Tag Archives: investigations

Optics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen

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opticsOptics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen, e-book, 23 pages, published in 2013.

The woods surrounding Isabelle’s village are full of monsters. The villagers know it is not safe to enter the woods, but Isabelle must go to cut some wood to help her family survive. She discovers a monster stuck in a tree, and helps it. In return she is shown a special mirror in which she can capture the monsters’ souls so that they will stop terrorising her village.

This book introduces the properties of convex and concave mirrors and lenses in a fun and entertaining way. The mirror in the story is a large spherical concave mirror, like a big bowl on its side. In this mirror, Isabelle can see and trap the souls of the monsters that have chased her. She sees that the images of the souls change size and location when the monsters move closer to or further away from the mirror’s surface, and on the concave side, the images are upside-down. Through the telling of this story, I learnt a bit about optics. Being able to put this information into the context of a story will help me to remember the properties of concave and convex mirrors, and in turn, lenses.

There is a small section at the end of the story that explains these concepts in simple language. It covers the centre of curvature, focus and image location with simple diagrams to aid understanding.

Optics: A Fairy Tale is part of an educational series by Sarah Allen. This blend of fairy tale and physics is suitable for high school students and up. It simplifies some optics basics, helping to prepare physics students for more complex concepts.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Green Sensory Tub

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After gathering some green items together, we sat down to our green sensory tub. We had some ribbons, pipe cleaners, bowls, spoons, a toy train and a toy truck, muffin case, wooden and plastic trees and some green toy bugs and snakes. The boys were both very interested in the toy train and toy truck, rolling them all over the tub and the floor. They touched the fuzzy pipe cleaner, and used the spoons to scoop up the bugs. T1 tried to wear one of the bowls as a hat. T2 crinkled the muffin case, and fluttered the ribbon about his head.

Scooping from the bowl.

Scooping from the bowl.

T2 had a lot of fun moving the snakes and bugs about, and using the spoons. He pretended to scoop food out of the bowls and eat it off the spoon. After a bit, T1 tossed all of our green items out of the tub and sat in the tub himself! We talked about the colour of his clothes, but he wasn’t wearing anything green! He liked repeating the word “green” after me, and finding things about the house that were also green.

Making the snake ride the truck.

Making the snake ride the truck.

 

Red Sensory Tub

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On a cold winter’s afternoon we pulled out our tub and filled it with red objects to create a sensory tub for the boys. We had some straws, toy trains and a firetruck, tongs, a funnel and cup, pom poms and mittens.

Going straight for the train!

Going straight for the train!

We explored the different textures of items within the tub. T1 kept putting the pom poms in his mouth, so I removed them before them could be swallowed! He also enjoyed touching the pipe cleaners and blowing through the straws. T2 liked the mittens, and rubbed them all over his face. He also tried putting them on his hands, and his feet.

Trying to pick up the train with the tongs.

Trying to pick up the train with the tongs.

They both loved playing with the trains and the firetruck. T2 tried to use the tongs to pick some of the other objects up, but without much success.

Making music.

Making music.

T1 used the funnel to make music by blowing through it like a horn. He also threaded one of the pipe cleaners through the funnel a number of times.

Throughout the fun, we talked about the colour red, and I encouraged them to say it. I pointed out other things around the room that were red, and asked them if they knew anything else that was red. They both became very excited when I started talking about red fruits, such as strawberries, apples and raspberries. We had to go for a snack after that!

Threading.

Threading.

 

Static Electricity

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Does anyone else remember rubbing your school shoes on the industrial school carpet until you’d built up enough charge to zap people? We spent many wet winter days stuck in a classroom doing this to each other! This is static electricity, and there are other ways to experience it, which are much better with the kids.

Static electricity is caused by friction between two surfaces. Some surfaces are better at building and maintaining a charge than others. We used a balloon for our experiments because it is easy to create the charge and to witness its effects. The friction causes the surface to gain a charge (negative or positive), and when another surface has the opposite charge, they become attracted. Static electricity can cause a ‘zap’ if you touch someone or something after building up some static on yourself. You can find a good explanation of static electricity at Science Made Simple.

Rubbing the balloon on the rug.

Rubbing the balloon on the rug.

Raising L's hair.

Raising L’s hair.

Stuck to L's head.

Stuck to L’s head.

