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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

All About Friction

Until Trina asked me to write a guest blog I would have told you that both my children have had equal experiences in math and science. But I was lying to myself. Writing this blog has made me pause, reflect and question. Have I been parenting my daughter with the same eye on academics that I employ with my son? A walk into their bedrooms had a sobering effect. My 8-yr old son, Nathaniel’s room is filled with maps, books on dinosaurs and nonfiction text. My 4-yr old daughter, Morgan’s is a whimsical journey to far-off lands of talking animals and small winged creatures.
I need to bridge the area between my two children’s interests as well as expose my daughter to a higher framework of scientific thought. But how?
(Sound trumpets) Enter Sid the Science Kid! Aside from watching Sid’s show on PBS and amusedly following Trina’s blogging exploits I never took time to delve into all that Sid has to offer. I had no idea of the music video clips, supporting games, and activities that the website provides.
In episode “Slide To The Side,” Sid can’t do his “brand new fabulous Slide-to-the-Side dance” in his rubber-soled sneakers. It’s all about friction. He was able to do it just fine in socks. Why the problem now? Living in a house with hard wood floors my kids understand all too well the problems associated with running in socks on slippery surfaces. This prior knowledge and life experience allowed for my kid’s immediate buy-in to Sid’s dilemma.
We started with some basic ideas on friction: the force that resists the motion of one thing on another thing. Nathaniel pointed out that the reason his hands heated up when he rubbed them together was because of friction. Morgan quickly discovered that her hands didn’t get warm when she rubbed them up and down on the wall. This lead to a good discussion examining properties of surfaces and determining which ones create the most friction.
We then moved on to a suggested activity: In the investigation with sliding an object across different surfaces a hockey puck is recommended. I don’t play hockey. I don’t even really ice skate. I do however, own a puck-shaped paperweight and thus, substituted. This was working well until I came upon the recommended list of surfaces to test the slide distance. Slippery surfaces were no problem (see above the treacherous existence of raising children on hardwood floors). I had an area rug we could use to test “carpet”. The third surface suggested was a yoga mat for a rubbery texture. I would truly like to believe that I could simply walk to my fitness closet and readily access my yoga mat. I know at one time I have owned something of this nature. It was purple. I haven’t seen it in at least 2 years. I am not proud.
Undaunted, I went in quick search around the house for a rubbery surface. Voila! Wouldn’t you know, there it was, sitting in the bathroom directly in front of the shower? My bathmat has a rubbery backing and when flipped over certainly fit the bill for friction testing. I don’t think I’ll be busting out any downward dogs coming out of the shower but hey, nice to know what’s out there in a pinch!
Introducing the idea of a hypothesis as having no “right” answer leveled the playing field for my two young scientists. It was exciting to see Morgan taking risks with her predictions. I loved hearing 4-year-old logic explain why the rubber mat would allow for the greatest sliding distance: “Because a rubber duck can go really far in the tub.”
We tested our hypotheses.
Their findings did not stop their enthusiasm for wanting to know more! This is where I discovered the true beauty of Sid. Our exploration and experiments with friction didn’t end with our hand-on investigation!
We moved over to the computer! Online, my kids got to “play” with Gerald as he tested the friction of various surfaces doing an activity that looked very familiar to them. Because we had just done a similar one in our house!
We then went on to watch racecars zooming around a track at breakneck speeds to the tune of “Go As Fast As You Can”. We watched the history of the rubberized wheel unfold in a readily comprehensible manner for any age group. We used multiple methods to explore the same concept again and again. Each time it was novel, engaging and appropriately timed. This whole experience in friction, including experimentation, took under an hour and yet provided conversation for days. As we finished our time on the computer my daughter walked off saying the eight words that guarantee a repeat visit, “That was fun! Can we do it again?”
Have you explored all that Sid has to offer? Will you schedule science fun into your summer?

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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