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Our post today was inspired by Clouds: A Compare and Contrast Book by Katharine Hall.

Young readers explore the concept of comparing and contrasting, while at the same time learning about different kinds of clouds and how to describe them.

Some clouds are big and fluffy;
others are thin and wispy.

The simple picture book book is illustrated with a series of two-page spreads filled with gorgeous color photographs of different types of clouds, like the one on the cover.

The real treasure, however, is the "For Creative Minds" in the back matter. This section has four pages of interactive activities to reinforce learning. Examples include experiments with evaporation, a cloud match exercise, and information about how clouds are connected to weather prediction.

Because evaporation is the source of water that ends up in clouds, let's try some evaporation experiments of our own.

Water Evaporation

Evaporation is a chemical process that involves a change of state from liquid to gas.

1. Observation opportunity for youngest scientists

To study evaporation, you will need water, sponges or paint brushes, and a sidewalk or other flat surface on a sunny, hot day. Simply paint the water onto a flat surface and watch it evaporate. Try different surfaces, different amounts of water, different patterns of application, etc. Use sidewalk chalk to draw around a large wet patch and then revisit the site to emphasize how the wet area has been reduced over time.

If the children ask, explain that the liquid water is turning into a gas or vapor as it disappears and is rising up into the air.

2. Simple evaporation experiment for young scientists

Can you prevent evaporation with plastic wrap?

Gather:

  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Plastic wrap
  • Timing device (optional)
  • Level, flat, hard surface like sidewalk or driveway
  • Rocks to hold down plastic wrap (optional)

Create two similar-sized and similar-shaped wet areas by pouring a measured amount of water onto a flat, level surface (1/4 cup of water works well). Note:  If the surface is sloped, the water will tend to roll off and form irregular shapes.

Cover one of the spots with plastic wrap and hold down with rocks, if necessary.

evap-expt-beforeWait a few minutes (time will vary with temperature, sunlight, and humidity).

Return and assess which spot has evaporated the most.

evap-expt-after-3Why?

3. Evaporation challenge for middle-grade scientists

Gather:

  • Shallow plates or bowls
  • Bottles or jars, preferably with narrow necks
  • Measuring cup(s)
  • Timing device(s)
  • Thermometer(s)
  • Cotton balls or tissues
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Scales to weigh bowls and jars

Challenge the children to come up with questions about evaporation and then generate a hypothesis. Using the materials provided, design and carry out an experiment to test their hypothesis.

Some suggestions:

  • Measure the rate of evaporation of 1/4 cup of water in a shallow plate or bowl versus in a narrow-necked jar (For example:  weigh the bowls and jars with water before and after evaporation).
  • Measure the rate of evaporation in a shallow dish in the sun versus in a shady location (mark the levels before and after evaporation with a marker).
  • Measure the rate of evaporation of 1/4 cup of water open in a shallow dish versus 1/4 cup of water soaked into tissue or cotton balls in a shallow dish.
  • Take the temperature with the thermometer on a sunny surface. Then place a wet tissue or cotton ball over the base of the thermometer. How does the temperature change over time?

Discuss their results.

Older engineers will likely enjoy the evaporation-powered engine we discussed in the STEAM festival post about engineering.

 Further resources:

The book publisher, Arbordale Publishing, offers a number of resources, including a free 17 page Teaching Activities Guide to accompany Clouds (see right sidebar).

Weather-books-for-kidsWe have a growing list of weather-related children's books at Science Books for Kids.

Children interested in weather? They might enjoy this wind map of the U.S. How would the amount of wind effect evaporation?

___________________________

Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Once children have begun to be aware of how important water is to our planet and to living things, it is time to investigate how water recycles.

the-water-cycle

Our post today was inspired byWater Cycle (Pebble Plus: Earth and Space Science) by Craig Hammersmith, which is a picture book that introduces many important concepts and vocabulary words pertaining to the water cycle, such as evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Along with a glossary and an index, there are instructions for making a "mini-earth" in the form of a terrarium. (A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Capstone.)

