Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sinking Wood

Science is fun when you get your hands involved.

FOSS science activities engage the child's hands and mind. They use simple materials in sophisticated ways.

This week at my center the students are experimenting to see how many jumbo paper clips a small block of wood can float before it sinks. This is one of more than a dozen investigations into the properties of wood in our FOSS science unit.

Students work with two blocks of wood that are the same size, one made of pine and the other made of plywood. Pine floats more paper clips than plywood—it's less dense—but I've noticed that most children do not seem too interested in that, the main point of the lesson.

They are far more caught up in the mechanics of tucking the paper clips under the rubber band that it provided to attach the paper clips to the wood. Once they get the hang of that, many children want to put a whole lot of paper clips on to make the wood sink quickly to the bottom. My job is slowing them down to find the point at which the wood barely floats its paper clip load so that with the addition of just one more clip it sinks. We count the number of clips it takes to sink the wood.

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