubbles that had come up because of their experiment.  The third session was always about one of the questions that arose during the previous session.  Size often came up and was an easy one to experiment with.  I had four sizes of circle bubble blowers, the one shown in the picture here is the smallest.  I always made sure the kids had a table to input their information into.  This introduces them to tables, instills the importance of being in the habit of recording results, and is simple for them to do.  They just mark an x in the "right spot".

At the end of the year, the kindergartners were always excited to hear they would be blowing bubbles with me again.  This time the lesson was about shape and took place after their teacher had introduced the group to three dimensional shapes.  If a circle bubble blower makes a sphere will a triangle make a pyramid?  Will a square make a cube?  You get the idea.

This bubble blowing switch blower, is from the Think Box company and was just something I've picked up in the last few years as part of a kit for something else, but it really isn't required.  I used to use bent coat hangers and they worked just fine (in fact, better than the diamond or heart on this little tool have ever worked).  You only need to be sure the join at the end of the wire is close or tight and flush or flat back to itself.  The switch blower is just easier to store and then carry to different locations with me.

Of course I have the kids track their testing on a chart, (one of which is pictured below) and eventually, they always conclude that the shape of the blower doesn't matter, you will always get a sphere, if the blower works to make bubbles in the first place.

The very last step in the Scientific Method is to communicate your findings.  Unfortunately, this step is often forgotten in science lesson plans that get published or are regularly used in schools.  Without publishing, or sharing findings though, the conclusion a scientist draws can never be replicated by peers and advancements cannot take place.  For kindergartners, communicating their findings meant telling their parents about it, making posters for the walls in the school, or drawing a picture that represented what it was they had done.

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