Friday, March 29, 2013

Preschool Chemistry: Fun with Vinegar and Baking Soda

For some early childhood professionals, the mention of the word "chemistry" or even "science" makes them cringe.  Some shy away from these types of explorations because of the fear they hold in regard to the subject.  Science really does not have to be scary.

 Through many of the training experiences I have provided, I have found that those who fear science can generally trace it back to the same common root cause.......... a former science teacher.  This is a HUGE deal to those of us who work with young children. It means that our interactions with children can have a major impact on how children approach various subjects. That is why it is CRUCIAL to offer them early exploration activities that are memorable, fun, and give them the opportunity to really explore!

Chemistry in our classroom usually consists of mixing things- most often vinegar and baking soda.  Today, I put out a few pans of baking soda, a couple of cut up straws, pipettes, turkey basters, and a couple of jars of colored vinegar.

At first, the children played with the straws- mostly dripping the vinegar down onto the baking soda... Then one child figured out how to put the straw into the baking soda....

 And then the fizzing climbed right up and out of the straw- GIGGLES, EXCITEMENT.... more straws sticking out of the baking soda- "It's a birthday cake!"

Then, the attention shifted to using pipettes and turkey basters- more vinegar = more fizzing!

and even more fizzing!

This reaction never seems to get old :). 
Did you know that you can cut your vinegar with water to make your supplies last longer? 

(I know that we go through gallons of vinegar- and using it at half strength does not impact the exploration and allows us to have twice as many!)

Do you allow children to experiment with vinegar and baking soda? We have provided various opportunities for different types of experiences with these two basic ingredients:

We color the vinegar and baking soda with primary colors then mix them for a fizzing explosion of secondary colors. You can read more about our color explorations here, More than Just Volcanoes.

We also like to experiment with the expansion that happens because of the chemical reaction. The gas collects in a beaker and causes a cork to go flying into the air when we work on "Blowing the Cork!"

We have also made exploding plastic bags or "baggie bombs" with the same reaction.  I cannot tell you how many times the children try this experiment, and it never seems to get old!

As an introduction to acids and bases- we did some magic painting on homemade litmus paper.

We also have tried a great recipe for Fizzing Sidewalk Paint.
I love it when we can mix art and science!

And, you cannot forget the original- most basic vinegar and baking soda experience-

Here are a few other ideas/posts from around the web:

Dissolving Rocks from Reading Confetti
Chocolate Eruptions from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Erupting Pumpkins from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Fizzing Bath Paint from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Glowing Science- Rainbow Eruptions from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Erupting Snow from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Fizzing Hidden Ocean World from Fun at Home with Kids
Erupting Volcano from Craft to Art
Scented Experiments from CAUTION! Twins at Play
Color Dancing and Easter from CAUTION! Twins at Play

Have you tried any of these experiments or have a different one to share? Please link up! I'll be featuring links on my Facebook page and on my Chemistry for Kids Pinterest Board!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade Play Dough

I know I've posted our play dough recipe before, (you can find it in this post from 2010). 
With all of the recent requests for the recipe and the fact that we play with play dough often,
 I thought I would share it with you again.
Today we made green play dough- a double batch. Here is the original single batch recipe:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 c. water
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 tsp cream of tartar
1-2 pkg Kool-Aid and/or drops of food coloring

Mix all ingredients in a microwave save cooking dish.
Cook on high in microwave for 3 minutes
Remove from microwave, stir well.
Cook for one minute, stir, repeat until the dough is no longer sticky.
Remove from the dish- knead and remove any lumps.
This dough can also be cooked on the stove-top. We prefer to make it in the microwave as it is much more difficult to burn and the children are more active participants in the process.
**please note, we have a new microwave and this original recipe cooks the dough for too long. Cooking times will vary based upon your microwave. I recommend cooking it for one minute at a time, stirring after each minute. Today our dough only took 2 1/2 minutes to cook.**
Play dough is amazing for so many things! We have all kinds of tools available, but most of the time, I just plop the dough on the table. Most of the tools are well with in the children's reach, and rather than dictate how the dough will be used, I like to see the children ask for what they need and/or be independent about choosing materials.
After we completed our plan to make play dough and to make it green,
 each child had the opportunity to come up with their own plan of action for playing with it.
 Today, each child decided that they needed something different.
One wanted to roll the dough out - so they found a rolling pin.
One wanted to cut the dough, so they asked for a knife.
One wanted to "snip" the dough- and found a pair of scissors.
One just wanted to squish and squeeze the dough, so they chose no additional tools.
One child wanted to squish the dough through a machine to make "long squares of dough."
In the end, after their own explorations,
 most of the children decide to try something else that they observed the other children doing. 
One child even decided to "taste" the dough.  The wonderful thing about making your own dough- you know what is in it, and even if the children do try to eat it, you know that it is safe.
Here are my responses to some of the most frequently asked questions in regard to our play dough:
1) How do you keep it fresh?  I usually store our dough in a plastic zipper bag.
2) How long do you keep the dough? Honestly, I don't tend to keep it around very long. Typically a week. Young children- especially this time of year have lots of "germs" and even though the dough would last a lot longer in an air tight container when not in use, I get rid of it after a short period of time. During cough, cold, and flu season, I might even get rid of it faster. The materials to make fresh dough are very inexpensive, the children love to help make it- and it does not take much time. Thus, replacing it is not an issue.
3) How does it compare to store bought dough?  I never really liked the store bought dough (at least I don't remember liking it). I like the opportunity to add our own color and to use things like Kool-Aid for a scent. I find our dough to be quite soft and pliable. Perfect for sculpting!
Do you have a favorite play dough recipe or thing to do with play dough?
I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Quality Matters

