At the Peninsula Public Library, we encourage children to make a mess! Our young patrons in 1st-6th grades enjoyed an interactive — hands on/imagination on — three-session program involving art and mathematics, engineering, and science through non-fiction stories. The program is called AMESS: Art and the Marvelous Exploration of Science through Stories. Each one-hour session begins with the reading of a non-fiction book or online book on a topic. Here’s an example of a three-week program.
Week 1: Snowflake Exploration
We used a smartboard to show the online Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. After the reading, we talked about snow crystals and how they form. We mixed Epsom salts and water (1 part salts to 2 parts hot water in a cup) to make “ice-crystal paint.” The kids used this paint to make designs on black construction paper. As the paint dries, the crystals form. The kids viewed crystals in the book for ideas on how to create their own. We also looked up paper snowflakes and made them as well.
Week 2: Marshmallow Challenge
This fun design/build exercise teaches some simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation, hidden assumptions, and creativity that are central to the engineering process.
Children listened to the book Building by Elisha Cooper; other construction/design books were on display. Children were given white paper and pencils to design their own tall buildings. After sharing their designs, the children were separated into groups of 4 to 6 to plan their building strategies. The instructions and rules for the Marshmallow Challenge were given out.
Week 3: Oobleck Experiment
We read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, then made oobleck! The recipe follows:
- 1 cup water
- 1.5-2 cups corn starch
- a few drops of food coloring
Mix together in a bowl. Point out how it is first a liquid, then hardens when pressure is applied.
–Ilene Madden, Peninsula Public Library