|hunting for elements in the house|
We've had a great week exploring the periodic table of elements (PTOE)! It's funny - when I tell someone what we're doing, they either grimace and shrink away or get goofy excited. I would definitely fall into the former - my high school chemistry teacher was intimidating, difficult to understand and told inappropriate jokes all through class (many of which I didn't even get until many years later), and it is a miracle that I got through the class with some sort of a B. But when I read about the activities Lisa from 5 Orange Potatoes did with her kids, I thought that we might have some fun, and stashed the thought away for a couple of years. This fall one of our friends from Richmond decided to teach a PTOE class, and we shared some resources and ideas and I benefited from her getting to it first, and so, inspired, we went for it this week.
We started with Meet the Elements from Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants. (I've decided we could just study science following the tracks on their CD; when we started talking about photosynthesis 'cause we were talking about the carbon cycle, the girls started singing Photosynthesis! a-ahhh-AHHHHH.) Then we got out a couple of Periodic Tables that we have and a basket of stuff from around the house and got to business.
We spent some time getting to the know the table - Ani was enjoying the patterns and relationships - and went on a table scavenger hunt that my friend Kimmy devised (name an element that's named after a state; name 5 elements whose symbols don't "match" their name, etc). We wrapped it all up laughing at Daniel Radcliffe's party trick (he's Harry Potter in the movies, dontcha know) of singing Tom Lehrer's elements song.
Later in the week we got to playing with Carbon. We fed some yeast some sugar and trapped it with a balloon in a honey bottle and watched the balloon fill up with CO2 (yeast burps). We built carbon molecules - graphite and diamonds.
(ok, really, we could probably do this for hours, but our gumdrops were probably 3 years old and were crumbling apart and then we suddenly realized we were about to be late for choir and were still in our pajamas, and...)
We went for a walk one afternoon with some neighbors and headed for the traintracks to see if we could find some coal (more carbon!). I am obsessing a bit on coal - I mean, it is billions of years old. It used to be a plant. I am amazed.
We talked about and drew the carbon cycle which lead us to talk about balance and then imbalance and the girls have a pretty firm grasp of fossil fuels and how we have contributed to this imbalance. We were talking about how the excess CO2 in the atmosphere was making earth too warm and suddenly Ani says, "wait - you mean like global warming???" It is actually what got her on board for the walk - she wanted to drive somewhere else to walk but we talked about how we had a good place to walk without getting into the car...