Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Preschool Science: Measuring

Today in Preschool Lab we tackled measuring. I was going to do both weights and measures, but I forgot my kitchen scale at home (and may have said some choice words when I discovered that....) so I decided to simply go with measuring with inches and cups. We can do weights another time.

(Side note: I did have a bathroom scale available to me because my library has one, but it wasn't sensitive enough to weigh a book, so it wasn't going to work for this program. And while we did measure how tall we were - see below - I thought it probably wouldn't go over as well to have people weigh themselves...)

I started off by talking about how big and small things can be compared by measuring them. Then I pulled out a ruler and had the kids identify it and tell me what it was for.

Time for a book! I used one of my all time favorites: Actual Size by Steve Jenkins.

It was a perfect book because 1) it's awesome and 2)we could use the ruler to measure things in their actual size as well. That page that has the shark teeth? It says that a shark's teeth are four inches long, so we measured them with the ruler and by gum (is that a pun?), they were!

We also measured the tiny lemur monkey and the gorilla's hand which led to  measuring all our hands and feet. (Mine were the biggest. Who knew?)

Then it was station time! The stations broke down into two kinds: the ones that measured with rulers and the ones that measured with cups and spoons.

Stations:

I borrowed the measuring stations from Storytime Katie (Thank you for your brilliant ideas!). I put out stuffed animals and had the kids measure how tall and how long they were. I also had a worksheet that they could fill out if they chose.

The one problem with this station is that the kids wanted to take the stuffed animals home!

The second measuring station was about measuring how tall each kid was. I put the heights of various animals up on the wall. I tried to find animals that went from very short (a fox) to very tall (a horse) with lots of variety in the middle so kids could find where they fit in to the lineup.

They stood up agains the wall (ideally between an animal that was shorter than they were and an animal that was taller than they were) and we put a piece of tape on the wall right by their head. Then we measured how tall that piece of tape was and put a name tag with their name and height right by the tape. Here's the wall with just the animals:

And a close-up of the wall with some of the kids' name tags.

The last ruler/inches measuring station was a stand-up rainbow. The kids were given strips of construction paper to measure and cut along with the measurements of each color (each color was an inch shorter than its predecessor as you move through the colors of the rainbow). They cut each color then lined up the edges and stapled them to create a standing rainbow.

One of the moms accidentally used the centimeter side of the ruler which is why you see a tiny rainbow there, too. It worked surprisingly well.

For the cup/spoon measuring, we did had two different stations.

First, I put out containers with rice and a bunch of measuring cups and spoons. The "instructions" just encouraged the kids to explore scooping and dumping. I also added some leading questions to the sheet (Do three 1/3 cups really make a cup? How many teaspoons in a 1/4 cup?), but I mostly just let them play. Besides, it feels ridiculously awesome to sink your fingers into a container of rice like that. So there's that, too.

Finally, we used measuring cups to make playdough. Everyone made their own batch using a half cup, a quarter cup and a tablespoon.

This is the recipe I use:
In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup flour with 1/4 cup salt.
In a separate container, mix 1/4 cup water with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Combine and stir carefully till dough forms.
Dump the dough onto the table and finish kneading it with your hands. If it's too dry, add more water. If it's too sticky, add flour.

The oil gives is a really smooth texture and the kids enjoyed making the dough, playing with it, and taking it home (I offered plastic ziploc bags so they could take it with them).

All in all, I was pleased with this particular lab. The group stayed much longer than usual (60 minutes instead of the usual 45) and seemed to really enjoy each station.