Quality Matters -
But the Tiered Quailty Rating and Improvement System in Michigan
Almost four months ago, I published a post declaring my concerns in regard to the system here in Michigan and asking you all to join me in advocacy.  It has been awhile since I took the time to share updates and to reiterate my concerns with the current program.
(If you missed my first post, you can read it here: Hypocrisy)
 It appears that the decision makers in our state are starting to hear some of our voices. I say starting, because although they have made some changes to the self assessment survey,

I think they missed the point.
Now, using the self assessment survey- I AM A 5!
 Imagine my surprise! My program self assesses at the highest rating.
(Note, to actually be rated at this level, I would have to agree to undergo a validation of my information and another assessment- the PQA before I would actually be awarded this level)
 How can this be? A couple of months ago, my program rated at a 1. I have not made any major changes. We continue to learn and grow as we always have, but NO MAJOR CHANGES have been made.  So, how then does ones rating jump from the lowest to the highest?
Well, you see, they changed the assessment. Specifically, they opted to look at the areas of professional development. They are now looking at giving credit for additional degrees and training. Areas that six months ago didn't meet the standards. (When they continually reiterated that the  assessment was based upon research and standards.)
Now, I am really confused. 
Six months ago the assessment was research based, on standards. Many programs went through the process, and thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent on staff and the process and procedure of assessing and validating programs ratings. (I don't know exactly how much of our tax money was spent on this, but I know it was A LOT!)
Now, because they have changed some of the standards. Those programs who jumped through all of those hoops have to do it again- and guess what???? That is going to cost more $$$- lots more man hours of time and resources to redo everything for those providers.
AND guess what else? All of the changes that they are FINALLY considering- every last one of them, was being voiced as a concern by folks who work for this organization long before I even took a position with them. (Months prior to validating so many programs and wasting so much $$$) They could have avoided all of this waste of funding had they just listened to those concerns from the get go, had they included all of the stakeholders.
There are a lot of other areas where concerns have yet to be addressed. So, I'm sure this is not the last change that will be implemented in the system.
BUT- Ratings are going live. They are redoing the system, re-validating and assessing programs. In a few months, parents will be able to see the ratings. Right now, if you log in, you can see the validated 4 and 5 star programs.  Soon, you will be able to see all of the star ratings. (BUT, you won't see ours - I have opted our program out by indicating NO REFERALS).  Even though this program now rates us at the top of the heap, you won't find our rating listed.
Why? What do I mean? (Oh, I'm so glad you asked!). You see, the quality improvement program encourages continuous improvement. The goal is to increase quality in early childhood settings.
Some of the standards include using a research based- tested and validated curriculum and assessment. Did you catch that, only those assessments that have been proven to be VALID and RELIABLE are considered quality assessments in this program YET, the program itself has not undergone any psychometric tests (the tests they use to make sure that a test measures what it says it measures and does so consistently).  This folks, is a double standard and hypocrisy.
The self assessment being used has not been tested.  How do we know that the original assessment was not the better one? Yes, more people are now gaining higher scores... BUT if the original questionnaire was really valid and reliable- are we now getting inflated scores?  Maybe the changes with the assessment are the best options..... and now we are getting an accurate assessment of quality... right now, without the validation of the tool- we don't know.
When they made the changes, it appears that the assessment has more face value validity. More programs that were previously assumed to be quality programs are now rating higher, but right now... it is still a best guess, a hypothesis. Until it is tested, the results are just assumed to be true.  Until the research is done, the ratings are just a best guess.
This whole process continues to cost money.  So, right now they plan to go live with all of the scores. What happens if they go live, spend all of this money re-validating, re-assessing programs and then they find out that the assessment does not really measure what it says it measures and that additional changes need to be made? Then we start all over again, and we waste more and more money.
I mean, what is the big rush? This program has been in the works for over seven years. Yes, you saw that correctly, seven years. I just don't understand how a program can be in development for so long and have so many lingering flaws.
You see, I'm not against the mission. I think we need to focus more on creating quality environments for young children. I've been out there, I've seen the spectrum that exists. We really do need support for young children and families in early learning settings. We really do need to support caregivers and early childhood educators in becoming life long learners, giving them access to resources and removing barriers to continual growth and elevated quality.
I don't know for sure, because I don't work for Great Start anymore, and I never had all of the information, but I have a really hard time understanding and believing that the true goal is really improving real quality. So many decisions seem to be based upon keeping up appearances, keeping a pay check coming, and making sure that the money keeps flowing.  Yes, I do understand that it is a balancing act when there are regulations and timelines put into place, but seriously....
 I have a hard time following the rationale.
Why not just get it right the first time? I mean, would it be so bad to delay the public posting until a validation study was complete with a smaller group of providers to insure that further waste does not continue to happen?
Doesn't that seem like the right thing to do?
The responsible and ethical thing to do?
And... If improving quality is really the goal- then why are the resources and attention being allocated primarily to those places scoring at a 3, 4, or 5? Wouldn't you think that the strongest impact would be working with those programs needing the most improvement? When I first worked for the organization- I was only allowed to assist those programs at the higher levels and now additional resources are being allocated at these levels. I just don't get it. It doesn't make sense.
Now, I am a 5. (self assessed)
I continue to remain off of the referral list.
I worry about the true meaning of the rating scale, and I have serious concerns for parents who are going to rely upon this scale for information as they search for a quality program for their children. I have serious doubts in regard to the usefulness it poses at this time.
If you have not yet taken the time to sign the petition- I encourage you to do so.
They have meet some of the suggestions, but still have many areas to address.
You can find the petition here.
If you are a child care provider in the state of Michigan- Join our Facebook Group here.
(Providers- you do know that right now this program has NOTHING to do with your license. This is supposedly a "voluntary" program.  You can remove yourself from the rating list by not accepting referrals from your Great Start Regional Resource Center.  When you log in to update your profile, just click the box that says Update Data, then under the referral status click "no referrals". Your name will still show up on the list of providers that is generated by licensing, but will not show up when parents log into Great Start Connect).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Memories



