For quite some time now, the children have been intrigued by the rat holes in the outdoor classroom. Giacomo and Nora have been leading this investigation (almost) every day when we are outside. Their imaginations have been running wild with the possibilities for seeing eyes, legs, tails, movement under the mulch, etc. Over the past few months the children have created rat traps using pipes, blocks, paper, concrete cylinders, wood pieces, and more; this has also been an undertaking for Rainey Room as well. More recently, since we returned to school in January, Giacomo and Nora have been developing plans to scare the rats away (note that the school/church have been working with a pest control company for months/years to keep this under control). This idea manifested itself into a volcano that would scare the rats away.
Giacomo, who also happened to be in the virtual classroom with me last year when we did the volcano experiment, brought a lot of knowledge to the conversation. He shared with Nora about how the liquid would explode, and that might scare the rats away. We began developing a plan with them to make this at school: would it be paper/paper mache, clay, wire, or a different material?
On January 27th, we brought the volcano idea to morning meeting:
“My grandma made a volcano. We have a book about making volcanoes. That’s where I got the idea to become a scientist.” - Sylvie, 5.0 years
“It’s going to be gray. You'll see.” - Giacomo, 5.1 years
“And we’ll put red on the top.” - Nora, 5.3 years
"So, Lava pulls into the mountain, into the volcano, into the tube that the lava comes out of. When you put all of that stuff in, it gets bubbly. Out of the volcano, it explodes; out of the tube." - Sylvie, 5.0 years
Do you remember what ingredients we put inside of it [on zoom last year]?
"Baking sode and vinegar." - Giacomo, 5.1 years
"Water!" - Lochie, 5.3 years
"Food coloring!" - Giacomo, 5.1 years
Collaborating on a plan for the structure
Our first step as a group was to draw what we know about volcanoes. We wanted to slow down and think about the shape, the potential colors, the plan for building the structure, and think about how it would actually work to scare the rats.
The process of building the structure presented a few challenges: tearing and crumpling the news paper; adhering the news paper with tape; attending to the shape and size of the volcano; and not making the top too heavy. At first, some of the children wanted to simply place the newspaper in the box and around the bottle; they were unsure about the need for taping it together (Why won't it just stay?). Then, placing the newspaper, tearing the strip of tape, and adhering the new piece to the existing structure was difficult. Each one of them, in their own way, overcame this challenge to create the structure for our volcano.
This process also required a bit of patience and delayed gratification, as we could not (due to other projects and work in the classroom) work on it every day. So, a few days later, it was time to paper mache the volcano structure.
This was a messy, but fun part of the process. Once again, it required some patience before we could go to the next step. The paper mache took a few days to dry. Giacomo reminded us that it had to be "so dry that when you knock on it, it's hard!"
Painting the Volcano
Exploding the Volcano
Finally, the day arrived for us to explode the volcano. Keeping in mind that we only had one volcano, and a lot of interested and excited children, we decided to test out the explosion in some jars first. We tested out different amounts and ratios of baking soda, water, food coloring, and vinegar! We discovered that if you add more vinegar, it will continue to erupt, and also that we should probably mix up some of the baking soda that settles on the bottom. We took all of this information to our paper mache volcano.
A Night at St. John's
This phase of our work began with our home research where we asked, "Can you find shadows at night?" After the winter break, a small group sat together in the atelier to discuss the photos that were collected from the home research. Jack, Lucia, and Janie brought their own photos, and we also included Sylvie's photos. During our reflective small group conversation, an idea was born:
Do we have an answer to that big question [Are there shadows at night?]?
“Unless you have a candle.” - Jack
“Mom just turned off all the flashlights.” - Lucia
“Shadow puppets.” - Jack
“I made them.” - Janie
Here, I read Jack’s quote from his home research: "Basically, you need a flashlight because the moon isn’t bright enough."
Sounds like we’ve decided that you can find shadows at night if you have:
Flashlights or a candle. The moon is not bright enough. - Jack
Or a street light. - Lucia
Is there a way for us to test this out in our classroom? A way to test our theory about the moon?
“Yes, but…it’s kind of a tricky one and I don’t think you’ll really agree with it. The only way to do that is if we go to the classroom at night.” - Jack
“I would love that.” - Janie
Would we find shadows?
“That’s the only way to test it out.” - Jack
Can you get in the school at night?
“Noo!” - All
“Because the door is locked.” - Janie
What if you have a key?
“You could bring your key, and you could be waiting at the door. You bring your key. Can you tell the information to our moms and dads?” - Jack
If we came to the school at night, how would we test our theory about the shadows? Jack suggested that we come to school at night, but what kind of materials would we need? What would we do?
“You bring your key, unlock the door, lock the door again, tiptoe up here, and then we can go in here. Open all of the blinds, see if the moon is anywhere, and see if shadows are there.” - Jack
“We can make shadow puppets.” - Lucia
Are there any other materials or tools that we would need?
“Toys! Paint?” - Janie
Is there anything here at St. John’s that you would want me, Melanie, Jen, or Molly to set up here at night?
[Jack looks around and points to the overhead projector]
So, one of the overhead projectors?
“Yeah!” - Jack
Stay tuned. Later this week, we'll share the small group, morning meeting conversations we had with the children to brainstorm ideas for our night at school!
Also, we neglected to put this in our email, but please take a minute to email us as an "RSVP" for our night at school; if you've already done so, please disregard this note! A head count will be helpful for ordering dinner! We are so very excited for this evening, and are grateful for the enthusiasm that you've already shared with us and the children! It will be memorable for sure!