The first step to understanding the water cycle in understanding the states of matter. Water is an ideal substance to study because it exhibits three of the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas) at relatively normal temperatures.

Solid Water (ice, hail, snow):

Gather:

  • Plastic tubs of different sizes, food molds, ice cube trays, clean milk cartons, etc.
  • Access to freezer
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Springs of herbs, flower petals (optional)

Put some water in different-shaped containers and freeze it. Allow the children to help pick containers and fill them. For added enjoyment, add a few drops of food coloring to the water. Or you can add bits of edible flowers such as roses, or leaves of herbs as decorations. Explain that the liquid water is going to become solid.

On a warm day, take the ice outside and use it to build ice sculptures. Remove the ice from the containers by briefly immersing in water if it won’t just slip out. If you don’t have time to make special shapes, simple ice cubes can work great for this, too.

Have the children pile the ice to make buildings, animals or abstract forms. You can lightly mist the finished products with water containing food coloring. Then watch the sculptures melt. Predict how long it will take. Explain that the solid water is becoming liquid water by melting.

Older children can design inventions to protect the ice from melting, and then build and test their invention by seeing how long it takes for the ice to melt inside the device versus unprotected.

(See a previous post about snow science, too.)

icicles

 

Liquid Water:

Learning how to make a water siphon is a fun and useful way to learn about some of the properties of liquid water.

Gather:

  • Small amount of tubing, such as clear plastic aquarium tubing - about 18 to 24 inches long
  • Water
  • Two bowls or other containers large enough to hold tubing submerged, or even a large glass and a sink
  • Food coloring (optional)

Fill one of the containers with water. Add a few drops of food coloring (optional). Submerge the tubing under the water and jiggle to remove air bubbles until the tube is filled with water. Place your thumb tightly over one end of the tube and move it to an empty container, ideally slightly lower than the first. Release your thumb and the water should start moving from the filled bowl to the empty one via siphon action. It may take some practice if you have never done it before.

You can also put two straws together to use instead of tubing, as shown in the first video (Note: there is a pop-up ad):

 

The video below by Doctor C shows how a siphon works using a chain model. (Note:  The narrator takes a sip of the water at the end. You might want to turn the video off before you reach that point to prevent copycat behavior.)

 

For older children, time how long it takes to fill a container of known size and calculate rate of flow. Figure out how long it would take to empty a ten gallon fish tank with your siphon. How about an average swimming pool?

pool-water-texture

(Pool Water Texture by Petr Kratochvil)

Water as a Gas
:

To study water in the gas form, you will need water, paint brushes and a sidewalk or driveway on a hot day. If you must stay indoors, a chalkboard will work too. Simply paint the water onto a flat surface and then time how long it takes to evaporate. Explain that the liquid water is turning into a gas as it disappears and is rising up into the air. That is called evaporation.

To show the gas water turning back into liquid, set out a glass full of ice water on a warm day. The gas should condense into liquid around the outside of the glass after a few minutes, creating droplets. This is called condensation.

Water_cycle

The USGS has child-friendly information about the water cycle, including a printable poster.

If you would like to make a terrarium as a model of a water cycle, see our previous post.

See how a man kept a plant in a bottle for years without adding water or air (Note:  website has numerous ads and images that might not be child-appropriate).

You could spend a lifetime studying water. Next week we're going to find out where the the water in your home faucet comes from and how it gets to the tap.

Water Cycle (Pebble Plus: Earth and Space Science) by Craig Hammersmith

Age Range: 4 and up
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1429671424
ISBN-13: 978-1429671422


Disclosures: The book was provided for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

 

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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Our science activities and lessons today are inspired by the children's picture book Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater. With Groundhog Day just two weeks away (February 2, 2013), it would be a great time to learn more about groundhogs and do some science activities relating to shadows and weather. For more about the book and other books for the celebration of Groundhog Day, visit Wrapped in Foil.

