Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May Sign ups and the Philosophy of Messy Fingers

May Sign ups are open at the library - call them at 508 865 1181. They will tell you that it is full but if there is actually enough interest, I will run a second session on Tuesdays at 12:30 or 1pm.  We are diving into spring science with Sun/Shadows, Pets, and Buoyancy.

I was chatting with Mrs. V, the director of the Library today after MF and we got on the subject of the philosophy behind some of the "rules" in Messy Fingers. A few new folks checked us out today, but didn't sign up for next month. We came to the conclusion that the Messy Fingers's attitude can be... well overwhelming to some folks.

My philosophy about inquiry-based science - where we ask a lot of questions, test those questions, collect data, and share what we learned - is rather simple. Science is a verb. In the vocabulary of teachers, this means it is an action word.

The only way to really practice inquiry-based science is to DO IT.  So that means that I will ask parents not to cut out stuff, not to put stuff together, not to rush through the process. Is this the easy way?  No. It isn't always neat, it isn't always going to work the first time, it takes longer, and it is messy. But it is the very best way to really understand science and to live it.

So this comes out in some unexpected ways  like "No chairs for kids" because if you are sitting, you are passive and MF is so not passive. In fact, it is anti-passive. When you are sitting on the floor you are more likely to participate and be a part of the group. Mom or Dad or Grandma are more likely to be involved in the activities when they are sitting on the floor or actively engaged in our activities.

And I do ask parents to get involved. Your observations are  not the same as your childs and can enrich the discussion. Every child needs an adult to share discoveries with and to be a companion on science adventures.

So let's embrace the mess and do some science.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day and...

something is happening to our frog eggs.  After spending time away this weekend, I checked on the babies. This is what I found.

Instead of little spheres in the eggs, there are little comma shapes in them.

So what does this mean?

It means that the eggs hatches and the frog babies are now embryos. They are starting to look like something, but it could be anything!
Here is a close up and can see that they do look like embryos - there is a darker backbone and a head. They are going to be living off the yoke of the egg for a while. Frog eggs spend about three weeks as embryos so we should have tadpoles soon!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


These are some of the guests we had at the library today. They helped us learn about metamorphosis. Metamorphosis means to change and these little guys change into tadpoles and then in to frogs.

I borrowed these frog eggs from a pond behind my house. Not the big pond but a much smaller pond nearby. Every spring, or least since I've live here, we've found frog eggs in the pond. This year there were about the same number of masses as usual, but each mass was smaller. In the past, there were hundreds of eggs per mass and now, as you can see, the number is much smaller. Yep, that is an entire mass in the picture ~ about 30-40 eggs.

I will hatch these babies and keep you informed. Before they get their back legs I will return them to their home pond and hopefully listen to their mating song next spring. 

Want to get your own eggs or tadpoles? Check out this blog post on some guidelines for keeping tadpoles.

Monday, April 8, 2013

We have guests...

Yesterday I gathered some guests for tomorrow's Messy Fingers and I will give you some clues to who they might be.

I got very wet picking them up. (First time I've ever gotten really wet doing this too!)

They have lots of brothers and sisters.

Their parents sing.

Over the course of their lives they will be rather omnivorous, but as youngsters they are vegetarians.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bean Seeds

I planted bean seeds with preschoolers a couple of weeks ago. Four seeds I placed seam down and one seam up to see if there would be a difference in the plant.

These are my bean seeds after three days. Only one had sprouted.

This is how it looked in the window.
The beans are facing the window. My south facing windows don't actually get that much sun because the roof of my porch  shades them, so this is facing west.

Planting beans or other large seeds like this is a great opportunity to see the entire plant as it grows. The paper towel in the baggie keeps the seeds moist and the shelf of staples keeps the seeds from getting too wet. Once they have leaves, open the bag and plant or continue to water them. If you leave them in the bag to grow, you will need to feed with plant food in the water.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bubble Question and Give Away

At the recent Messy Fingers class we compared two different bubble solutions to find the very best one. But what makes for the best bubble solution?

Bubbles are an often blogged about subject around here. Check out some other entries on bubbles here and here.

Here's the give away part. I will have a small package of science goodies for winner of a random drawing. You can get one entry for each of the following:

1. Tell me what makes for the best bubble solution and how you would test it.

2. Follow this blog (just say you are in a separate comment).

3. Like the Millbury Public Library on Facebook (just say you are in a separate comment).

Deadline is Friday, April 5, 2013 at noon.

Bubble Solution Recipe

Bubbles are one of my favorite tools in the preschool science tool box. They are commonly available and yet have an extraordinary quality about them. They are a tiny piece of joy that engage everyone of all ages for those few precious seconds they last.

Today we played with bubbles as scientists. Usually it is cold or rainy when I schedule bubbles and today didn't disappoint, it was quite chilly. One of the things we did was compare store bought to homemade bubble solution.

If you'd like to do this at your home, here is the Official, Super-fabulous, Messy Fingers Bubble Recipe:

1 gallon of water
1 bottle of ultra Dawn - blue seems to be the best
2-3 oz glycerin (CVS in the skin care section, other drug stores put it in first aid or in the pharmacy)
Gently mix the first three ingredients without making foam and wait at least overnight before use.

A gallon of bubble solution sounds like a lot, but a few really nice days or some extra friends over on a lazy summer afternoon, and it can be use up quickly.