School’s Out- Now What?

By Diane Ruyack

Summer is heating up and so are kids!  Let’s cool them off with water activities.  Simple things like running under the sprinkler, playing limbo under the hose or jumping over a stream of water, or purchasing a slip and slide sheet are easy and quick to set up.  Other fun and learning activities are icebergs and Antarctica.

A few days ahead, cut the tops off some cardboard milk cartons or coffee cans. Let your kids fill them halfway with water, then freeze them solid. Remove the chunks of ice from the containers and toss them in a pool or big container. Icebergs!  Kids will be amazed that something so heavy actually floats. They also will like watching it slowly, slowly, slowly melt. See if they can guess how long it will take for it to melt.  Use different containers, flat ones, large and small ones.  You could even color the icebergs with icing colors.

Ask the kids what’s different about the water now that it’s frozen. It is colder and hard, it’s bigger and has become whitish.  What lives at Antarctica? What’s going on? Ice floats because when it freezes it expands and becomes less dense than the water it displaces.

Another idea is bubble and float fun. Take some plastic funnels to a hardware store and find the right size of clear plastic tubing to fit over the end of the funnel.  Cut the tubing into lengths of 1 to 3 feet, at least one piece per child. Some kids will use the tubes alone to blow bubbles. Older children can attach a funnel to one end of a tube and use it to fill bottles and buckets.

Why not make an octopus out of a soda bottle? Use a screw to drill a hole near the top of a clean, de-labeled soda bottle, and another near the bottom. Fill the bottle halfway with water, replace the cap, and you’re ready to perform magic. When you cover the top hole with a finger, nothing flows out of the bottom. Remove your finger, and out pours the water. Now add more holes.  Kids love watching air bubbles float upward when the bottle was submerged. Once it was filled with water,  point out how the holes, while all the same size, produce different-sized streams, and how the streams change as the water level decreases in this bottle. With lots of holes it could be an octopus with tentacles of water going every which way.

Ask the kids… how the water flow will change if you block different holes or add holes. What’s going on? Water can’t escape from the bottle unless something else (here, air) can take its place. With multiple holes of the same size, greater pressure makes bigger streams, such as at the bottom of the bottle, where there’s more weight from water.

These ideas keep the kids interested and having fun as well as learning some science.  You might even find out one of the children may want to learn more and this is the beginning of a future career!

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