One way that we support children to learn to “think like a scientist” at Opal School is by using a structure we call “science talks.” During science talks children engage openly in dialogue around a specific question. We encourage them to pay attention to their wonderings, listen carefully to their peers, and make connections they couldn’t have made on their own. Science talks allow us to view a window into their questions, misconceptions and understandings around a big idea. Listening to the children think together in this way allows the teachers an opportunity to assess the group for understanding and engagement, and always offers us a window into their amazingly powerful thinking.
Children are born meaning-makers who are constructing their own theories about how the world works all the time. Offering them a chance to share and think outloud with one another, collaborating and playing with ideas, revising and re-considering what might make sense– all lead to a stronger sense of connection between “the facts” and what our experience tells us.
This week in Opal 1 we had our first science talk of the year. On Tuesday the children were asked to look closely at two jars of water: one clean and one dirty. What did they notice about the two jars? How were they the same? How were they different?
Then we put the jars up high and the children knew we’d look at them again later. When we looked closley at the jars again on Thrusday they were surprised to see that the dirty water had changed. On Tuesday when you looked you couldn’t see through the jar, but on Thursday you could. The water had become more clear.
We wondered what had happened. Why had the water changed? Here is a piece of the science talk. Notice how, even in this small snippet, the children influence each other’s ideas and connect to their own prior knowledge, actively trying to make sense of what they see and finding that not everyone sees in exactly the same way.
Victoria: Maybe it’s the air, maybe the air changed it
Pearl: Time changes it because the dirt can get, well the dirt can break up and turn into water
Nani: the sun changed it because it’s sitting on of the shelf in the sun
Sylvie: Well, two days ago it was darker out so maybe now it’s sunny and it just looks lighter
Bodhi: Well it changed because dirt can change really easy and water can too
Maliya: It couldn’t be because I saw a root in mine (jar) and it was very dirty. The mud at the bottom looked the same. So it didn’t go to the bottom.
Bodhi: Maybe the dirt just melted in the sun because dirt can melt
Nani: Maybe it’s because the dirt in is the water so it got heavier from the water and it went to the bottom.
After the science talk we asked the children to show their theories through drawing. We record their thinking and are already beginning to notice and pay attention to how we develop a community as a place where we value each other’s thinking. These structures support us as we begin to develop the habits of mind of a reasearcher.
Here are some of the children’s theories:
Alex: It was on the top and the dirt sunk to the bottom- but only four or five tiny pieces of dirt stayed (at the top) because the dirt was shrinking into tiny pieces and falling to the bottom
Victoria: The air changed it and the dirt went down to the bottom. There was getting a ton of air (in the dirt) and it got heavy so it sank down to the bottom.
Nicholas: It went down, down, down, down, down. The sun made it melt down.
Dameeko: Because the light shines through it and melts some of the dirt. I think it turns into mud and it falls or goes down there.
Sylvie: All the mud goes to the bottom and then it comes back up to the top. And then it just evaporates(mud/dirt). The water makes it evaporate.
Devin: Water sat there for a long time, the dirt got settled more down, it falled down and now it looks brighter, just by sitting there so long.
Pearl: I think it was sitting on the shelf and the sun came in and the dirt kind of flows around in the jar and then went back down to the bottom and sunk. It just went back down by itself.
Bodhi: I think it wasn’t a sunny day when we looked but then the sun came out and it melted all the dirt except not the dirt at the bottom because it wasn’t far enough to the sun.
Daniel E: because it changed, first I saw it was like a cloud and now it’s black at the bottom. Someone touched it and it made it so the cloud went down.
Nani: because the sun and the wind and dirt mixed together to make it like that. Why the dirt sanked it because it’s heavy and it sucked a lot of water.
Sophia: It was up like that and then it sank to the bottom because maybe the light might have got it more heavier and it just sank down.
Ethan: I thought it went all the way to the bottom of the jar. Then sun lighted it up so it melted.
Quin: It sank to the bottom and was just laying there. It got so heavy from the water it just sank.