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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

All the Balls in the Air

Parents Pop Quiz:
Define “elasticity” in preschooler-friendly language.
Are you stumped? Scrambling around in your brain for the right word? Laughing at yourself? That was ME last Sunday as I bravely attempted an elasticity activity in the driveway with Henry and Leo.
I should back up and tell you how this all started. On Sunday morning Henry asked if we could do a Sid “experiment.” (Science vocabulary–thanks Sid!) We’ve had gloomy weather for a week or so and Daddy is away on business. We needed a break from the indoors so I decided to put Henry’s initiative to good use.
I ran upstairs to print off an activity from this week’s theme: Force and Motion. The episodes are new and we hadn’t seen them all. I chose the activity about elasticity (looks like fun!) and went back downstairs. I skimmed the directions and started to grab supplies. The kids and I hunted around for a large piece of paper, markers, and balls to bounce in the experiment. In our house full of toys it was shockingly difficult to find the balls we needed…ours just aren’t that bouncy! We settled on a basketball, wiffle ball, small rubber ball, tinfoil ball, and play doh ball. Then we headed out to the driveway.
As I tried to weigh down the paper to record our observations, Henry and Leo started throwing the balls around. Henry was quick to point out that the play doh went SPLAT! I started to think “oh no!” because we were supposed to “discover” that fact in the activity…not yet! Henry then started to talk with Leo about THE FORCE as he slammed the basketball into the ground for a higher bounce. Cool, but I was not teaching them about force today. Bounce was the objective, but isn’t that related to force? I was confused.
Trying to get us on the same page, I asked: “What is elasticity?” Blank stares. My brain started racing. I had NO IDEA how to define elasticity. How was it possible that I was conducting an experiment about a word I couldn’t define? A dear friend of mine reminded me recently that being unprepared will always make a teacher’s life very difficult and a lesson unsuccessful. I was definitely winging this one.
So, I went back to the activity and read through it again while the boys played basketball. I got my materials in order, drew a stick figure on the paper, lined up the balls, and then called the boys over. I modeled the activity for them, explaining that we were trying to see how high each ball bounced. The boys stood on the sidewalk and dropped the balls from outstretched arms and recorded the heights on the stick figure. Leo really enjoyed bouncing the balls and Henry loved recording their findings.
We determined that elasticity made some balls bounce higher than others. We also learned that play doh is really gross when dropped into a muddy puddle.
A couple of days later we watched the episode “That’s The Way the Ball Bounces.” Now we all understand what elasticity means: material that can be pushed in and pop back out to its original shape. The show brilliantly simplified the concept and made it accessible to this age group. Additionally, the kids liked watching Sid and company conduct the same experiment we did in the driveway. Ultimately, Henry, Leo, and I decided that we preferred watching the show BEFORE conducting an experiment. That’s the power of modeling instruction and building background for preschoolers — and their parents!
What do you do when you get stumped when helping your children learn?
Do you have any good organization tips? I could use a few!
Put your Jack o’ Lanterns to good use this week! Take a look at the Decayed Pumpkin Activity in the Transformation and Change Cycle. Henry and Leo are looking forward to it. There’s nothing like sticking your hands into a rotting gourd in the name of science! I’ll be sure to tell you how it goes at our house.

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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