1. Learn about groundhogs or woodchucks and create an age-appropriate fact sheet.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are rodents belonging to the marmot family. Their scientific name is Marmota monax. They live throughout the eastern and northern parts of North America, all the way north to Alaska.

Groundhogs live in burrows they dig in the ground. They come out of the burrow to eat plants during the summer. Often you can see them alongside highways grazing on the road banks or sitting up looking for danger. Sometimes they climb small trees or shrubs to escape from enemies or to explore new types of food.

In the winter groundhogs hibernate deep underground. Sometimes they will come out of hibernation to search for food. This has become part of the Groundhog Day story.

Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs because they whistle to communicate with each other. The Marmot Burrow website has a recording of a male groundhog whistling.

In this video, you can see a young groundhog and learn more about their habits.

For a longer and more extensively narrated video about a woodchuck family, see Groundhogs 2005-2008 An uncommon look at a common animal. The link takes you to the video at YouTube (sharing has been disabled). Update:  See the videos on the new website.

You also might want to read some of the books listed below. When you are done, create a fact sheet about groundhogs to share what you have learned. Include drawings of the animals and their homes.

2. Science of Shadows

A. Preschool-K Level:  Exploring Shadows

Gather:

  • flashlights
  • bare, light-colored wall in a darkened room (ceiling is fun, too)
  • assorted objects to cast shadows, including a wide-toothed comb or hair pick, and a ball

Darken a room somewhat and then use the flashlight to explore shadows. Move an object closer to the flashlight and then farther way. Move the flashlight closer to the object and pull it away. What happens? What happens when you hold the comb in front of the flashlight? Now turn on a second flashlight. Shine the two flashlights on an object. Slowly move the flashlights apart. What happens to the shadow(s)?

Older children will enjoy making shadow animals and/or shadow puppets.

How about a groundhog shadow puppet to celebrate Groundhog Day? Cut out a groundhog shape and glue it to a craft stick with white glue. Now take it outside and see if the groundhog will see its shadow.

B. Elementary:  Chasing shadows

Need:

  • Hard level surface out of doors large enough for each participant to record their shadows
  • Sidewalk chalk of different colors
  • Yardstick or measuring tape (optional)
  • Compass (optional)
  • Sunny day

Start by going outside in the morning. Have the children chose a place to stand. Draw a circle of chalk around their feet and then write their initials inside the circle. Now, have them stand with their back to the sun. Have a helper draw a line around their shadow. Measure the length of the shadow. Check the direction of the shadow using the compass (optional).

Return and repeat the process around noon and later in the afternoon. How have the shadows changed? Discuss how the shadows might be different in the different seasons as the sun appears to be higher or lower in the sky due to the Earth's tilt.

C. Older:  Make a sundial

There are many great websites that show how to make an explore a sundial. Here are just two:

D. Older:  Use a shadow to measure a tree.

To find out more about Groundhogs, try these nonfiction children's books:

Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater

Library Binding: 24 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429686731
ISBN-13: 978-1429686730

 

Groundhog's Burrow (Science Slam: the Hole Truth!: Underground Animal Life) by Dee Phillips

Orphan The Story of A Baby Woodchuck by Faith McNulty

For more about Shadows, try these nonfiction children's books:

What makes a shadow? (Let's-read-and-find-out science) by Clyde Robert Bull and illustrated by June Otani

Publisher: Scholastic; Revised edition (1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590275933
ISBN-13: 978-0590275934

Shadows by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson


Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (March 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805060596
ISBN-13: 978-0805060591

Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows (Amazing Science) by Natalie M. Rosinsky  and illustrated by Sheree Boyd

Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Picture Window Books (January 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1404803327
ISBN-13: 978-1404803329

Light and Shadows (Science@School) by Brian J. Knapp

Moonbear's Shadow (Moonbear Books) by Frank Asch (One of our favorite fiction books about shadows).

Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 3/1/2000
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Age 5 and Up

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.