Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Children watched with wide-eyed wonderment while the raisins did in fact dance.

Dancing raisins materials in basket.

Last year, while attending the AMI refresher course in San Francisco, I, along with dozens of other Montessori teachers, visited two area Montessori schools. As I wandered through the classrooms at the Marin Montessori school, located only a short distance from the Golden Gate Bridge, I snapped photographs of various materials. Like most teachers, I am always on the look out for new Science presentations. The familiar Sink and Float materials were on the shelves, as well as the Magnetic / Non-magnetic work. But a work I had never seen before soon caught my eye and my camera. The name of the work was "Dancing Raisins." Today, I presented it to the students in my afternoon class. I can not express the absolute wide-eyed joy they had in watching the raisins dance (and tumble).

The ingredients required are found in the pantry of most kitchens: water, vinegar, baking soda and raisins. I wrote on the instruction card for the classroom:

1 water
1 vinegar
4 raisins
2 baking soda.

I did not write 1 tbs or 1/2 cup as I was using a small pitcher that had no such demarcations and just figured that since the children were using the small pitcher for both the water and the vinegar that 1 was enough. The same was for the baking soda which is added last, after the raisins.

How to: In a small bowl pour 1 water, 1 vinegar and add 4 raisins. Notice and point out to the children that at this time the raisins have simply landed on the bottom of the bowl and are not moving. After I pointed out that the raisins weren't moving, one of my students said, "Well, Miss Dyer, they drowned."

When adding the baking soda be a little dramatic in your own expression as the white foam rises and then falls. After this initial fanfare of chemical reaction, have the children spend a few moments quietly watching the raisins - they will slowly begin to dance. One will roll over completely, another will bob to the surface. Most importantly, the child/children need to stay quietly focused on the four raisins and not give up too quickly. Then like slow motion jumping beans the raisin will perform.

All of the materials are taken off of the tray.

Water and vinegar have been poured into the bowl.

Small tongs were used to put four raisins, which are kept in
the butterfly shaped box, into the liquid mixture in the bowl.

Baking soda was added and then the raisins danced.
*Note the additional four raisins on the ceramic tray.
They are from my first demonstration. I immediately
repeated the presentation.

After a few minutes, I re-emphasized not putting the work away too quickly and that the work required their observation skills: to look at length, to note variations/movements. I told them that observing the clouds slowly move across the sky or watching an inch worm make its way from one place to another required a commitment of time and a willingness to see the slow wonders all around us. It was a beautiful lesson. After the lesson ended, I took the small tongs and removed the raisins to the ceramic, rectangle plate to throw them away (as we do with the pieces of stem cut during flower arranging work). I poured the liquids down the sink, wiped the bowl and put it all back on the shelf. It was time to go outside, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to see if a child chooses it.


Jennifer said...

Nice setup. I love the dancing raisins done in a tall slender glass with a stable base (The one I have may be a vase or a tall votive holder). The raisins ride up to the surface on the bubbles then sink to the bottom, again and again. I think I use less vinegar in relation to the water (needed to adjust amts a few times before I got proper bubbly effect without gushing over).

Susan Y. Dyer said...

TY...I will note the adjustment in measurements in Jennifer.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet