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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Senses

For 16 wonderful months, I have been writing my family’s adventures with Sid the Science Kid. We have conducted many investigations and explored science in many new and interesting ways. So, since I am now an “expert” science mommy, I though I would share some of my favorite Sid investigations. You can find all of these activities online at PBS.org/parents/sid.
Exploring Measurement
This was the first Sid experiment I ever did with the kids. This was long before I moved to California and started blogging for Sid. Henry and I were watching the show, Leo was still really small. The episode was about non-standard units of measurement. Before the show had even finished, Henry asked if we could measure the room in “Henrys”. We did that and had so much fun. I saw him learning and growing right in front of me. It was amazing. I used the idea to send my brother (Henry’s godfather), who lived in Seattle, a life-size Henry on a big piece of paper. Henry, now six, remembers the activity and still talks about it.
Applesauce
Ah…applesauce. The is the very first investigation I conducted with little Leo for the blog. This activity sold me on the science investigations I was trying to write about because my three year old kid could tell me the meaning of “irreversible change.” I am a vocabulary lover and this one really send me over the edge. Here I was making applesauce, something I make all the time, and my kitchen became lab for science learning. The energy for this blog and the idea that everyday life is full of science opportunities was very clear to me and I loved it. Leo was able to participate fully and learn new vocabulary and we had a great time. I am so grateful for the times I have had with my kids in our home fab lab.
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What’s That Smell?
In this investigation, I gather items from the kitchen for the kids to smell while blindfolded and guess what is in front of them. Leo asks to do this investigation over and over again. I think he likes the mystery of the blindfold and the guessing game. I like the idea of using household kitchen items (food, spices, etc) to illustrate the importance of smell. The activity lends itself to repeating because there is an endless variety of things we can experiment with in the kitchen. It is tons of fun. It can be done as a seasonal game, or an outside game, or even as a game with craft items with crayons, glue, markers, etc. Hmmm…Maybe I will do this one when the boys get home from school!
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Sid’s Skateboard Inertia Investigation
I love this activity because I learned right along with my kids. I would not have been able to explain inertia if my life depended on it until this Sid episode came along for us. As I have testified before, I am afraid of physics because I am not able to articulate what I know to be true in the physical world. Leo loved this investigation because it joined two of his favorite things: stuffed animals and daredevil stunts. We didn’t even own our own skateboard so we searched the neighborhood, borrowed one from a friend, and conducted the investigation. I knew that the stuffed animal would go flying off the board once it hit the step, but I had no idea WHY. Now I know. I also love this investigation because it provided Leo with an opportunity to teach his brother Henry. Leo was so excited about this one that as soon as Henry was home from school they replicated it over and over again. Leo shared his science.
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Cave of Darkness
Darkness is the absence of light. So simple yet not intuitive, for me at least. The fort activity gave us a chance to an investigation as a family and to learn this concept together. We all took turns adding to the fort, being inside the fort, playing with the flashlights, and trying to achieve total darkness. It was fun and it was also challenging. This activity and this whole episode demystifies the dark. Leo and Henry, to this day, remind themselves of this Sid episode when they are spooked by something in the night. The things in their room at night are the same things as in the day. It resonates with them and I appreciate the help at bedtime.
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There is definitely a personal pattern I see when I think of my favorite Sid investigations. I like the activities that are simple, completed with household items, pack a nice academic punch, and create memories for my boys. Come to think of it, most Sid activities are like that. I can’t wait to keep exploring and experimenting with new activities while revisiting come of our old favorites.
What are your favorite Sid the Science Kid investigations? Why do you like them so much?

