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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: October, 2010

Today is the first real rain we’ve seen since moving to Southern California in June. I’ve been missing fall in New England: apples, vibrant trees, pumpkins, the smell of wood burning from chimneys, and the autumn rain. With the feeling of fall in the air, today was the perfect day for an apple project.
After we dropped Henry off at school, Leo and I went over the local family farm. In rain boots and froggy coat, Leo climbed on the hay, looked at pumpkins and helped me choose apples that we could transform into applesauce, ala Sid the Science Kid. I try and cook with the kids regularly so when I saw the Super Fab Lab investigation about applesauce and irreversible change, I was so excited. A fall science activity with a yummy result!
I have never had so much fun making applesauce.
I noticed that by following the investigation from the Sid website, I put aside my usual boundaries in the kitchen, allowing us to explore more fully. Leo was eager to use “grown up” tools for the first time as he helped me peel the apples and I let him use a plastic knife cut them into small pieces. He stood by the stove on a stool to watch the apples heat up. When it was time to mash the heated apples into applesauce he was fascinated. Leo really liked the potato masher. He called the mixture “noodle applesauce” as the apples squished through the masher. When we poured the applesauce into the bowl he said, “It’s like an apple waterfall!”
Throughout the experiment, we talked more than usual. Leo made logical predictions like “The masher will make the apples soft.” He learned new vocabulary when we talked about the seeds. He said the seeds were “nuts” which I thought was clever and interesting. Honestly, I thought the planned activity would feel forced, but it was the opposite. I came out of autopilot/cook and really shared a learning experience with my little scientist. I have heard from teachers about the “high” that comes from watching the light bulbs turn on in their students’ heads as they learn. It is exhilarating. And we laughed a lot.
At one point when we were waiting for the apples to cook I put on my “teacher” voice and said: “Now Leo, when the apples are done on the stove we will be observing, comparing, and contrasting the cooked apples and the uncooked apples. We have to look at them, smell them, and touch them.” Then Leo chimed in and said: “And taste them Mommy!” How could I have forgotten that? Silly mommy.
We had a great time together and our applesauce is delicious. In an everyday activity, I can see how Leo understands the concept of irreversible change. When my kids acquire new vocabulary and learn something that I teach them, I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. It is amazing.
How do you use everyday activities as learning opportunities? Have you every stretched your parental boundaries to enhance a learning experience? I can’t wait to hear from you!

This week is all about Health on Sid the Science Kid. I thought you might be interested and amused by a conversation we had at my house over dinner this week. Turns out that I had something to learn about nutrition from my little scientists.
For dinner I made the boys leftover grilled chicken, stuffing, and peas. In an ongoing, never-ending effort to build healthy eating into my lifestyle, I decided to throw together a spinach salad with chicken, cashews, peaches, cheese, and vinaigrette for myself. What happened when I sat down at the table with Henry and Leo was a big surprise.
Henry: Mom, what’s that? [Pointing to the salad.]
Me: A green salad. [Cleverly evading a word Henry dislikes: “spinach.”]
Henry: Would I like it?
Me: I don’t know. [Nonchalantly.] I love it. [Avoiding eye contact.]
Leo: Can I smell a leaf?
Me: Sure. [Placing leaf, cashew, peach on Leo’s plate.]
Leo: I like this food.
Henry: Me too! I want some.
Me: Okay, okay, but remember this is my dinner. [Keeping it cool.]
Henry: [Munching] Mom, I like this! I like the sauce. Can I have more leaves?
Mom: Please use your manners.
Henry: Please? Why haven’t you given us salad before? [From the mouths of babes.]
Then I watched my little boys devour spinach and chicken salad. It was glorious.
I am sure you understand why I felt victorious; and a little bit guilty. Had I forgotten to offer them salad over the years? The boys like all kinds of vegetables and I try to offer them new things. What happened? I am a terrible veggie consumer. I don’t like a lot of green vegetables and I struggle to work them into my diet. I do, however, love salad.
The truth is that I don’t take the time to make a salad for myself very often. I also don’t follow the healthy eating habits that I am trying to instill in my children. I suddenly realized that I was not modeling the habits I am trying to teach. Henry was interested in my salad because Mommy was eating the salad. It isn’t enough for me to serve Henry and Leo dinner and pretend that they do not notice the peas and broccoli missing from my own plate.
A foundation of my healthy eating philosophy is to give all the food on the dinner plate equal enthusiasm. By doing this, the kids don’t feel pressure to eat the veggies like I did when I was a kid. We talk a lot about the colors, textures, and taste of food, and I try not to say “eat your veggies!” What kind of subtle message am I sending when we have the conversations over my vegetable-free plate?
So where do we go from here? Well, the kids and I had a great conversation about all the different kinds of things that can go into salads. We planned a menu built around salmon and lettuce cups for later in the week. (Henry insists on the same salad sauce.) As a parent, I believe that it’s my responsibility to provide them with a variety of healthy food options and the flexibility to make some of their own food choices. As an adult who is trying to become a healthier person, I owe it to myself to follow my own advice.
What challenges do you face as you try and teach your children about healthy eating habits? How do you introduce new foods to your dinner table?

