Tag Archives: water

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.


Hey, you guys!  Science is back!  We did a bit of science over the summer, mostly reading books, being out in nature, and letting the everyday be our guide.  We had an especially excellent trip to Fernbank Natural History Museum in Atlanta where we saw a dinosaur so big that it could totally have stomped any of the dinos in the Smithsonian.  But now it’s time to turn our minds to a more organized approach, so here we go.  In case you’re curious, this year will be mostly earth science with a little chemistry thrown in.  You can find the list here.

For this topic, I really wanted the kids to understand that atoms are the basic building blocks of absolutely everything.  I wanted them to learn the parts of an atom.  I wanted them to understand that molecules are combinations of atoms.  Finally, I wanted to show them that atoms aren’t as simple as we like to make them seem.  They’re full of empty space and things at that level don’t behave the way things do in what we think of as the normal world.



Our first topic is atoms and molecules.  For a topic so basic, there’s a surprising lack of books about it for children.  There are a few series books out there, and so many chemistry experiment books that you could easily stack them to the ceiling.  However, there weren’t a lot of good introductory books for elementary school students.  We had one, from the 1960’s, called Biography of an Atom which had the sort of information I wanted, but which was obviously a bit out of date.  We also had two longer series books, Splitting the Atom by Katie Parker and Atomic Universe: The Quest to Discover Radioactivity by Kate Boehm Jerome.  Both were a little too detailed for this age and the latter book was focused more on radioactivity and X-rays.  There is a Rookie Read Aloud Science book about atoms.  However, the book I wish I could have gotten in time was The Adventures of Adam the Atom by Casey Waid.  That book looked perfect for this age group, but none of the libraries had it.  Overall, we didn’t find just what I wanted.

For experiment books, I drew ideas from Janice Van Cleave’s Molecules and the book Adventures with Atoms and Molecules by Robert Mebane.  Both had a lot of general chemistry experiment ideas, but this is a topic you have to help kids connect the dots.  After all, they can’t see the atoms and molecules.


Luckily there are plenty of videos for atoms and molecules.  First of all, there’s our two standards.  Bill Nye gives up the episode “Atoms” and The Magic School Bus gives us the episode “The Magic School Bus Meets Molly Cule.”  Plus, there’s two Eureka episodes for this topic.  First, there’s one on atoms, which I embedded below.  Next, there’s another on elections.  Both refer to atoms as “round” but otherwise seemed accurate, despite their age.

There were also a number of other good videos for atoms.  There’s this one from Khan Academy, which was a little too long for us, but probably about right for older kids (and grown ups!).  It starts by telling you that with chemistry you get to start with the most philosophically interesting thing, which pretty much sums out what I like about Khan Academy’s approach as well as studying atoms.  A much simpler introduction is this Ignite Learning video.  And this is an amusing little song about the history of the atom.  We also have a new Brainpop subscription that we got for a good deal and the older kids’ site has a whole section on matter with a number of good videos for this unit, such as this one about the atom.  You’ll need a subscription to see that one.

Below is one more that I really loved, from NOVA, which basically tears apart all your science textbook ideas about how to represent an atom.  I thought it was perfect.  And here’s a quick little excerpt from a longer documentary that explains the scale of atoms and might make you a little disturbed about just how much empty space we’re all made of.


We have brand new science notebooks, so order of business number one was to decorate them and put names on them.  For BalletBoy and Mushroom, we’re going to be printing out their narrations and taping or pasting them into the notebook.  Doing narrations about science is a new thing for us this year and I can see that it’s a challenge for the kids, but I’m excited to make it work.

I already wrote a couple of weeks ago about the quandary I faced with atomic models.  However, I wanted to start with some simple notes, so the kids copied a model of an atom.  We drew them for the sake of vocabulary, essentially.  However, at the end of our science time, I asked the kids to say what was wrong with the drawings and we finished by putting big cross outs on them.  You can see Mushroom’s notes and model with BalletBoy’s taped in narrations below.

It’s easy to see that you, your toys, your house and all the (seemingly!) solid objects around you are made of something, but I thought it was worthwhile to think about how air is also made of molecules and atoms, so we did a version of this experiment where you blow up a balloon and weight it on a balance with an balloon that’s not blown up.

Next, we explored some behavior that molecules help explain.  Each kid picked out an object that was made of atoms (they laughed about that command, which I hope means they get it) and we looked at it and noticed how different they are.  We talked about how the structure of the molecules explains why the fork is hard and the eraser was rubbery.  Next,  we made water flow sideways to think about how molecules like to cling together.  This is one of the cooler experiments I’ve done.  It had both a wow factor and a learning objective that the kids really seemed to get.  When I asked if it would work with a dry string, they immediately saw that it wouldn’t because the water would have no other water molecules to cling to.  One more thing I had planned was to spray perfume to see how molecules move and disperse, but I forgot to do it.  Next week!

Finally, we explored the space between molecules by doing an experiment with salt and water.  We filled a glass with water to the brim.  Then, we slowly added salt until the water overflowed.  The kids really got into this one.  You could see that a lot more salt fit inside the glass than seemed possible.  The reason is that the salt dissolves so that the salt molecules fit in between the water molecules.  This experiment came from the Janice VanCleave book and it had an additional suggestion to illustrate the idea by combining a glass filled with marbles (to illustrate the water molecules) with a glass filled with salt.  Each glass is full, but together they still only fill one glass.  This illustration really helped the kids get the concept.  At first, they didn’t know how to explain why the salt “fit” inside the water.  But after seeing the demonstration with the marbles, they get it immediately and Mushroom then made the connection that atoms are also made mostly of empty space, which is when we went back and marked out our original atom drawings.