We used balloons to demonstrate and play with static electricity. I blew up a couple of balloons and gave one to each of the kids. First they rubbed their balloons against their hair to build up the charge. When they raised the balloon away from their heads their hair was attracted back to the balloon, looking like it was standing on end. They also tried rubbing the balloons on the carpet, and on their clothes, but it didn’t provide enough charge to lift their hair.

Stuck to the wall.

Stuck to the wall.

They discovered that after rubbing the balloons on their hair, there was enough charge to hold the balloon to the wall. They were amazed by this, and spent quite a lot of time trying this over and over.

I emptied the hole punch onto the carpet (this can make a big mess, so be prepared to vacuum after, and ask a parent first!). All the little bits of paper from the hole punch scattered on the floor. The kids charged up their balloons and then attempted to pick up these bits of paper. They tried picking up the paper from different heights to see how far away the balloon could be before it lost its attraction. They marveled as they watched the paper fly up to stick to the balloon.

Lifting paper off the floor.

Lifting paper off the floor.

Paper stuck to the balloon.

Paper stuck to the balloon.

They discovered that they could get the best reaction by rubbing the balloons on their head, though this did cause their hair to become rather knotty after a while. We had to carefully brush their hair out at the end, but they had a brilliant time playing with the balloons.

We also discussed some other places that we might encounter static electricity zaps, such as on the trampoline and the slide.

Body Measurements

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To practice using rulers and tape measures (and reading them accurately!) we spent an hour or so measuring different parts of our bodies.

L marking out her foot to measure it.

L marking out her foot to measure it.

Measuring A's hand with the ruler.

Measuring A’s hand with the ruler.

Both L and A stood on a sheet of paper and placed a mark along the back of their heel, and at the top of their big toes. They then used a ruler to measure how long their feet are. Both of them found their left feet to be slightly longer than the right. They also used the rulers to measure the length of their hands, from the circlet of wrinkles at the wrist to the end of the middle finger. L drew around her hand carefully and then measured the length of each of her fingers.

L tracing around her hand.

L tracing around her hand.

L measuring around her waist.

L measuring around her waist.

Measuring my ankle.

Measuring my ankle.

 

L used a tape measure to measure around her waist, but the first few times she read off the inches side, and had to try again to get centimetres. They also used the tape measure to measure around our ankles, wrists, upper arms and heads. They compared all of the measurements. They were quite amazed that the left side of the body can be different to the right side. They also discovered that my head isn’t that much bigger than L’s!

Even the bunny got in on it!

Even the bunny got in on it!

This was a simple activity that needed no preparation to organise, but it gave the kids plenty of practice measuring things. Being able to measure accurately and consistently is an important skill, and we will be practicing it more in the future.

Treasure Bottle

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The shaken bottle.

The shaken bottle.

One of the preschool classes at school made some pirate treasure bottles as part of their pirate theme. A was intrigued by the treasure bottles, and wanted to make one at home. The bottle contained a variety of items, including sand, coloured water, glitter, beads, pebbles and other crafty materials.

The bottle and some of the treasures.

The bottle and some of the treasures.

We used a clear plastic bottle to place our treasures in. Some of the treasures included plastic beads, coloured plastic, sparkly pom poms, cut up plastic straws, some broken loom bands, and lots and lots of glitter. The kids took turns adding treasures to the bottle, then I used a funnel to add silver and gold glitter. Once all our treasures were in the bottle, I filled it with water and tightened the lid. For bottle crafts like this, I normally add glue to the thread of the lid before screwing it back on too, so that the lid doesn’t accidentally come off and result in a huge mess.

Tipping the bottle upside down.

Tipping the bottle upside down.

Watching the contents settle.

Watching the contents settle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids squeezed the bottle, tipped it upside down, and shook it. They watched to see what sank and what floated. They watched as the contents settled and swirled. They were mesmerised.

Yellow Sensory Tub

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IMG_1314I gathered lots of yellow things from about our house and popped them into one of our sensory tubs yesterday. I was surprised by the amount of yellow things we just had lying about. There was a plate, bowl, spoon and fork, as well as some yellow lids, a silicone chocolate mould, felt shapes, plastic frogs, wooden pegs, a pom pom and pipe cleaner. And of course, the yellow sensory tub wouldn’t have been complete without a banana and a lemon.

Putting yellow things into the bowl.

Putting yellow things into the bowl.