I love a fair. I have been telling anyone who will listen just how excited I was about heading to the county fair this weekend. I love the animals, the rides, the games, the lights, and of course, the food. Ah…the food. It is one of those days in the year when we let the boys have and do whatever they like, as long as it isn’t too dangerous. Cotton candy? Yes! Humungous scary slide? Yes, yes, and yes! It is wonderful to see their little faces light up when they ask for treats and actually get what they want.
This year, I decided to put on my Sid the Science Kid filter while at the fair. Would I be able to tie some our learning from Sid to a day at the county fair? I wanted to try.
For starters, I dragged all three of my boys (Dad included) through all of the animal exhibits. It is my favorite part. Not so much for them, because they were chomping at the bit to get into the Hall of Mirrors. Natural science abounds in the livestock exhibits! We saw baby pigs and a big mama pig. We learned about their weight, age, and even got to vote on names. (Lots of data!) We examined chickens and saw more varieties than I even knew existed. We used our senses as we walked among smelly cows, sheep, and goats. Leo had his nose pinched all the time. It was fun to see the prize animals and learn more about the farm. I wanted to look more, but the Hall of Mirrors beckoned.
The rides were a wonder of engineering and physics principles. If I thought about it too hard, I got butterflies in my stomach. My boys are brave, and no ride was too scary. Thank goodness for some of those height restrictions. It was so great to see science in motion, so to speak. The best example was the long slide. Both boys climbed the tall stairs, carrying a sack, and came speeding down with smiles of glee. The immediately wanted to do it again, and we said Yes! This time, the boys came sliding down flat on their backs, laughing even harder. When I questioned Henry about it later he explained that lying down was faster because there was less wind than when they sat up. Science Kids at work!
I thought a lot about lights as the afternoon turned to evening. This week on Sid the Science Kid, the children explore light and it’s sources. There was no lack for light sources at the county fair. As we went up on the Ferris wheel, I pointed out that it was twilight. Henry had asked me the meaning of the word, earlier in the week. It is the time when day turns into night…not dark but not sunny. The fair was the perfect place to see that: it wasn’t dark, but the carnival lights were wondrous to see from above.
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We played a game where the force of water caused a balloon to fill up and POP we had a winner! Henry and I watched a man use all his strength to hit a hammer and make the lights go on for a prize. Both boys learned about measurement as they stood tall to see if their height would allow them on a ride. We think that Leo is about 41″, because he had to stretch to follow Henry onto rides that required 42″. And Leo learned that a corn dog is a delicious Sometimes Food.
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The last stop of the night was on the bouncy trampoline. Henry and Leo were outfitted in harnesses, attached to long elastic ropes, and jumped on a big trampoline. Gerry and I observed as the instructors adjusted the length and tension of the ropes to help the boys jump higher and higher. To be honest, I don’t know how to explain the physics of how the whole thing worked, but boy, did I have to trust the science! Henry and Leo were gleeful, so I am thankful for science that made it all work.
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As you may know by now, I really like the way Sid teaches my family how to find science in our everyday life. I thought that the fair would be a tough science challenge, but I was wrong. Science is everywhere, even at the county fair.
Happy summer to everyone! What kind of science do you find at the fair, or on other unexpected adventures?

My little boy Leo has always been a keen observer of smells in his ever-expanding world. When I give him a hug after my shower he always comments on how yummy my hair smells. When Leo is unsure about trying a new food, he always insists on smelling it first. I don’t wear perfume very often, but when I do, Leo is the first with a sweet comment. And we can always count on Leo to inform us about stinky smells with a wrinkled nose. Sometimes he can be quite vocal about his distaste for a certain smells (think bathroom) and this can lead to awkward moments when guests are over. But Leo is true to his sense of smell and seems to enjoy life with a “nose first” approach.
When I found the Sid investigation called, What’s That Smell? I knew that Leo would get a kick out of it. Our friend Donald was at the house for a play date and he was thrilled to participate in one of our Sid experiments. Apparently, our friends have gotten wind of the fun science investigations happening over here and are asking to take part. Leo, Henry, and I are happy to spread preschool science into our small universe!
The investigation calls for kids to identify distinctive scents while blindfolded. We wanted the boys to take a whiff and then describe the smell. I then recorded their ideas on a chart. I chose coffee, cinnamon, chocolate, lime, and play doh as our scents.
Donald went first. We used an old pink bandana for a blindfold. He giggled as we put the coffee can under his nose.
“Smells like coffee!” he said.
Donald proclaimed the cinnamon as spicy and the lime as sour. Clever boy! Then he called the chocolate “chips” and nailed the play doh. Preschoolers are honest little people and he quickly told us he could see the last two items. We were proud of his observations and his honesty!
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We weren’t going to take any chances with Leo. I found a hat to pull down over his eyes for a peek-less investigation. Just like Donald, Leo was very giggly. He proclaimed the coffee smelled like cherry. What? And the cinnamon was “sweet.”
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Leo was back on track when he said the lime was sour, but then he said the chocolate smelled like crayons. It seems that when Leo was put on the spot with his sight blocked, he was unable to identify the scents. Or perhaps it was the vocabulary he was missing. I tried to give him smelly words like sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, but Leo wanted to strike out on his own and make connections to other familiar smells like crayons. I like to watch my boys think.
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The great thing about this investigation is that there aren’t really any incorrect observations. This one forced the boys to concentrate in an unfamiliar way that made them giggly and a little uncomfortable. It was a lot of fun. Leo was more aware of his nose and the scents around us for the rest of the day. Thank goodness we were having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner – that’s a smell we all like!
What scents would you choose from your pantry for this experiment? Do you think your kids have a scent vocabulary to investigate with?

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
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