May. 27, 2011

Science Dad and Beckett Take a Look Back

by Vince Harriman

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Beckett and Charlie learning about Brownian motion

Beckett has his last day of kindergarten today, so we decided to take the week off from science projects and experiments and take a look back at all the science we've done this year. And full disclosure: the project originally planned for this week hit a snag; the brine shrimp we are attempting to grow in our tiny aquarium have not hatched. This could be due to a number of things, notably our inability to get the salinity exactly right. Brine shrimp (often know by a popular trade name as 'sea monkeys') can tolerate a fairly wide range of salinity, temperature, and sunlight, but ours have yet to make an appearance, at least as far as we can tell. And believe me, Beckett is turning the light on in the aquarium just about every ten minutes. We will continue to monitor the tank and will update and post on this project when we have shrimp.

We sat down at the computer and clicked through the archives to find our favorite projects. Before I could open a single entry, Beckett said his favorite project so far was the Easter Candy project. He even wanted to measure the speed of light again by microwaving Peeps, but we're all out of Peeps and probably won't see any again till next Easter. He still has the Newton's Cradle in his room. The jawbreakers seem to be holding up well despite a near tragedy getting the thing up to his room -- he managed to tangle the lines so much it took a good long while to untangle them. We got a lot of comments on that post, thanks in part to the 'guess the M&Ms' contest.

Cut! Try it again!

Beckett's second favorite was the Croquet and Newton experiment, which was no surprise, since we took Rowan and Beckett's good friend Robbie along. We have a little park near our house that was perfect for it and it coincided with the Saint John's College vs. United States Naval Academy match, which we also attended. I was a bit curious about this one though -- we spent a bit of time trying to get a decent picture to illustrate Newton's First and Second Laws of Motion, mostly unsuccessfully. We shot video from dozens of angles, most of the films ending with Rowan running in and grabbing the balls, or Beckett and Robbie playfully arguing about what happened next. When a player hits another player's ball, they usually have the opportunity to smack the ball off the pitch. Which is the very best part of croquet for a six year old... I was glad to hear that he had a lot of fun, despite the stress I was feeling to get a decent video or shot. Lesson learned, for me: let the kids 'do' the project or experiment and worry about documentation later!

White carnations on day one. Which is the control?

His third favorite was our Valentine's Day project. We did a well known experiment involving food coloring and white carnations, watching how plant hydration moved water from the stem to the flower tips. I think it was fun because it took all week -- every day we could see more color coming to the flowers. Our only mistake as scientists was that we failed to keep a carnation in plain water as a control.

It was an interesting exercise to go over all our old experiments and projects -- to see how much he remembered of the science as well as how much fun he did or did not have. I think the key to any educational endeavor is to keep it as fun and interesting as possible. I'd love to hear from readers which posts they liked most and even which posts they didn't like. I know I had my favorites! Please leave a comment below -- tell me (or Beckett) what posts you liked, what you remember, what you learned. Don't worry, we'll be back next week. If the shrimp don't hatch we have several other projects we're working on...

About Vince Harriman

Science Dad, AKA Vince Harriman, is a freelance writer living in Annapolis. His two sons, Beckett-6 and Rowan-2 1/2 ask him 'why' approximately 6,542 times a day.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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