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Welcome to the FUNd Stuff, Double Stuffed. Here we give you what we couldn't quite squish into the FUNd Stuff, articles that should be available to read more than just once in the weekly newsletter, and, well, we'll see what else!

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Will It Float? by Kathy Heinlein, Parent

Although we place value in preschool and early education, the reality is most adults don’t consider educational experiences before kindergarten to be “real school”. When I stopped in to hang out with the Beginners’ classroom this week, I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary, much less extraordinary. I’d been told the beginners were going to be doing an activity called “Will It Float?” using apples. That sounded, quite honestly, like a whole lot of 3 year old fun!

The activity started with the class sitting in circle as Miss B explaining the question they would try to answer: will an apple float or sink. Miss B encouraged each child to thoughtfully consider what would happen when an apple was placed in a tub of water. The students were encouraged not only to predict what would happen, but to share *why* they thought their prediction would happen. Each student did so with enthusiasm! The predictions were evenly distributed between “float” and “sink” with the most common reason given being “because I like it!”

After the predictions were tallied, Miss B demonstrated what would happen. Miss B used three apples, just to be see if the answer she got with the first apple was consistently observed. In all three instances, the apples floated.

The children could barely contain their excitement - they didn’t want to just observe someone floating an apple, they wanted to try it themselves! Having anticipated that excitement, Miss B and Ms Kristin had set up a dish of water for each child, and apples were ready to bob. There weren’t quite enough apples to have one for each student, so wood blocks were substituted. As the students experimented in their own dishes, they traded wood blocks for apples. Next they wanted to try new objects, and feathers and plastic fruit appeared.

All in all, a lot of fun for sure! But I was impressed by something far beyond the fun - while it might not have been noticed by the Beginners themselves, what had just taken place in the youngest of our classrooms, was in fact, the Scientific Method. Any middle school student who’s been to a Science Fair has heard of it. Any high school student who’s had either excitedly or unwillingly completed a lab will have practiced it. Any career scientist will know it as the way we approach questions, the way we find answers and the way that ultimately grand discoveries are made.

It all starts with a question, sometimes as simple as “will an apple float?” The question is folllowed by a thoughtful prediction, where serious consideration is given to the “why”. You might recall most of the beginners answered “why” with “Because I like it!”. Doesn’t make sense, perhaps, to our logical adult minds, but the answers were listened to and considered and not refuted before the experiment was conducted - which is as important in the adult world as it is in the Beginners’ classroom. Sometimes the most seemingly illogical of reasons lead to significant scientific discoveries.

After the hypothesis has been determined, scientists use controlled testing to prove or disprove the prediction. Like Miss B, scientists typically use more than one apple, er, sample, to be certain the results of an experiment are repeatable. And believe it or not, it’s as fun for old scientists as it was for the beginners!

Once again, I was amazed at the education our youngest children are receiving at PNA.

Posted by on Thursday September 17, 2015 at 05:51PM
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