AKA “Will it Float?”
Today we play a classic Halloween game and turn it into a Very Serious science experiment!
We definitely had a lot of fun, and a little bit of butting heads (“Noooo! You have to guess if it’ll sink before you put it in the water!”) doing our experiment today. We do primarily child-led play so I think it was a little bit different for her to have to follow my instructions. What ended up helping was telling MGF that she was a robot and had to wait for a command from me – a variation on Simon says!
To be honest, I was a little worried she was going to get bored before we finished the sheet, but that couldn’t have been less true.
After we finished filling out the worksheet she was given free rein over the entire operation and bit by bit scooped and dumped every drop of water in the bucket. So in the end I guess it’s good that it was 90F by 10AM so that we had an excuse to do this play outside?
B is for Bobbing for Apples
Has anyone here ever actually won a game of bobbing for apples before? Why is it so hard?
In a word?
Bobbing for apples is like palming a basketball but with your mouth. First of all, it’s huge and you can’t get a good handle on it. If only you could bite your teeth into the skin – except you can’t! You just have to pin it to the side (or worse the bottom), but the slightest slip and it’s shooting back to the surface.
Bobbing for apples could be its own science experiment. How could we make it easier? What would happen if the apple was in a shallow bowl instead of a large tub? What if they were sliced? Would another fruit be easier? Why?
Will it Float?
Bobbing for apples would be a fun enough experiment, but can you really get a five year old together with a bowl of water and start floating things, then stop at only one type of thing?
The “Will it Float?” printable is an introduction to the scientific method. Despite how simple it is – I designed it so pre-readers should be able to do it mostly independently – it actually goes through each step of the scientific method:
- Ask a question
- Perform Background Research
- Form a hypothesis
- Test with an experiment
- Analyze data
- Communicate results
6a. The results from each experiment become new background research
For this experiment, you’re gonna want the “Will it float?” printable, or else to make your own chart. The printable includes a table – half of it is filled in with suggested materials to try to float, while the other half is blank so you and your mini scientists can come up with your own ideas.
Next to each material is a box for float (designated with a checkmark) and another for sink (marked with an x.) Do not fill out the entire sheet at once. The experiment is designed so that you form your hypothesis for each item only after you have analyzed the data for the previous item.
The Scientific Method
Ask a Question
The question has already been spelled out above – will a given item float?
Our initial background research is our first experiment – the apple bobbing. We can examine the apple, and since it floated, we can base our first hypothesis on how similar the item is to the apple. Additionally, most kids have played with toys in the bathtub and/or pool that they can use to inform their hypotheses.
Form a Hypothesis
Decide if you think the item will float – draw a checkmark in the first box if your hypothesis is yes, or an x in the second if no.
Test with an Experiment
Put the object in your apple-bobbing bucket. Does it float? Does it sink?
So what about your hypothesis – was it right? Was it wrong?
Communicate your results
Tell your parents about your results. If two kids work on the experiments together, they can also share results which can mean a chance to test more types of materials, or else a chance to verify that your results match. In science, we say that we want to make sure that the results are reproducible.
Now return to step 3 and repeat for the next object.
There are some alternative rules you can do with this theme. You will especially have more options if you have two or more kids to play lab partners.
Consider printing two sheets out (whether for one or two researchers) and filling one out before any of the experimenting begins. Fill the other one out only as you gather more data. In the end, did one sheet have more positive results than the other?
Another opportunity arises if there is some difference in the results found by the two scientists. If one of them finds that a carrot floats, while the other says it sinks, then trade carrots and try again. What happened in the second experiment? Was one of the original tests wrong? What are the other possibilities?
Guess what? Being wrong isn’t actually a bad thing – wrong guesses are your opportunity for learning. It’s normal to be shy about being wrong, but as I often tell MGF – being wrong sometimes is better than being right all the time. No one knows everything, so being right all the time is only possible if you aren’t willing to put yourself out there and learn something new. Negative results to your hypotheses are just as important as positive results.
Also consider “bobbing” for some of the other edible goods in the floating game. Look over the experimental data and see if there’s any relationship between floating and the difficulty of successfully bobbing.
Here’s some suggestions for other things to float:
A flat sheet of foil
The exact same piece of foil, crumpled into a ball
A piece of paper
The exact same sheet of paper, crumpled into a ball
A small plastic cup or bowl, placed upright
The same cup or bowl, placed upside down
The same cup or bowl, placed on its side
A ping-pong ball
A golf ball
Does play-doh/clay float? Can you make it float?
How’d it go?
Did you try today’s experiment? Was it a success? Did you need to remind anyone that being wrong is great? Let’s all share our results! Hit us up here in the comments or on the Nerdish chat Discord.