Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oil and Water Don't Mix Part 2

My first post about this work detailed the response of a young 4 year old to an individual presentation of "Oil and Water Don't Mix." The next day I presented the same work to a six year old, third year student. The results were initially the same and then were multiplied ten times over as the student began to ask questions and attempt to answer them.

Initially, I follow the same steps as I had with the four year old. Dylan was fascinated by the circles of oil that remained at the surface of the small bowl of water. But then he poured some of the water back into the pitcher and noted that "If you have a little bit of water in a bowl, Miss Dyer, it is lighter in color. But, if there is a lot of colored water it is much darker at the bottom."

I answered, "Sounds like you are talking about depth and about light. The deeper the water the darker it appears from above. Maybe light can't reach that far down?" I asked.

"Well, Miss Dyer, its like shades. There is more black when the water is deep," Dylan answered.

"Is it black like the color or like the night sky?" I asked.

"I think it is like the night sky, really dark," was his answer.

"Maybe the bottom of the bowl is like the ocean. The ocean looks dark from above when you are out on it. But, if you are standing on the sand right next to the shallow edge you can see stones and shells. What about that?" I asked.

"I think if you shinned a flash light into the deeper water you could see better," he answered.

Instead of getting a flashlight, I got a larger, glass bowl. He poured more water, oil and coloring into the bowl. As he squirted the food coloring, Dylan said, "That looks just like an octopus squirting ink. I saw that on the Discovery Channel."

It did look like an octopus squirting ink. I asked him if he wanted to get the small octopus from the sound box and he eagerly responded that he did.

He placed the octopus on the surface of the water but immediately noticed that the octopus was covered in oil. He took it from the water and wiped it clean.

"That is what happens to birds and fish when there is an oil spill from a tanker or from a boat. The oil that we are using is vegetable oil as it is the type we cook with. We eat vegetables so we can eat vegetable oil," I explained.

"Miss Dyer, when my Mom makes soup there are circles on top, too," he said excitedly.

"Those are from animal and vegetable fat or oil in the soup," I answered. "Oil that spills from a tanker is petroleum oil and it is black, thick and heavy. Because it is heavy it weighs down the birds and it makes it hard from them to fly and to breathe."

I am the Roots and Shoots coordinator for our school so I mentioned Jane Goodall's work with gorillas to tie that to the dangers facing other wildlife such as fish and birds. I then asked Dylan if we should see what happens when we place our Peace Dove in the oily water. Our dove has feathers and I thought that it may prove interesting for Dylan to see if the oil coated them. "Yes, let's do that," Dylan said as he set aside the now clean octopus.

Before putting the dove in the water, I rinsed out the bowl, refilled it with water. Dylan put the dove in the water and then added oil.

We did not add food coloring because I did not want the dove to be stained green.

After a few minutes sitting on the water's surface, we noticed that the tail was starting to dip down. "Dylan, do you see how its tail is starting to bend down?" I asked.

"I think, Miss Dyer, that oil must be heavier than water. That is why when birds get oil on them they can't fly cause the oil is too heavy," he explained while holding the dove in his hands feeling the oil on its feathers.

"That sounds right, Dylan," I answered.

"Jane Goodall has done so much for the gorillas. We live near the ocean not near Africa. What can we do to help creatures that live in the ocean?" I asked Dylan.

"Maybe we can figure out how to clean up the oil when it spills and how to get it off the birds and fish," he answered. He then took out the dove and carefully cleaned its feathers.

He placed the dove on the table and added food coloring to the water so as to better see the oil. Then he started using cotton balls to remove some of the oil. He worked on cleaning up the oil for awhile and then the morning was done. I felt like it was well spent.

ps. Because sooo many children were out sick last week with colds, I had the rare opportunity to sit with one child for a long time while Patti did an amazing job working with the others.


Amber said...

I'm sorry to leave so many comments but it's been too long since I visited your blog & I'm really moved. This is another beautiful post. What a wonderful conversation. I'm inspired.

Susan Y. Dyer said...

I love to get comments...I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to sit and listen to my students tell me their thoughts. Thank goodness for great assistants.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet