Monday, October 11, 2010

Bean There

See these? This is one of the easiest, most exciting projects to do with kids. Growing beans in a baggie, taped to a window is pretty fool proof. Now if you are especially foolish or have thumbs a shade not even close to green, it's okay. The first thing we do with any science type of project is come up with a hypothesis. Don't be afraid to use that big word with little ones. They may not be able to pronounce it or even remember it, but use it anyway. A hypothesis is a guess. (That's what I tell the kids.) It doesn't have to be right. It can be incorrect. Scientist do experiments to find out if the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. If it's incorrect, then they try something else. That' all, no drama, no winning or losing. So here is a step by step scenario.

Adult: Hey, I have a crazy idea! Do you think we could grow beans in a bag?

Kids: They will either laugh at your foolishness or stare blankly thinking about how ludicrous this sounds. (Or maybe they didn't even hear you because they are fighting that pesky dragon that pops into their head at the mere mention of science.) Some may nod in the negative and of course there are those few that will go for just about any crazy idea.

Adult: Let's see? How would we do this? What do plants need?

Kids: Water. Air. Sunlight. Dirt. Jelly Beans! There is always one kids suggesting Jelly Beans as a cure all to EVERYTHING, or they are still just be staring blankly at you. That's Okay.

Adult: Okay...I think this may work. Dirt works, but I want to be able to see the roots growing.
You may need to stop and explain what roots are...but only if they ask. Remember, the art of teaching is about leaving a lot unsaid so that the kids come to the knowledge themselves. This way they are more likely to remember it. What can we use that will let us see the roots growing?
(if an answer or two are not suggested...continue.) I know! I think I saw once someone using cotton balls. So we will substitute cotton balls for dirt. Now, what else do we need? Yes! Water.
Let the kids pour some water into the bag. What else? Of course, we need some beans. Let each child place 4 or 5 beans into the bag, mushing them into the cotton a bit. Now for sunlight. Should we tape these babies inside the fireplace?

Kids: Laughing hysterically and screaming in unison...NO!!!! It's dark in there. Tape them on the window!

Adult: Genius! What about air? How will the beans get air?
Some kids may know, but this is a great demonstration anyway. Take an empty baggie and seal it. Now let the kids squeeze and feel it. Pop a hole in it and have them squeeze the air inside. Ask again. I bet they can all tell you that the air is already in the bag.

The rest is simple. Watch those bean sprouts...well sprout!

Our sprouts got so big we planted them. We measure them. We water them. We ask questions. There were a few that didn't grow and we learned from them too. So if your kids are itching for something to do, tell them you have a crazy idea. Just as a reminder, someone may ask you to grow jelly beans. Do it! Grow them in a separate baggie next to the beans and note what happens.