I think that Henry and I were among Sid the Science Kid’s very first fans. Sid was his favorite for a long time. Nowadays Leo and I do most of the Sid watching while Henry is at Jr. Kindergarten. But one episode this week brought back a great Sid-inspired memory with Henry.

The Whale Episode about non-standard units of measurement was a big hit in our house. As soon as Henry saw the classroom measured in “Geralds,” he insisted on trying it himself. I mean right away. He wanted to know how many “Henrys” our living room measured. At that point, we lived in MA in a teeny tiny house and our cramped living room was decorated in Early Century Toys for Boys. I had to clear a Henry-sized path across the room for our investigation. With lots of giggling and a train track as a block we learned that our living room was in fact 6 ½ Henrys wide. Henry promptly asked for a “real” ruler and told everyone about the measurement for weeks.

It was obvious that the activity stuck with my little scientist when a few days later he asked if we could make a “paper measure of himself.” It took a moment for my cluttered brain to realize he was talking about the Kid Ruler from the Whale episode. With more giggling and planning we made a traced cutout of Henry. (I used the roll of paper from our easel. At the time it was the perfect size, which is hard to believe when I look at him now.) Neither Henry nor I really gravitate towards art projects but this one was a blast. We were excited to dig into our markers and “dress” the Henry ruler, give him a face, hair, and shoes. When we measured the living room again it was fun to verify our earlier calculation: 6 ½ Henrys wide.

Then the activity became something extra special. I suggested that we send the Henry Ruler to Uncle Jeff in Seattle. Henry loved participating in packing up the Henry Ruler and putting it in the mail. My brother was thrilled to receive a life-sized portrait of Henry. He has it hanging in his apartment to this day. I loved the idea that Jeff could see how much Henry had grown since our last visit and it was fun to listen in on their next phone conversation as Henry told Jeff about the investigation. It was sweet.

Measurement is a tough concept to teach a preschooler. They need concrete background knowledge. Of course, the folks on the show know their stuff. What I appreciate is that the episode taught the concept from Henry’s perspective and then, by extension, gave him an outlet to express himself creatively in a hands-on way. I learned that Henry likes to participate in art projects that have a purpose and a story behind them. My son may not like to sit with a blank piece of paper and crayons, but tell him to decorate a paper airplane and he is all for it. I am happier with some structure as well. I may have to steal the Henry Ruler back someday!

Have you had any lasting Sid fan moments? How does your child like to express him or herself creatively?

For my family, this summer was full of big changes. My husband Gerry and I recently decided to move the family cross-country from New England to Southern California. My working mom career in educational publishing has morphed into a hybrid of stay-at-home mom who also works when she can. It’s a balancing act. To my sons, Henry (5) and Leo (3), I am Mommy, Mom, or Mumma. Everyone else calls me Trina.
Leo and Henry are wildly curious about everything. Every day that curiosity is translated into touching, tasting, feeling, breaking and rolling. Preschoolers need to try things out to the point of destruction sometimes, and Henry and Leo are no exception. Henry is the spontaneous grabber in the family while Leo examines the chaos that ensues. They make a good team.
Even when their explorations have led to disaster (A bookcase is not a fireman’s ladder! or Why do you want to know where the plunger is?), I remind myself that this process leads to growth and growth opens windows and windows lead out into a great big world. I try to see the calamitous events as curiosity in motion…a SCIENCE experiment.
Full disclosure here: I am not a scientist. I never liked science in school. I even sweet-talked my way out of dissecting a frog in the 9th grade. I thought science was only about that table with the numbers and symbols, crazy formulas that made up gas, and math. I was a smart kid who thought that science didn’t matter.
Irony has a way of tracking us down. In my case it is in the form of Henry and Leo. I am a mom to young scientists who are always researching with their words and actions! Science is in my house all day. Science is animals, weather, nutrition, electricity, and space explorations. Science is comparing, contrasting, observing, recording, and asking. My boys are thinking about science most of the time – like all of their peers, they do it naturally. It turns out that I happen to like it. Preschoolers are scientists and you might as well roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and play along!
Sid the Science Kid provides an amazing outlet for my two eager boys. Sid touches things. Sid tastes things. Sid uses tools and models experiments. Sid asks lots and lots of questions. Sid discovers answers with the help of kids and adults in his life. Sid is a kindred soul for Henry and Leo. And he can carry a tune! There is the possibility of discovery on the screen every day.
And that’s where this blog begins. Henry, Leo, and I will be following Sid’s lead and seeing what we can learn by trying out the activities on this web site. From replicating Sid’s experiments to creating our own hypothesis to test, I’ll tell you how things go, if it worked, what interested my kids, and what windows opened up for us as a result. I hope you’ll join me in talking about your own journey with your young scientists. I am looking forward to beginning a conversation with other “Sid Parents” out there.

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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