A hoodoo experiment


One of our families took a trip out to Bryce Canyon in Utah a few weeks ago and wanted to share their experience.  We asked them to come in to make a presentation about their trip.  They did some hiking and wanted to share photos of hoodoos. A hoodoo is a tall, mostly thin rock spire formed usually from sedimentary and volcanic rock.  They may be found in the desert and are affected by erosion.


The children enjoyed the photos of hoodoos.



Next up was an experiment.  Kevin and Teresa wanted to introduce the children to the idea that rock structures can be affected by water that freezes over and over thus expands and retracts.  This contributes to how hoodoos are formed.

Each child placed a water balloon in a paper cup halfway filled with plaster.


Teresa then took the cups and filled them with plaster.

From Kevin: “Each child will have two cups to discover how freezing water expands to crack rocks, which is one way that hoodoos form.   One cup marked “C” is the control and is solid plaster.  It should not crack (in theory).  One cup with your child’s name is the experiment and contains a water balloon.  It will likely crack the plaster when frozen (but it doesn’t always crack).”


Most of the homemade hoodoos cracked.


The control is on the right and experiment is on the left.


Two kindergartners wanted to record the results of the experiment.  They made a check list and marked if the plaster cracked or not.

A HUGE thank you to Kevin and Teresa!


photo116  circuit 2

The children have been learning about what a circuit is and have had many hands-on experiences with them.  Here the child makes this ball light up when he connects the circuit to the two conductors.  There is a little video clip next to the photo.  Click to see what happens.

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This child made a circuit and a small light bulb lit up.  The child is able to see the battery and how it connects.  There is a short video next to this as well.


The afternooners were able to do an experiment with Squishy Circuits.  Allison had heard about this on the Science Friday program on NPR.  It was developed by a university professor and her students.  We sent away for the kit so we could conduct the experiment.

We made two types of play dough, one made with salt and a good conductor and another made with sugar and a poor conductor.  We inserted wires that were connected to a battery and tried to light up a small LED bulb by making a circuit wit the more conductive dough.  It only worked when the dough was separated.  We then used the less conductive dough and got similar results but the LED bulb was not as bright.  When we sandwiched the conductive dough with the less conductive dough, we could light up the bulb.  Here are our more successful creations:




Better late than never!  A few short weeks ago it was Halloween.

We have a low-key celebration as it can be overwhelming for many children.


Some of the Kindergartners and the afternooners decorated the classroom.


We scooped out a pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins for the classroom celebration.  We also carved a friendly jack-o-lantern.


We also hammered nails into a pumpkin.



Heat energy experiment

The afternoon children did several experiments where we observed heat energy. We observed what happened when a short birthday cake candle was snuffed with a small glass.


We also observed the same birthday candle burn until the wax was all gone. While carefully observing we talked about what made the candle burn and stop burning.


The kids enjoyed examining the cooled (we put it in the freezer) remains of the completely burned candle in the tinfoil which held it.

We took advantage of the sunny warm afternoon and  observed two thermometers first inside the classroom and outside. We then placed them in a black mug and a white mug. We also felt the sides of the mugs and observed that the black mug felt much warmer than the white mug.


We rubbed our hands together and talked about friction and heat production.


A Hand Washing Science Experiment

At Ann Arbor Children’s House, we have many parents with interesting jobs!  One set of parents work in a laboratory at the University of Michigan.  In the beginning of each year, we spend time teaching the new children how to wash their hands and then reminding everyone else about hand washing.  When one of the parents who work in this lab suggested we try this experiment, we were thrilled.  This was done with our Kindergartners and afternoon children.  We did this experiment for several reasons.  First, we wanted the children to learn about a “control” in an experiment.  One of the Petri dishes did not have any handprints on it.  The children were also able to use real scientific equipment such as Petri dishes and agar.  They learned that experiments can take time as the bacteria and fungus present were baked in an oven for 24 hours.  We needed to wait for the results.  One of the most important reasons we wanted to do this experiment was that the children were able to see just what hand washing does as germs are invisible to our eyes.

Agar plates were used for a hand-washing experiment. Agar is used because it contains all the nutrients for the bacteria to grow such as salts, yeast and amino acids.  The children thought the agar felt “gooey.”


The children first touched one side of their plate with unwashed hands. Then, after washing their hands well with foaming soap, they touched the other side of the plate.



All plates were marked with U for unwashed, W for washed and the child’s name.


Two of our scientists went to the lab to help.  Because bacteria grows well in warm conditions and takes 12-24 hours for a colony to appear, the plates were then placed in a 37C (body temperature) incubator overnight.


Plates were removed from incubator and sealed with parafilm for safe observation.


Bacteria appeared as small white clumps and fungus appeared as a wispy, white growth.



What did we find out?  Hand washing dramatically reduces the amount of bacteria and fungus on our hands.  Hand washing is an important part of our day.  Children wash their hands before baking, having a snack or engaging in food prep work.  They wash their hands after using the bathroom or putting their fingers up their noses (or in their mouths). The next time we sing our hand washing song, we feel these children will have a deeper understanding of what we are singing about!

