My second installment in our Montessori-styled playgroup was our first science group. So, as a little bit of background, one day a week we have an art provocation, the other day a science provocation. Everyone that joined us is able to choose whether they wanted to join for one or two days a week, and which day (if necessary). On our art day, we have around 12 children, but our science day has 19 children!
As the ages range from 1-5, and it is truly meant to be a playgroup instead of a preschool, the best way to do an art or science activity seems to be as an opportunity to create/learn instead of trying to lead a teaching exercise. Give the children the tools to figure things out themselves instead of trying to push the knowledge down their throat. And it seemed to work this time.
Our first science provocation was playing with watercolor and oil and the opportunities for learning were endless. I got the idea from this lovely blog. In each foil pan was a layer of vegetable oil. I set up cups of water with a few drops of liquid watercolors mixed in, in red, yellow and blue. Each cup had pipettes in which to transfer the water into the foil pan.
Right off the bat, I was talking to the mini-ions about how to transfer the water and then what happened with the few drops of water with the oil. As they started adding more water, water started to mix and new colors were created, which was another great conversation. The transferring of water required a lot of concentration and fine motor skills. And, when the water spilled, the children happily obliged in cleaning it up.
It was great that children were able to leave it, and come back. The materials were cheap, so if it spilled or they wanted to do another, it was easily recreated. And, as each child thought and learned on their own level, they were really free to explore, transfer water and even dump water to see the impact (and how quickly their mother would leap to intervene!). It was messy and chaotic, but they amount of times they kept coming back to it, validated the effort that myself and the other moms exerted trying to keep it from spinning wildly out of control.
I urge you to do it. I also encourage you to buy a couple of dollar store tablecloths to have underneath!