Science in the Park

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Apple picking at Avalon Orchards

I love October. We’re more settled into routines then we are in September. Schoolwork is going well. Right now we’re studying logarithms and geometry, and we’re trying to write lots of letters to relatives. We’re doing autumn-y activities too. We’ve gathered leaves and done leaf-rubbings. We’re drying apple slices to have for snacking on so I wake up to the smell of apples every morning and serve apple-pancakes for supper at least once a week. The children are talking already of Halloween. This is probably my favorite time of year.

The weather is still nice enough we can spend quite a bit of time outdoors. Sure, the equipment is normally wet when we get there but we dry stuff off as needed with handfuls of sand. The playgrounds have emptied out and with less other children there for my children to play with they start to get creative. As a result, we’ve been doing a fair amount of “park science.”Science in the park: tying sticks to a spinner to watch how they move at different speeds, and on different lenghts of string.

I took some spring scales to the park and we tied huge rocks to them and lifted them with the scale and then slid them up the slide with the scale to see the difference an inclined plain makes.

One project we did involved tying sticks to a spinny thing at the park. We tied sticks on different lenghts of string, and we tied different sizes of sticks, and we spun them and talked about what happened. When we stopped the spinner some of the sticks stayed moving longer and others stopped fairly quickly.

We also attached a few sticks to elastic bands and swung them to see if the elastics would stretch out all the way or not. They didn’t, which surprised us and we then had to figure out why we could get the elastics to stretch out if we spun the sticks on elastics by hand rather than on the spinner. I think it had to do with the speed.

Exploring the craters formed in sand by dropping rocks.Another project involved throwing rocks into the sand to make “craters on the moon.” We found three ways to make a larger crater. Use a larger rock, drop it from higher up, or throw it forcefully.

Of course then we had to combine using elastics and throwing rocks, so we made ourselves a small sling-shot. We used a stick we found at the playground, two elastic bands, a square of cloth and some tape.

Toy slingshots are easy to make with cloth, elastics, electrical tape and a stick.The sling shot worked great and I’m itching to try making another larger one to play with as an angry-birds game like one very brave library program did, as described in the At Home With Books Blog post.

With the playgrounds empty, it doesn’t seem a big deal to tie sticks onto the equipment or make sling-shots but I am a little self-conscious about the activities we do sometimes. I’ve had dirty looks when my children took balloon swords to a park. I worry other parents will disapprove. How do you handle the different boundaries different people have for what is appropriate at a park? Does it change depending on the season? Do you prefer empty or full parks?

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4 thoughts on “Science in the Park

  1. It IS a great time of year, huh? I love fall’s colors! We’ve been making lots of apple goodies too, and carving pumpkins and “leaf peeping”.

    Boundaries? Well, I try to respect other parents and kids at playgrounds or public areas, and obviously make sure that everyone is safe, but kids will be kids (especially boys will be boys) and sticks and stones can become the latest, greatest “weapon”. It is a fine line, isn’t it?

  2. I think as long as one is respectful of other kids and space the boundaries make themselves. Naturally if the park is full one can’t go around and hog all the equipment for their own experiments but since you do it in a half empty park the other parents and kids might be employed in participating and having fun along with you. 🙂

  3. What a great way for your children to learn! They’re outside, they’re exploring… I love the idea of tying sticks to the “spinny thing” to see how centrifugal force works. You have so many good ideas!

    • As far as awkward moments at playgrounds, I had to try to change my son’s diaper and wet clothes (from the splashpad) on the bench without being obscene. I felt like people were looking at me weird, but oh well….

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