Do you remember the winter of 2012/2013? It seemed to go on for ever, as though the White Witch of Narnia has initiated perpetual winter. Influenced by The Snowman’s Coat my class decided to run an experiment with an ice balloon to show that a ‘naked’ ice balloon would surely last longer than one wrapped in a nice warm coat! Before we started children made their predictions. By far the greatest number (blue) predicted that the ice in the coat would melt first, a few (red) thought the opposite and a couple (yellow) admitted that they did not know.
The ‘naked’ (the children’s terminology, not mine) balloon lasted less than 24 hours. However, partly because the weather got colder part way through the experiment the balloon wrapped in a coat lasted for more than a fortnight. In fact, I had to take it home with me at weekends so that I could take photographs to put on the website so that children and their families could follow the progress of the ice balloon.
It was gratifying how many families were deeply engaged by the progress of the balloon. Our class page got lots of ‘hits’ during this period.
Funnily enough, even after this experience, there were a significant number of children who did not want to change their ‘prediction’. They still believed that a coat would melt the ice! I was not worried about this as I reasoned that they would need more than one experience to alter the nature of their belief in ‘nice warm coats’.
Chatting to children in the summer term I found that some children’s thinking had become more in line with a scientific understanding of how insulation works. However, others who had seemed to change their minds at the time of the experiment had reverted to their original understanding.
Tomorrow I shall describe how the experiement conducted independently by one of the children in my class following this experience.