Baby T went straight for the banana (he loves them) and tried to take a bite right through the skin. He was very happy when L peeled it for him, it quickly disappeared and he wasn’t interested in the skin. Then he took everything else out of the tub to look at it carefully. He put everything into the bowl and gave it a mix with the spoon. He tried to spear the pom pom with the fork, and he enjoyed banging the pegs against the plasticware.

Trying to pick up the lemon with the tweezers.

Trying to pick up the lemon with the tweezers.

We spoke a lot about the colour yellow, and the textures and shapes of the different items as Baby T explored the tub. L and A tickled him with the pipe cleaner, and pretended to make the frogs jump onto his head. Baby T really liked the lemon and the big plastic tweezer scoop, and spent a lot of time playing with these items. He tried to pick the lemon up with the tweezers many times, but it was far to big. He also took a bite out of the lemon… He wasn’t impressed with the taste, but he still wouldn’t let the lemon go.

Going for a big bite.

Going for a big bite.

Hand Shadow Show

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One night last week we had a blackout after dinner. The kids were a little frightened to start with, but then we pulled out torches and candles. This led to the kids putting on a shadow puppet show to pass the time.

A shadow bunny.

A shadow bunny.

We set up one of the big torches aimed at a clear space on the lounge room wall. The kids stood off to one side and used their hands and arms to make different shadow shapes on the wall. They mostly made animals, adding sound effects, and telling some short stories. Big L made some shadows too. They had lots of fun performing their shadow show, and sooner than they would have liked the lights came back on.

A making a shadow dog.

A making a shadow dog.

L making a shadow animal.

L making a shadow animal.

Catching a Rainbow

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With a glass of water and a sheet of white paper on a sunny day, we caught a rainbow!

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We held the glass above the paper in the bright sun shining in through our window. The light hits the water in the glass and bends (refraction), causing the white light to split into its component colours, forming a rainbow. We caught the rainbow on the white paper, behind and below the glass. It was a little hard to see in the bright sun, but when L placed her arm in front of the window to create a shadow on the paper where the rainbow was falling, it clarified it.

The rainbow in the shadow of L's arm.

The rainbow in the shadow of L’s arm.

When we placed the glass of water onto the paper we could see a rainbow in the bottom of the glass. The kids thought this was a wonderful and fascinating little experiment.

The bottom of the glass.

The bottom of the glass.

More rainbows in the glass.

More rainbows in the glass.

 

Rainbow Milk

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When I was in school, we did an experiment with milk and food colouring that was really cool. I couldn’t remember exactly what went into the milk, so I had a look about the internet, and found the experiment I was thinking of over at DLTK’s Crafts for Kids, and they even had a video showing how it’s done!

Food colouring and milk in the tin.

Food colouring and milk in the tin.

This experiment is really easy, yet so amazing! We placed a shallow layer of milk into a cake tin. We only had light milk, so that’s what we used, and it worked just fine. A used a pipette to place some red, yellow and blue food colouring at roughly evenly spaced intervals around the edge of the tin. Once the food colouring was in, I placed a squirt of dish washing liquid into the centre of the tin, and we watched eagerly to see what would happen.

A few moments after the dish washing liquid was added.

A few moments after the dish washing liquid was added.

The dish washing liquid doesn’t mix with the milk, so it spreads out across the surface of the milk. The food colouring gets caught in the movement of the dishwashing liquid, and causes the colours to move and mix. We got a rainbow! The reaction can continue for a while, making new colours and awesome patterns. There’s no need to mix or move it for the colour mixing to continue. After about ten minutes, A wobbled the tin a little to see what would happen. It made the colours mix even more.

After a few minutes.

After a few minutes.

After about 10 minutes.

After about 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A thought this experiment was so incredible, she asked to repeat it once L and Big L were home. L put a lot of dish washing liquid into the milk, and the reaction happened much more quickly than our earlier attempt. As the colours mixed, Baby T was completely mesmerised by the movement of the colours. This time, after the colour mixing had begun, we let the kids have a toothpick to drag through the colours to make even more interesting patterns. They enjoyed doing this, and kept doing it until the colours had mixed so much it was a murky brown colour. Science is pretty cool 🙂

A few minutes into the second experiment. The spot in the middle is the dish washing liquid.

A few minutes into the second experiment. The spot in the middle is the dish washing liquid.

Using a toothpick to make new patterns.

Using a toothpick to make new patterns.