This week for Preschool Explorers we tackled Extreme Weather.
I started by reading When a Storm Comes up: a Rookie Read-aloud.
This book turned out to be perfect because it was just the right level and length and it hit on every major type of storm, as did the stations I had set up. Only problem was the trim size, but I had a small group and everyone got to see the pictures.
Station #1: Tornadoes!
Based on this link, we made tornadoes in a jar. I put out empty gelato containers, a bowl of water, and a bottle of dish soap. The kids added water to the containers, squirted in some dish soap, closed the container and shook it. Voila! Tornado in a jar. This particular experiment worked even better after the jars had been sitting for a while, so kids came back to this one a couple times.
Station #2: Thunderstorms!
This station had three parts.
First: the clouds. I brought bars of Ivory soap (it HAS to be Ivory soap, don't try it with anything else!) and cut them in fourths. The kids put down a piece of waxed paper in the microwave and microwaved the soap chunks for 30 seconds. Instant clouds. For more information and awesome pictures, check this out. Extra bonus: the kids love the buttons on the microwave.
Part two: Rain in a jar. I put out some more empty gelato containers, some watercolor paint, a can of shaving cream and some water. The kids put water in their jar and then added a shaving cream cloud. Using the droppers, they put watercolor into the cloud until they could see it "raining" underneath.
The eyedroppers are everyone's favorite thing, so they barely watched it rain before adding more and more color, but the idea was fun. For a great picture of the actual jar thunderstorm, look here. (I chose not to use the paperclips).
Part three: Lightning. The idea is simple: blow up a balloon, rub it on your head, go to a dark room and touch the balloon with a spoon. You should be able to see the static electricity, which is what lightning is (on a much bigger scale, of course). This station was most unfortunately a dud. We used the supply closet (which the kids always want to go into anyway) and we managed to hear the spark, but never actually saw it. Despite this, everyone enjoyed rubbing the balloon on their head and then having it stick to them. So we had that going for us. I got the idea from here.
Station #3: Hurricanes!
I challenged the kids to build a house that would withstand hurricane-force winds. They had blocks, sponges, cotton balls, playdough, and popsicle sticks. When they had built something, they turned on the fan to see if it would blow over. Some of the kids used the playdough to stabilize the blocks, which I thought was a genius idea. (And, thank god, they cleaned it up before they left so I could still think it was a genius idea).
Station #4: Floods
I put out small trays, rocks, sugar cubes, and small toys. The challenge was to put sugar cubes and a rock in the tray, then put a small toy on top of each. When water was poured in, which toy got wet first?
Of course I expected the sugar to dissolve first (which it eventually did), but it took too long to really appreciate. The kids ended up playing with the toys and knocking them in to the water and crushing the sugar cubes with the toys. Since no mess was made, I figured why not? They are still exploring dissolving and flood waters rising, so more power to them.
This particular theme was very well received. Many participants did the stations more than once and while some themes have them leaving within 20 minutes. I actually had some stay almost an hour to explore.