Sometimes the discovery of materials on a play area inspires children’s exploration and use of the NGSS science and engineering practices.
In this example a long length of bark from a tree branch became a trough for investigating water flow.
At first the 5 year old simply put the curved length of bark at an incline to make a path for water which was being used elsewhere in the outdoor play area. Her choice was likely informed by her prior experiences with balls and ramps, and in water play. In her actions she is planning and carrying out an investigation, asking what will happen to the water as it moved from a container onto the bark trough and trying to solve the problem of designing a system to carry water. A teacher supported her by standing nearby and watching intently, showing interest, and asking a few open-ended questions. “Where is the water going?” “What might happen if you drop the water from a higher up or a lower down?”
The child poured water into the trough at the top, watching it flow down and soak into the sand. Then she added another container at the bottom to try to catch the water. Additional children joined in. Repeatedly pouring water into the top of the length of bark made the children certain that very little water was being captured by the container at the bottom.
The first child redesigned the system, moving the length of bark to balance on top of two containers at the ends of the length (K-PS2-2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions). She observed while pouring the water into the middle of the horizontal trough. Where do you think the water flowed in this new system design?
There was time for one more redesign before going indoors for lunch. She added a third container on top of the trough in the center and poured water on top of the upside-down container. Where do you think the water flowed in this new system design?