Saturday, July 25, 2009

Camping & Space

This week's theme was Camping & the Great Outdoors. We enjoyed studying a variety of natural objects in the classroom, using our eyes and hands to investigate their features.

We took a trip to the community garden to see what's growing. The campers really enjoy looking for moths and following them around the garden as they fly from plant to plant. There is so much to see, we can spend minutes looking at one small area of the garden. We enjoy looking at the variety of colors and plant sizes--- some plants are taller than the campers!

Bringing the great outdoors indoors, we were paid a visit by the Petting Zoo on Wheels. We learned about an assortment of animals, including the rabbit, skink, snake, bird, possum, chinchilla, and ferret.
FYI, the chinchilla is officially the world's softest animal, with more than fifty hairs growing from each follicle (compared to one per follicle for humans). They are unbelievably soft, and if you've never had the opportunity to pet one before, I strongly suggest you find one, now!

To coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, I wanted to talk about space with the campers. They responded well to our discussions, and it inspired a lot of play in the classroom, such as making our own space ships, building space stations with blocks, and asking some great questions about the universe..... heavy, man!!

I started by asking the campers what they already knew about the moon.
They said:
It has lots of rocks.
There is less gravity there.
It's really dark.
It has lots of craters.
There is no oxygen.
The moon is gray.
It's really high.
It's really far away.

Then I asked them what the moon would taste like if you could eat it:
It would taste like the Earth.
Like rocks.
It tastes like salt.
It tastes like outer space.
It tastes like nothing because rocks don't smell.

The campers used toy space shuttles to play a tossing game, where they tried to have their rocket land on the paper plate moon. Apollo 11 made it look so easy!

Many campers created their own space shuttles and rocketships from clay, and painted them the following day.
We even made our own sun..... be careful, it's hot! We learned that the sun is a star, and it gives us light and heat. We imagined what would happen if astronauts flew to the sun. We also conducted a brief experiment using a lamp (sun), paper plates (moon) and our bodies (Earth) to show how day and night occur, depending on whether you are facing the sun or not.

Our sun is currently hanging at the epicenter of our classroom, with all activities revolving around it.... fancy that!

Moon making: campers added craters to their moon, making different sizes but all circles, since we noticed that all craters are basically circular.

I also showed the campers some videos on my laptop, including Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting a flag, and weightlessness aboard a space shuttle. One camper later declared that he plans to be the first to go to Mars, and we encouraged everyone to do this because it hasn't been done yet!

We also learned why stars explode, why spaceships go faster than airplanes, and how the moon can make a shadow on Earth.

Here is our weekly science blurb from Janet:

To really explore camping, we made clay that hardens like earth. The ingredients were salt, flour, sand, warm water, and instant coffee. Since the instant coffee was an ingredient we never used before, the children got to explore it by using their senses: touching, smelling, and looking. Then we made a solution by adding the coffee to the warm water. We measured the other ingredients and mixed them together. The children each received a little bit of the clay to hide jewels in, and then we left it to dry in the sun.
For an extension on this project and opportunity for further learning, the children will get to break the clay apart and find the jewels that they hid. Through this experiment the children got to revisit the words 'dissolve' and 'solution.' They also got to measure and use large and fine motor skills. They also sharpened their observation skills.
For next week's experiment, we will be revisiting solutions again. We will also discuss how solids differ from solutions during our very gooey experiment.

Here is what the children said about the coffee: (the children were not told was it was before they explored it.)
Jaan- It feels like sugar.
Enrique- It feels like rocks. It smells like sand.
Bennett- It smells like a coffee filter.
Madeline- It feels like dirt.
Riley- It feels like crumbs.
Tommy- It smells like coffee.
Frankie- It feels a little like pieces of brown glass.
Carly- It smells like coffee.
Jake- It smells like coffee.
Isabelle-It feels like crumbs.
Lara- It feels like sand and smells like coffee.
James- It smells like rocks.

During the experiment:
Bennett- It smells good but it looks..euww!
Enrique- Its sticky.

Blocks galore! We have some truly talented architects in our group, and it is always fascinating to watch them build. When using blocks, there is much planning and learning from trial-and-error, and of course, physics (balancing, weight distribution, etc.).

We made some yummy sugar cookies (egg-free) and decorated them with a candy in the middle, which upon baking melted into a sweet gooey treat.

Here are some silly faces from our week at camp, and also a few assorted photos.
Next week's theme: Ooey Gooey Squishy Plop