Kitchen Science -exploring properties of materials

As part of our unit of inquiry into the properties of materials, a team of Kindergarten parents came into school this morning to do some ‘kitchen science’ with the children. They offered five different cooking activities, each of which explored changes of state, from solid to liquid and liquid to solid. There was a purposeful buzz as children and parents worked together, discussing scientific properties of the materials they were working with.

Kitchen Science on PhotoPeach

Thank you to the parents for taking the time to plan and offer this hands-on experience. The children thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fairy scientist

Yuri was wondering about the difference between pixies, sprites and fairies. Zoe invited me to join the conversation as she knew that fairies (faeries) play an important role in Irish culture. The conversation reminded me of a video clip I had come across  many months ago on YouTube. After watching the video clip again, I decided to share it with the KC children. I liked how the video described a scientific procedure and I thought the topic and age of the scientist would appeal to children of this age.

The video generated lots of discussion amongst the children about fairies and whether they really exist.  There were many different (and strongly held) opinions. Scarlett wanted to know what the word “evidence” meant in the video clip.  We talked about following a scientific procedure and about starting with a theory and then conducting research to gather evidence, and how theories change depending on the evidence.

I introduced the children to a thinking routine called stop, look, listen which provides a framework for organizing and guiding thinking and is particularly useful when evaluating truth claims and issues related to the truth. Students first stop and identify a clear question, then look for sources/ evidence and finally listen with an open mind.

I was surprised at the passion with which the children expressed their ideas and explained their thinking.  I told the children that in Ireland, lots of people including my mother and my grandfather believe in faeries and that we have a faery rock at the bottom of the garden at our family cottage; generations of my family have spent many childhood hours waiting silently and patiently by faery rock in the hope of a faery siting. I have never seen a faery and I am not sure if they exist. My grandfather claimed to have met a faery king. The children were intrigued by my personal recount. Jaiden thought we should put this video clip on the blog and ask other people for their opinions. Do fairies exist or not? What do you think? How do you know?

A reply from KinderPals

A few days ago we tweeted our Kindergarten buddies in Canada the measurements for our Nathan in KC.

We got a reply from KinderPals saying they needed more information.

Hmmm! More information! We wondered what information we could give KinderPals so they could know how tall KC Nathan was.

  • Scarlett: That’s what I said but no-one was listening! Because how will they know what we used?
  • Jaiden: So we need to tell them about the pencils, that we measured with pencils
  • Yungi: Orange, yellow, red

At this point I chose to intervene and ask the children whether they thought the color of the pencils was important information that would help KinderPals.  After some discussion the children reached a consensus that this was not necessary information. Together we composed a reply to KinderPals explaining that we used coloring pencils.

But now we have a problem:

  • KC Nathan is 11 middle pencils tall
  • KinderPals already told us their Nathan is 66 cubes tall.

Which is taller -11 middle pencils or 66 cubes?

We tweet KinderPals back and ask them if they can please measure their Nathan in middle pencils so we can compare the heights. Scarlett suggests that we could measure our Nathan in cubes.  There is a buzz of agreement. The children look around for some cubes. Oh oh! Which cubes? We have several different sizes of cubes.

We have no more time, so we leave our cube collection and agree to continue our discussion at another time.

Twitter sparks a measuring inquiry

When we got back after the winter break, we found a twitter message from KinderPals, our Twitter buddies in Abbotsford, Canada, thanking us for the Japanese New Year cards we had sent.  We responded by sharing some exciting New Year news: Willow and Nathan had joined our class. KinderPals tweeted back. It turns out that they have a Nathan in their class as well!


KC were curious to know what KinderPal’s Nathan looked like so KinderPals promised to send us a picture. A few days later we recieved this picture of Nathan in KinderPals class, via twitter.

We tweeted KinderPals a picture of our Nathan.

We have been recording the children’s growth on our door. This sparked a conversation about how tall the KinderPal’s Nathan was. Several of the children thought that the two Nathans would be the same height because they were both called Nathan. Other children disagreed; they did not think that the two children would be the same height just because they had the same name. The KC children tweeted KinderPals to ask them how tall their Nathan was.

Michelle, the KinderPals teacher, and I emailed each other to see how we could extend this authentic inquiry into measurement. We have decided to suggest to the children that they measure their respective Nathans so that they can share this information with the other class. We have planned that we will not give the children much guidance initially; we are interested to see what tools and strategies the children come up with as this will tell us what they already know about measurement. I am intrigued to see how this inquiry unfolds!

