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Classroom Idea-Sparkers.

Using Everyday Materials To Keep Science At Your Reach

When it comes to providing science lessons and outside-of-school science experiences for children, it is not unusual to hear the comment that "more could be done, if only we had the resources." This perceived inadequacy of the resources to teach science, especially at the preschool and elementary levels, is more likely a matter of not being able to see science in everything that we do, and of not realizing that you can always have science at your reach by using many of the materials we encounter daily.

The Classroom Idea-Sparkers for this issue feature activities using everyday materials. Arthur W. Bowman, Associate Professor of Biology and Science Education Center Director at Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia, submitted the ideas.

How Many and What Color?


* 1 box of circular fruit cereal in differing colors

* A worksheet with a range of circles of different sizes traced or drawn on it

* Blank worksheets having a range of histogram bar heights


* For every student or group of students, provide a scoop of cereal.

* Have the students sort the cereal into piles, according to the color of the pieces.

* Before anything is done to the piles of cereal pieces, have the students observe which color makes up the smallest pile, the next largest pile, and so on. Then ask the students to color the circles on the worksheet in a manner that corresponds with the size of the piles. For instance, if there were more yellow pieces than any other color, have them use yellow to color in the largest circle on the worksheet. Do the same for the other pieces of cereal. With a little assistance, 4-year-olds can perform this simple data-recording exercise quite successfully. After the students look at each other's piles of cereal and colored circles, they can communicate their findings and begin to make correlations between an event and a student-derived record. Because all of the students will have drawn a sample from the same pool of cereal pieces, they will most likely have identically colored circles.

* Now, have the students line up the pieces of cereal into rows that are side-by-side on the tabletop. Some of the younger students may need the most assistance with this part of the activity, especially if they are working in groups. Young students working in groups often will create rows only in front of them, and thus will not have parallel rows. We have found it helpful to place a piece of tape on the table to mark where all of the rows must begin. Once the students have completed the alignment of the cereal pieces, with each row having cereal pieces of only one color, have them observe the row lengths, and then color the longest bar on their worksheet with the color that corresponds to that of their longest cereal row. The students repeat this process for the other cereal rows. They should then take a look at the other students' rows and colored bars. By now, they should all have made a simple bar graph. Upper-elementary students ought to be able to make their own bars and have the heights correspond with the actual number of pieces for each color. The numbers would be placed along the vertical (y) axis, and the bars would be on the horizontal (x) axis.

Science on a Shoestring

This activity imaginatively uses a shoestring to demonstrate how a heavily weighted pendulum will swing a different number of times compared to one with a much lighter weight.


Two 30-inch long (longer or shorter will work just as well) sneaker shoestrings 5 or 6 metal washers (we used 20 gram/3.4 cm steel washers)


* Tie one washer to one end of the shoestring.

* Hold the shoestring in a vertical position so that the weight hangs down and the string is at its greatest length.

* While holding the string with one hand, use the other hand to pull the weight back so that it is at a 45-degree angle from its resting vertical position, and then release the weight.

* Observe the rate at which the pendulum swings by counting the number of times the weight swings away from and back towards the hand that released the weight in 15 seconds. One swing away from and towards the release hand should be counted as one "complete" swing (technically called a "period" of the pendulum). This process should be repeated at least five times, and the results should be recorded for each trial.

* Repeat steps 3 and 4, adding one more washer each cycle to the shoestring until you have 6, and record the number of swings (remember, a "complete" swing, the pendulum's period, is one cycle away from and back towards the release hand). Again, repeat five times for each set of washers and record the results, and have the students compare their findings.

Recording sheets to help the students see the results more graphically.
What Color and How Many?

Color Number of Pieces

Science on a Shoestring

Number of Washers Number of Swings
"Science at Your Reach" Everyday
Materials and Activities

Everyday Materials Activity

Potato chips of different brands Comparison of greasiness on
 napkins or brown paper bags

Ice cubes Comparison of the melting
 rate in water of different

Refrigerator magnets Exploration of magnets' effect
 on each other

Wet cloths Comparison of drying rates
 with and without a breeze

2-liter soda bottles Observation of bubble release
 at different temperatures

Molasses Comparison of flow rate at
 different temperatures

Fruit Identification of different fruit
 by smell when blindfolded

Call for Idea-Sparkers

Rose C. Merenda, Early Childhood Consultant, Warwick, Rhode Island. Sharon White-Williams, Department of Education, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia.

Do you have a great idea that you would like to share? Do you know a colleague who has a great idea? Please share the exciting things that are happening in your classroom. Send ideas via mail, fax, phone, or E-mail. Photos and illustrations are welcome. Please include your name, address, where you hove used this idea, and a description of the activity. Send your Idea-Sparkers to:

Rose Merenda 258 Negansett Avenue Warwick. RI 02888
COPYRIGHT 2001 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:science
Author:Merenda, Rose C.
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Next Article:ACEI Year Book 2001 ~ 2002.

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