Water and Fluids

A had a few goals for this week.  I wanted to look more at states of matter and changes in states of matter.  I wanted the kids to get how matter changes state.  I also wanted to present some basic information about water: how important it is for life, how it’s both plentiful and scarce, how it’s the only substance we find as a solid, liquid and gas in nature.


There are so many children’s books about water, it boggles the mind.  I feel like I could list twice as many as I’m about to and still leave out dozens of amazing gems.  All of these were great and unlike some science editions where the books are merely decent conveyances of information we need, this time the books were great children’s literature.

First of all, we enjoyed the book One Well by Rochelle Straus and Rosemary Woods, which talked about water mostly in a cultural context.  It laid out really nicely how we have so much water and so little, as well as how connected water is and how endangered clean water is.  In that same sort of context, the National Geographic book A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley was also really nice.  The photos were amazing.  There’s very little text in the book, but there’s a nice little bit about each photo’s origins at the end.  The book Water Cycle by Thomas Locker was another great book that included poetry and science, especially of the water cycle, as the title implies.  However, our favorite was the book One Drop of Water by Walter Wick, who also created the I Spy books.  Here, he uses his excellent cameras to capture water in some amazing moments.  The text aligned nicely with our unit, explaining molecules and changes in state in vivid terms.

For experiment books, I had a few things, including the Kingfisher book I drew from the week before and a New True Book of simple water experiments.  However, overall, there was no great stand out title for water experiments that I found and many of the things we did were simply common sense.


Yet again, there are many good ones for this topic.  Bill Nye brings us a couple of episodes about this topic.  First of all, there’s Fluids, which goes nicely with our continued states of matter exploration.  Secondly, he has a whole episode for the Water Cycle.  The Magic School Bus has “Wet All Over” about water.  For a quick introduction, here’s the subscription service BrainPop’s video about water.

I found a lot of good YouTube options for this topic.  Here’s a National Geographic video about water use that has an environmental bent.  And here’s another one from Good Magazine that’s very similar in content (if different in style).

Here’s Veritasium’s cute video about states of matter and water.  And here’s a quick video about the Water Cycle by NASA.  Our favorite, which we watched several times over was this beautiful video of a single drop of water, which I found on The Kid Should See This:


We began by reviewing what we knew about the three main states of matter.  I told them we had explored solids a good but but were going to look at liquids more this week.  I told all the kids to go find two liquids.  They came back with a nice assortment of oil, water, maple syrup, soap, yellow paint and so forth.

Next, we did a couple of activities to explore how different liquids have different properties, just like solids.  This site has a more sophisticated version of what we did.  We began by doing a simple one we had not done in awhile, by piling different liquids on top of each other in a glass.  We tried it a couple of times with different things in different orders.  The kids definitely got that oil was the least dense and that the maple syrup was surprisingly dense.

Next, we did a fluids race.  I just set up an old pan with a starting line and a finish line.  Each kid got to pick one of his liquids to put a dollop on the start line and then I lifted the pan to see which one would run the fastest.  BalletBoy was disappointed because one of the times we did it, he tried toothpaste, which was the only thing that didn’t run at all.  It turned out it’s a colloid.  Oh well.

Next, we turned our attention to water.  We began with some notes and vocabulary words, such as condense, evaporate and water vapor.

The experiments were simple.  We froze water, then checked to see how it had gotten bigger.  We melted ice to see it change state.  We boiled water to turn it into vapor.  Then we “caught” the vapor and turned it into water on a cool glass and then by setting containers high above the steam coming out of the boiling pot.  We also checked on some evaporating water from a couple weeks back and found, excitingly, the water had completely evaporated.  Also, that our “salt flats” had formed and you could see their cubic shape very clearly.  We compared them with the pointy ones from the epsom salts again.

We finished by talking about all the things we’ve already learned about water and all the past experiments we did.  Some they didn’t remember very well, but others they did.  We referenced many of the experiments we did for temperature, floating and sinking, waves, and pressure last year.  Mushroom remembered that water conducts electricity (something the kids have tested with the Snap Circuits many times) and BalletBoy remembered about the water cycle that all water is connected.  They all remembered learning that water molecules cling together.  Overall, it was a nice ending to the lesson and nice to bring together a number of topics.

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