Samantha Diggins and her young learners from Paparangi Primary School evaluate their predictions after investigating what happened to water placed in sunlight. (The students can be seen making their predictions in the Making predictions video clip.)
She goes on to explain additional investigations to develop learners’ scientific understanding of the Sun’s energy. These offer multiple opportunities to test students’ understanding and predict outcomes.
To think about:
How could these students’ ideas about the effect of the Sun’s energy be revisited over time? How might they be further developed and applied to new situations?
For further resources on the Sun, see the science story Harnessing the Sun.
Remember inside we talked about our predictions and what we thought might happen to the water? Now we’re going to do an experiment. We talked a little bit about that inside, and we talked about putting the black paper down. Can anyone remember why we have to put the black paper down? What do we want the Sun to do when it shines on it, Coby?
It makes the Sun shine on the container with the water in it.
Science is one of those things that people think is hard to teach. It’s not hard to teach. It’s one of the easier things. I think it’s easier to teach than maths, to be really honest, because it fits in to your reading programme, it fits in to your literacy programme. It doesn’t have to be a stand-alone thing. It’s not a scary thing. And when you’re working with smaller people, a lot of what you’re doing is all about the natural world. It’s about things that happen around them. I sort of sowed the seed with: We had puddles outside. Where do the puddles go after the rain? What happens to them? So we set up an experiment where we created our own fake puddles.
OK. Now we’ve put the trays there, what’s the next thing we have to do? Who can tell me? Put your hands up if you know. Awesome. William, what’s the next thing we have to do?
We need to pour it in until it’s all empty.
OK, William, that’s right. Can you pick up the red water and go and pour it into the tray number 1.
We coloured them so that we could see what was actually going to happen. We had the black paper, we had the coloured liquid, and we went outside and we set it up, just straight outside. Put the black paper down, put the dishes down, filled them with water and we left them. And then we went back out regularly to check to see what was happening.
And as the day went on and the Sun got warmer and it rose over our building, more things happened, the eyes lit up, the talk happened a great deal more, and they could actually see the progression of the water disappearing, as we called it, moving away, and they got so excited.
When we were going out, I was listening to what they were saying. I wasn’t prompting or anything else. I just wanted to hear what they were seeing and they were noticing.
Because the Sun is very hot and it can dry up [the water].
When we’d finished the experiment, the next day, we came back and had a look at it again. And we revisited all our predictions, our guesses.
Can you remember these? Our predictions, our guesses we made. Hands up if you can tell me one of those that actually did come true. Coby.
It dried up by the heat of the Sun.
It dried up. You’re right. That did dry up. I think we might have to put a smiley face by that one because you’re right. That did happen.
So we ended up with about four or five predictions that we actually thought were correct or right or whatever word you want to use. When you’re doing science, there is no right way to do it, but you come up with an answer. And I strongly believe that children need to be able to take those risks. If we’re teaching them there’s only one way to do it, then they don’t get to be those risk takers. They don’t get to be those people who think outside the square and keep thinking outside the square, because we’re pulling the square tighter and tighter and tighter so that there’s only one predicted path.
I wanted them to eventually make smores. I wanted to actually use the heat to see how it melted things. So we set up the same experiment with muffin tins with crayons in. We put them outside on the black paper again. I then played with a little concept of those windscreen protectors that you put in cars that reflect. And we talked a little bit about reflection, but I didn’t want to go too far into that, because that’s quite a deep concept for smaller people. But we’d taken it outside, we’d shone it, we’d seen that the light bounced backwards and forwards. We set it up so we could put our hands in and we could feel the heat coming back off the reflection.
So the first day we did it was an absolute failure. And that’s part of making experiments. Not everything works the first time. Wasn’t the best of days, wasn’t the hottest of days. So the next day, we talked about what actually had happened, and we tried it again. Much hotter, and we saw within about an hour these pools of liquid sludge in our trays. We talked about things melting, becoming liquid, getting runny, and then, when they go hard again, becoming a solid.
I want them to go through the path of working their way through the science procedure and discover what they discover. Some of them will discover that perfect what you want, and others will go, oh, I don’t quite understand that. But that’s because they’re not ready quite for that bit at that time. But you expose them to it, then it becomes something they’re really comfortable with.
Move out of the Sun.
They have those moments – woohoo! They learn stuff, and then I try and pull it back in through my reading, my writing and my maths so that they get success in a different way.