An icy experiment

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-one

A new book arrived in the post last week, and it’s been inspiring Arthur since he first set eyes on it. He has been particularly keen to try the ‘icy orbs’ – balloons, ice, food colouring, what’s not to love?

He reminded me of this again over dinner the other day. I filled a balloon with water, put it in a bowl inside the freezer, and the next morning we had a ball of ice all ready to be unwrapped…

Even at this stage Arthur was fascinated. We talked about how there seemed to be steam coming off the ice, and how it was sticky when he touched it (and also very, very c-c-c-cold).

More for my sake than his, we went through the motions of the activity in the book. Arthur sprinkled on some salt, and then we added food colouring, watching it trickle down the pits in the ice and the cracks that reached down into its depths. He was fairly interested in this, especially when we got a torch out to shine against it, but he was more intrigued to see what would happen if he drove vehicles across the surface of the now textured and colourful orb…

Driving vehicles soon progressed to tapping with a spoon… And then banging… And at that point we moved proceedings outside. He had more space to examine it there too, insisting on taking with him his goggles and a magnifying glass.

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Then followed squeals of delight as he banged away, and fragments of ice flew off across the deck.

This all escalated quite quickly, and he was soon smashing away at the orb and insisting that I joined in, watching as the sphere split and we could examine the passage of the coloured streams within.

He then wanted to know what would happen if we put hot water on it… So we did… And as the pieces of ice got smaller he threw them up into the air and watched as they broke to pieces on impact with the ground, fragments skitting away.

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Finally, he could not resist but out a piece of ice into his mouth. I’d been reluctant when it had been covered in salt and food colouring (and then who knows what else in the garden!), but decided that the pieces left after the outside layers had been melted away were probably innocuous enough.

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All in all it was a very satisfying hour or so of experimentation. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what we learnt, but that’s mainly because there are so many things to choose from.

Most important of all though was the joy Arthur found in making discoveries for himself. And if he continues to be this enthusiastic about seeking out inspiration I predict many more hours of spontaneous discovery to come!

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