A moon inquiry

Recently the children have been engaged in a student initiated inquiry into the moon, sparked Otsukimi.

  • Jaiden: It’s a light that shines at night.
  • Scarlett: The moon gets smaller and smaller every night and then one night there’s no moon.
  • Yungi: The moon gets small and then it gets big again because I saw it. 
  • Aiden: The moon goes around the earth.
  • Angus: The moon is in the middle of all the planets -it’s a big rock.

I gather up a collection of resources to support and extend the children’s spontaneous inquiry. I assume that not all children will be interested in exploring the same materials. The children learn in different ways so I try to find resources that will cater for different learning styles.

The children have opportunities to construct their understandings about the moon using clay, wire, paint, pen and pencil drawings, books, touch screen reference apps and youtube video clips.

A moon inquiry from tasha cowdy on Vimeo.

The children are engaged in questioning, building, inventing and connecting. They share findings, dispute ideas, test theories and revise their schemas in the light of new information. They are using scientific processes to construct new understandings about the world around them.

Building a community of learners

For the first few weeks of school, our focus is on building a sense of community amongst the children and the key adults they will be working with. The quote below is from “Starting the School Year Right” by Thomas Guskey in The School Administrator, August 2011 (Vol. 7, #68, p. 44)

“The first two weeks are the most important time in the school year for all children … What happens during this critical period pretty much determines how the rest of the year will go.”

It is important that the children have time to get to know their new classmates and to explore and develop relationships. The children need to feel safe in their new environment in order to learn. They need to trust and respect the members of their learning community so that they can develop as risk takers and experimenters. Throughout the year they will learn with and from each other as they conduct their individual and group inquiries. Time spent now building a strong learning community and developing a culture of collaboration will stand us all in good stead as the the year progresses.

Kindergarten Scientists

As part of our unit of inquiry into the properties of materials, we have been exploring ways of combining and changing materials. Recently, some of the children have been showing an interest in laboratories and scientists. I emailed one of the Middle/ High school science teachers and asked him if he could help foster the children’s interest. Mr Midgley came to visit, armed with some interesting looking equipment and materials.

He began by explaining that scientists think carefully about how to stay safe during experiments and gave the children lab coats and goggles to wear to protect their clothes and eyes. (The materials were perfectly safe but we thought the children would enjoy dressing up and we wanted to introduce them to good practice right from the start.) Then the experimenting began…

Mr Midgley left us with test tubes, pipettes, lab coats and googles so that the children could continue their explorations.


The children would like to set up their own lab. We are planning to visit Mr Midgley in his lab, so we can learn how to organize our classroom lab and get some more ideas for experiments.
Thanks, Mr Midgley!

Exploring possibilities with playing cards

Playing cards are a wonderful way of developing children’s mathematical skills and thinking, from Kindergarten all the way through to Upper Elementary. This link shows some examples. Personally, I don’t call the games ‘War’, and I find the child in the video is developmentally a bit young for these games, but the link gives some idea of the versatility of playing cards as a mathematical tool.

Today I introduced the children to playing cards for the first time. I was interested to see what the children already knew about the cards -what prior knowledge and experience they were bringing from home. For this engagement, I asked the children to choose their own partners, but to work with someone they had not worked with today. I invited them to play with, organize or sort their cards any way they wished and told them that they should be prepared to share what they had done when we met together at the end of the session.

Below are some of the observations the children shared at the end of the session

  • I noticed that some cards have faces and those ones have letters instead of numbers.
  • All of the faces are different; all the ladies are different and the mans.[sic]
  • I noticed that as well, some have numbers and some have letters.
  • Some numbers have more than one.
  • Because there is four of everything.
  • There are different shapes like clovers and hearts and aces.
  • I know these at home.
  • There’s a A and two Js and K.
  • K is for king. And there’s a queen with a crown
  • There are dot shapes the same as the numbers, like on the three is three shapes like hearts.

My observations tell me that many children know quite a bit already about playing cards and how they work. This exploring session has given the children a chance to look closely at the cards, and to observe carefully, compare, question and hypothesize. This will be a good foundation for the number strategizing work we will do with the cards in the following weeks.