We spent all of Monday, September 21st at Haw River Elementary School, a Title 1 school just west of Chapel Hill. We had been doing math and literacy activities all morning with the 2nd graders, and after we returned to the room for lunch and a final debriefing, we gathered our materials for the science activity. I had already told the two students I was working with that we would do the science activity at the end of the day, and I knew that Alondra and Matthew were excited about this part! Sarah Gleason and I put our four children together to conduct the bubbles experiment.
I was a little nervous…I didn’t want to mess up the experiment or confuse the students. But things went much more smoothly than I would have imagined. The students loved guessing which objects would float and sink and of course blowing bubbles in the soapy water! Sarah and I decided to alter the experiment a little and we used the dropper to see how much water we could put on the penny before the surface tension would break. The students were amazed by this activity and I wish we had spent more time on it. If I was to do this experiment again, I would definitely enhance this part of the activity. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the paper clip to float in the container of water, even after Nick’s technique of using another paper clip to lower it down. But surprisingly, the students understood that it was sinking because our fingers were breaking the surface tension. I was amazed that they understood the idea of the “skin of the water”. When we used the wiki sticks as wands to blow bubbles with the solution, the students were making predictions right and left about on what types of surfaces the bubbles would and would not break.
If I conducted this experiment again, I would definitely be more prepared in terms of my materials. Although Sarah and I had almost everything out and ready in front of us before the kids came in, we didn’t think about needing paper towels to wipe up the mess or extra water to add to the containers. I will have to think of these little things next time I do a science experiment with children.
I enjoyed this interactive learning activity and I am sure the students enjoyed the experience. It is so much better to let the students experience surface tension (and many other science concepts) firsthand rather than watching the teacher do a demonstration from afar or reading about it from a textbook.
In all, I was amazed at the eagerness and insightfulness of the students I worked with. I think I gained a lot from focusing on individual students and how their thought processes worked in the different activities. It is a great strategy for any teacher to take time to work one-on-one with his or her students to learn how they think and figure out what strategies will work best for them. After doing the bubbles activity, I am much more excited about doing interactive science activities in my own classroom.