Saturday, October 24, 2015

Grades 3-4: Seeing the Familiar with New Eyes

In the last two weeks the 3rd and 4th graders have been discovering that a substance they thought they already knew all about is much more mysterious than they realized. We've been looking at water in a whole new light.  They've drunk it, they've swum in it, they've splashed it, they've washed with it, they've seen the creatures that live in it, but most have never truly studied a water droplet before. In this activity, the students placed a piece of wax paper over a piece of graph paper and used a bulb pipette to place water droplets on the wax paper.  To an adult, this does not seem like the kind of thing that would elicit exclamations like "Wow!" and "Look at what's it doing!", but to most students it was the first time that they had ever seen water droplets behave as though they had minds of their own.  They chased, combined, separated, and dyed them, and learned how water molecules are similar to little magnets in that they are polarized, with a positively charged end and a negatively charged one, and how this fact causes water to behave in very special ways.  We discussed other unique properties of water, and how things interact with water depending on whether they are "hydrophobic" or "hydrophilic" (phobic means "fear", and philic means "love"). The students enjoyed this activity so much that we ended up spending more than one class period on it so that they could finish their investigations and explore the questions that they generated.  

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