What are holes made of? Pt 1 Science

Once in a while this past school year, I had the privilege to work with kindergarten students. To no one’s surprise, despite their diminutive(more like Minions) stature, they too are incredibly big thinkers.

I like big thinking. It’s awesome just thinking about it.Sounds like borderline epistemology to me.Trying to confine or quantify big thinking requires patience, and the intangible ability to simultaneously navigate many paths without a map. In other words…it’s fun! As an added bonus, ideas from big thinking opportunities span the spectrum of thought and possibility.

To break the ice, I started asking students to share their favourite words. This led to some interesting, albeit occasionally unpredictable responses. I will leave it to your imagination what the words were, but they do rhyme with art, and gut. OK, so I opened a doorway through laughter and the students had a chance to share, knowing their answers were 100% correct. Photo credit to woodleywonderworks https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/Photo credit to woodleywonderworks https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/

Next time, I had some time with a group of kindergarteners, I decided it was Math time. “Share a number between 1 and 5 with a partner?” “What’s the biggest number you can get if you add them up?” “What’s the smallest number you can get with a partner?” “Could we add up all of our numbers to see how many we have as a group?” “How could we show our answers using materials from the class?”

Well if we’re going to do Math, then Science was not far behind…So into the abyss of our next lesson we dived.

“What are holes made out of?” For a moment I thought I was being controlled from a remote location by Sugata Mitra. This was his type of inquiry question. Mischievous grin included. A-Ha! A question that did not have an immediate answer. A question that asked students to think, and in the process discover, as spoken by Morpheus in the Matrix, “How deep the rabbit hole goes.” Down the Rabbit Hole by Valerie Hinojosaphoto credit: Down the Rabbit Hole by Valerie Hinojosa

After the I don’t knows, blank stares and huhs, came the answers… Air and nothing? Hmm I asked. “Of the two answers, which one do you think is the most correct, because I like them both?”  (more silence) “Air”. OK Air it is. What is air made from? I’ve lost them…for a moment. I know…more questions! “Does a hole have to be round?”

When we think of holes, our immediate responses are the same as the kindergarteners that day. And that’s ok, but when we have time to think about it we can all arrive at some pretty deep understandings about what many just think is nothing.

Holes are all around us. I get the irony of that last sentence, and am still willing to keep writing. Doughnuts, bagels, cheese and other foods have holes. We have holes in our heads. Some animals make their homes in holes. Humans too. Throughout history holes have been included in our architecture. Not that we should brag, but we have also managed to make a hole in our Ozone layer. Not cool humankind. Not cool.

photo via NASA

photo via NASA

When it comes to holes, it is probably the study of black holes which captivates the minds of a majority of scientists, physicists, philosophers, and Sci-Fi enthusiasts. Are the spaces in between just as important as the objects surrounding them? With questions like this flying around our minds, it becomes clear that there is a whole lot to know about holes.

This post is a departure of sorts. I am attempting to script a TED Ed lesson and felt this format would be a great way to flesh out a script and enlist support from peers. Please take time to comment, like and even share. I value your feedback and support. In the process of drafting this post, my son and wife provided several valuable points. And as such, this has now become 2 posts about holes. Will

Now the lesson…Even though the preamble is about holes, here’s an object lesson about air and states of matter.

Sharing that even the air around us is made up of certain types of matter. I share the 3 basic states of matter with the students from gas, liquids and solids. I left plasma out for this age, but was tempted to drop on them anyway. So I take out two identical large clear plastic bags and a metre stick, and ask the students to compare the bags. After a few moments they all agree the bags are the same and the metre stick is a fun substitute for an imaginary light sabre. I shouldn’t have shown them that last thing. I ask a few volunteers if they can help me teach about balance using the metre stick. We then practise with rulers to understand the idea a bit(lot) better.

Next, I fill one of the bags with air, tie it off and tape it onto one end of the metre stick. I ask students to describe what was in the bags? Afterwards, we taped the other bag on the opposite side of the metre stick immediately followed by students’ predictions about what was going to happen next? With 2 students helping, we lift up the metre stick with my finger carefully and precisely placed between the two bags taped onto it. They let go and for some reason one side begins to drop towards the floor. What is happening? What does this mean? Laughs, a few moments of silence to process and then some sharing.
I ask, “So you are telling me that the air around us weighs something?”  “That means it has mass,” I continue, “even though we can’t see what makes up air, it is still made of something.”

“What else has mass?”…

Maybe next time.

More

Holes of Matter

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