During the month of October, the Big Kids dug into the muck and mud to explore the science of soil. After learning about rocks in September, we turned our magnifying glasses to the dirt to answer a few important — albeit messy — questions.
Question #1: How does water affect soil?
To find an answer, I brought in an enormous bag of soil from my garden for the children to explore. The children dug in the dirt, buried objects, and used their magnifying glasses to take a closer look. Then, we got out the watering cans and added water to the soil. Some enjoyed pouring a little bit in at a time and mixing up their mud each step of the way; others dumped all of their water in right away and quickly asked for more! The kids noticed that the soil could not hold all of the water they were dumping into it. First the soil turned to mud; then, the mud turned into a flood! We finished off this messy class we the Robert Munsch classic Mud Puddle.
Question #2: What is soil made of?
To find our answer, first I took three buddies down to Charleston Park to examine its soil. Brooklynn, Ava, Josiah, and I left for our mission armed with some scientific tools: shovels, magnifying glasses, bags for our “soil samples”, and a whole lot of curiosity! The children probed the soil on the way down to the park with their shovels, finding that it was full of rocks, sticks, bugs, and dead grass.
When we arrived at the sand pit, Ava and Brooklynn carefully collected a sample while Josiah used the “big scoop” to build a mountain, which would later become a giant volcano. Ava tilled the soil to make a “castle for worms”, since it was raining and they would be looking for new homes that day. Upon closer inspection, the kids found that the sand was just made up of “tiny rocks”, unlike the soil they’d examined on the way to the park.
Question 3: Why is soil important?
To help the children answer this question, I brought in a few special guests to our class…earthworms! The kids had a ball watching them wiggle through the dirt, picking them up with tweezers, and studying them up-close with magnifying glasses. They were amazed to find out that worms do indeed eat dirt, make tunnels for oxygen and water to flow, and improve it by digesting organic matter.
Over two classes, we watched a couple of videos courtesy of the Youtube Channel SciShow Kids, which prides itself in “exploring all those curious topics that make us wonder ‘why?’” After watching and discussing What’s the Dirt… on Dirt and Worms are Wonderful, the children concluded that we need dirt “to grow plants to eat” (Ava) and “to grow flowers” (Sylvie).
Finally, we set about making a “worm farm” a.k.a. a jar of soil, sand, and organic matter for our worms to live in. After heaps of dirt and compost were scooped into the jar, the kids carefully added the earthworms. The worms seemed to take to their new home right away, digging tunnels and squirming their way down the side of the jar.
Sadly, only a couple of days later, after wondering aloud “what’s that smell?” I found our once-wiggly worms looking a lot like the compost they were supposed to be eating. I certainly learned a lesson here: all soil is not created equal! We’d added too much compost and the pH of our soil wasn’t hospitable to our worm-friends. RIP worms.
As the fall season wraps up, we find ourselves delving deeper into the mysteries of the planet in Earth Explorers’ Club. In the past couple of classes, we’ve learned about fossils and, of course, dinosaurs!
Join us Tuesday, November 22nd for a field trip to UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth! There, we’ll check out the amazing OmniGlobe, examine the museum’s incredible collection of rocks and crystals, and take a look at a real dinosaur skeleton!
The month of September was a busy one for the Big Kids of Earth Explorers’ Club! The children have been spending Tuesday afternoons pondering some big questions about the earth beneath their feet.
Question #1: What are rocks made of?
To answer this question, the kids first listed things they already knew about rocks. Ava stated that we find rocks “on the ground.” Sylvie then reminded us that “rocks are hard” and Brooklynn added that “they can be different colours.”
Once we listed what the children already knew about rocks, we took some time to really feel them. Each of our buddies took a rock to examine, mindfully learning its properties through sight and touch. Then, they put their rocks back in a bowl and we set them aside. After singing a song or two, I asked the kids to find their special stone again. Success! Everyone found their original rock.
To investigate just what is inside of a rock, we decided to crack a few open. On “Crystal Day”, I helped the kids use a hammer to crack open geodes. We put each geode in a sock first to keep things nice and safe, and then took turns whacking them. After waking up a napper or two with our hammering, we called it quits and the kids examined the crystals inside in true scientific fashion using goggles and magnifying glasses.
Question #2: Where do rocks come from?
This was a tricky question for the Big Kids and I to answer. We attempted to re-create the rock cycle with crayons in a science experiment that looked much easier on Youtube than it was in real life!
Making the best of a bad situation, we read A Rock is Lively and watched a short video to learn how rocks transform from one type to another: erosion, pressure, and heat all play a part in the rock cycle. The best part of the video, of course, was the volcano. Josiah couldn’t get enough of the volcanoes, so we watched more than a few eruptions that day!
Question #3: How do we use rocks?
To find our answer, I took four buddies on a field trip to downtown Vancouver. On the bus there, we discussed all of the different things people create using rocks and minerals. From sidewalks to cell phones, the list is endless! We rely on the ground beneath us for virtually everything.
I made up bingo sheets with several objects that are made from rocks and minerals to give the kids a better picture of how they’re used. William, Sylvie, Ava, and Brooklynn were quick to point out everything they’d found. Looking out at Broadway, Brooklynn was excited to mark off the car on her sheet. Sylvie spotted a cell phone on the bus, and William was in awe of the “castles” in the downtown core.
Now that September has come to a close, we’re looking forward to new and exciting things in Tuesday’s Earth Explorers’ Club. Join us on the dates below for more earthly adventures:
October 11th: The Science of Soil: How does water and temperature affect dirt?
October 18th: The Science of Soil: Building a Worm Farm
October 25th: The Science of Soil: Field trip to Charleston Park for a “rock walk” and dirt exploration. Dress for a mess, because this outdoor adventure will turn muddy if (when) it rains!
Growing up in Kelowna, I loved to collect rocks from the beaches of Okanagan Lake. Every time we went down to the lake, I’d come home with another pile of stones to add to my collection. To this day, it’s still hard for me to walk away from an outdoor adventure without a rock or two in my pocket! They are still my favourite souvenir, and I’ve collected stones from almost everywhere I’ve traveled; my collection boasts obsidian arrowheads from the Kootenays, smooth river stones from Switzerland, and a pebble or two from the gardens of Versailles. Each one recalls a memory and transports my mind back to the time and place of its discovery.
These ancient treasures provide an incredible chance to go back in time and interact with the earth as it was billions of years ago. Whether it’s ocean floors that surged up due to continental collisions, or coming face-to-face with astonishing evidence of early life on the planet, examining rocks is a unique chance to witness our planet’s history.
Collecting rocks is such an easy way for kids to connect with nature. Treasures gathered during walks in the park spur on their natural curiosity. How did that rock end up on the shore? Why is it so smooth/rough/flat? Why is one rock a different colour for the other? Why do some have layers and others don’t? Asking these simple questions and searching for answers is science-in-action! Every kid is a natural geologist.
This autumn, the Big Kids and I will be digging into the earth sciences in Earth Explorers Club. Together, we will unearth the planet’s great mysteries, from how rocks are formed, to what makes volcanoes erupt, to how dinosaur bones are discovered! Join us on our scientific adventure Tuesday afternoons from 1 to 4pm!
Sarah MacDonald is going deep into the secrets of the planet, taking the kids on an underground exploration of the rocks, fossils, and strata of the Earth.
Tuesdays from September to November, from 1 – 4pm, join her!