Surprise and Delight

measuring ice

As a teacher I believed that it was my job to ‘surprise and delight’ my children whenever I could.  In return, I believed that if I gave them enough space they would ‘surprise and delight’ me.

After the ice balloon experiment that I described yesterday I provided my class with balls of ice (one for each pair of children) and challenged them to keep them frozen for as long as possible.  Interestingly, not very many children thought about wrapping them despite their recent experince with the coat and the ice balloon.  Outside, it was sunny and the snow was visibly melting.  Some children had the idea of putting their ice-balls in the shade and one or two burried them in the melting snow.  One pair smashed their ice-ball up and then, realising that they could no longer carry out the experiment, tried to stick it back together again.

One pair of children however thought about the challenge very hard and worried that they would not be able to tell how much their ball had melted.  They then decided to draw around their ball (pictured above) so that they had a record to compare their ball with next time they checked.

If I had given the children a more structured and controlled task no doubt the pair who broke their ball would not have done so.  However, I do not think that I would have planned for reception children to carry out such careful  recording either.  I was certainly surprised and delighted when they thought to do this for themselves.  How do you make space for your children to ‘surprise and delight’ you?

More Icy Experimenting!

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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.

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The balloon was pictured next to a familar brick so that the children could judge its size.

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.

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By the second weekend I photographed it next to an apple to show its size.

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.

Icy Surprise

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When I went out to check the ice mobiles late nast night they were melting fast; you can see the water dripping from the bottom of this one.

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However, I was surprised to find that the one with brown leaves was still considerably largely than the one with green leaves and berries!  “Why would that be?” I asked myself.  After all, they were both exactly the same size; I had hung them out at exactly the same time and both were equally frozen solid.

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In this photograph you can see how much bigger the lower one is than the higher one.

Surely a few inches in height hadn’t made any difference?  I looked back at the picture that I took when I first hung them out.

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Mmmmm….. Could the orientation of the ice mobiles have anything to do with it?  The higher mobile is facing almost directly South.  How could I find out if this is what made a difference?

This surprise finding got me thinking.  What if I had followed the instructions on the Nature Detective site and boiled the water to make a clear mobile?  Would that have made a difference?  What if I had dyed the water I used so that the mobiles were different colours?  Would that have altered the speed that the ice melted?  What about the height that I hung them?    What if I made ice mobiles with salty water?  What if I made them with sugary water?

So many ‘What Ifs’.  I think that the best science lessons start when children generate lots of ‘What Ifs’ for themselves and then think of their own ways to find out.   How do you encourage the children in your class to ask “What if……?”


This morning the ice mobiles were gone.  There was no sign that they had ever hung in the apple tree; my experiment was over.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about an icy experiment with my class that lasted for more than a fortnight!

Ice Mobiles

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Yesterday I was writing about signs of spring.   Today, the predicted cold night has led to a frosty world and I am writing about ice mobiles.  I originally got the idea from the Nature Detectives web site.  When I did it with my class we froze the mobiles outside overnight.  It was very exciting coming into school in the morning to find that it had worked!


Will the ice have frozen hard enough to hang the mobile up?


Phew, it worked!  Doesn’t it look beautiful?

I made mine in the freezer and have been waiting for some cold weather so that I can hang them up.

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I wonder how long they will last?

I suppose I should have hung them in different places in the garden and tried to predict which would last longest as that would have been a good opportunity to make predictions and to observe over time.

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Instead I hung them both in the apple tree.  How are you enjoying this frosty weather?