Thanks for joining us on a picture journey- capturing a few memories from this past week!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Upcycled Cap Murals: What Would You Do With It? Wednesday

Awhile back, we worked on bottle cap murals. I was so excited about this idea after seeing it over at Art Grange.  We spent a lot of time playing with our collection of caps, making various creations. While we played with the caps, I also started to test out various options for glue.
The original murals used a screw to hold each individual cap down. I knew that some of our crew could assist with securing the caps, but thought that finding a good glue would make the project more child friendly and they could complete it in a faster time frame. In the end, I found that the tub and tile caulk/glue would work great for our outdoor murals. I tested it to see how it would hold- and I even left it out in the rain to make sure that it would hold up in the weather. What I forgot to test.... is the fact that we live in the U.P. of Michigan........ and it gets COLD- freezing COLD in the winter....
And, well.. the caulk doesn't do well in the winter.
The freezing cold weather caused the adhesive to detach.
You see, we have these kinds of things happen often. Projects fail, ideas don't always turn out as we plan..... but we don't give up, and in the end, all you usually get to see is our finished product. What worked. The perception in that type of posting is that things always work- or that there is that false sense of "perfection."  I'm here to tell you, it doesn't work that way. Not for us, not for anyone. We are all continually learning, growing, flopping... and figuring things out.

We persevere. We keep moving forward- we keep trying, playing - tinkering, and eventually-
 AWESOME things happen.

(This mural is going to stay indoors so the tub and tile caulk works great!)
So, for our outdoor murals- we scrapped the failed project that was coming apart, starting with a clean board.... A pile of caps..... A box of deck screws (so they won't rust) and a screwdriver!

The children were not really interested in using the screwdriver in the beginning. They were more interested in placing the caps.  Their plan was to design the mural- and they asked if I could do the hard work of attaching all of the caps.

So, we went to work. It took quite some time to get all of the caps in just the right places. The children were engaged in the process. This time around, they were not creating anything recognizable. They were immersed in the process of creating.....

and navigating the problems of different ideas and visions when collaborating. I didn't jump right in to help them. I gave them the freedom to figure it out, to determine exactly how they would make this collaboration work.
And in the end, they made a fantastic design- and I used the electric screwdriver to finish securing all of the caps.  Now, we have a fabulous abstract piece of art to add some color to our winter wonderland!

Have you ever made a bottle cap mural? Have you found any other creative ways to upcycle caps? I'd love it if you would link up your awesome ideas! (I'll highlight your projects on my Facebook page and on Pinterest too!)
We also used some caps when we made our
Upcycled Bird Feeders

If you remember in our last edition of What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays, we made some AWESOME Pool Noodle Sculptures!  Teach Preschool also linked up a great post giving us all kinds of other ways to use pool noodles!

I love the chain links! So many learning possibilities with simple, inexpensive materials- I LOVE IT!

What Would You Do With It? Wednesday is a linky where you can link your ideas to help us reuse "trash",  recyclable materials, or inexpensive materials  that some folks might throw out or send to the recycling center. This linky happens every first and third Wednesday of the month.

Unlike some link up, there are only 2 rules:

1) Your post must use the item featured.

2) Your post must be family friendly.

You don't have to follow or make any comments. (Although, who doesn't love having a new follower or to see comments on their blog??? ) You are more than welcome to, but not required.

The posts and blog hop links are open for an extended period of time (at least year). So, you can look at older posts and link up your projects and ideas to any week at any time.

By linking up you agree to the use of one photo from your post to be featured in the future.
Thanks for joining in- and happy linking!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Memories



Thanks for joining us on a picture journey- capturing a few memories from this past week!

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...