We may complete a follow-up experiment using different types of soaps and hand sanitizers to compare efficacy.


After seeing the results, the children wanted to make a “Thank You” card!




Process & Product: Math, Magnets and More

At our school the children engage in many “works” that do not produce a product.  The Montessori philosophy is one of process over product.  Most of what we do does not go home in a backpack but does go home in other ways.  Children at this age learn through experience.  They absorb so much throughout the day while working and socializing with others.  We call our activities “work” and each one is thoroughly thought out before it is presented to the children.  As the children grow older, they begin to gain control over fine motor skills (with the help of interaction with many of our “works”) and may begin to bring home more “product.”

Here are some examples of non-product work:


Learning the decimal system (unit, ten, hundred and thousand) by playing the “Bring Me” game.


In this game the teacher asks the child (based on their abilities) to “bring me” a specific number using the golden beads.  Depending on the student, this may sound like: “bring me five units,” or “bring me forty two,” or “bring me three hundreds, seven tens and six units.”  The children carry their trays over to the shelf (the “bank”) and collect the corresponding number of beads then returns to the teacher.  They are often seen helping each other.  The teacher will then count the beads out loud to reinforce the amount that the child brought back.  This can also be played when the child is ready for “Bring Me” with the symbol or numbers.


Once the children have worked on learning the values of the golden beads and understand the symbol, they are able to work on addition as a group game.


This child works with the “Snake Game.”  Here she learns base ten with the golden beads.  She is understanding the ten addition tables.


She starts counting the beads and stops at ten.  She then removes what she can, marks where she left off and replaces these beads with a ten bar creating a long, golden snake.


This Kindergartner practices abstracting addition with the “Addition Blind Chart.”  He uses folded slips that contain written addition combinations and can find the answer by running his finger down from the top and over from the left side.  Where they meet is the sum.  Sometimes this can create a product if the child chooses to write down the equations.


Here is a child engaging in our magnetic/non-magnetic work this week.


This magnet work pulls or pushes this tiny car.


This magnet work uses iron filings and sand.


Learning to tie using the bow frame.


Cutting the washed apples from last week.


Pouring into a pan.


Making applesauce for snack.


This child has gone through a process of getting out the work, putting on an apron, washing hands and returning.  He is engaged in our food prep work of making a caprese salad on a toothpick.  He has just turned three and can do these things by himself now.


He then gets to eat the yummy treat.


This child uses a sensorial work, Color Box 3, to enhance her visual skills by grading from light to dark in a single shade.

This is only a very small sample of what happens every day at AACH.  There is so much happening and most of it does not result in a product to send home in a backpack at the end of the week.

First Week of School!


It was a fun first full week of school!

The returning children went back to work right away! It is lovely to see them rediscovering old works such as mopping, cloth washing, washing a baby and doing addition and subtraction with the stamp game and small bead frame.  The new children learned many new things!  They learned some rules in the classroom (Grace and Courtesy) such as how to walk inside, how to ask someone to move, how to carry a tray, how to walk around someone’s work and how to ask for help from a teacher or older student.  The new children also had lessons in self-care such as how to wash hands, how to get a drink and how to cover your mouth (with your elbow) when you sneeze or cough.


Here is a child washing her hands at a table.  This week she also learned how to wash her hands independently in the bathroom.


These girls like to clean the tables.  It is such fun to use the squirt bottle!



Hammering was a fun addition (golf tees and clay).


This child learned to use the cylinder blocks which teach dimension.


Watermelon cutting was fun and yummy!  This child used a dull knife to chop up the watermelon pieces.  It is a multi-step activity involving:  Carrying the tray to a table, putting on an apron, washing hands, using the tongs to put the watermelon on the cutting board, cutting, moving the pieces to a plate, eating, throwing away the plate, putting the tray on the shelf, pushing the chair in, taking off apron and washing hands again.  Many steps to remember!


A returning child enjoyed sewing a straight stitch on burlap.  For the new children we have bead stringing as well as sewing on a piece of vinyl.  They progress to this type of work once their fine motor skills have grown.


We talked about living things (a hamster) and non-living things (a table.) We sorted picture cards into living and non-living categories. We labeled the room with labels which read “living” and “non-living.”  Three afternoon children were inspired to make their own books that listed living and non-living things they found in the room!


We went on a “dig!”  Children dig and then dust off dirt to discover a fossil, artifact or rock/mineral.


The children seem very accepting of our transition to teaching cursive letters.  Some have written words with one of our three beautiful new cursive moveable alphabets and others have enjoyed writing the letters on the large chalkboard which is now lowered to their height.


Taking the “chalk for a walk” involves holding the chalk sideways and using the whole arm.  This prepares the arm and hand for writing.  Dr. Montessori was known to talk about how the muscle memory digs the deepest groove.  More on cursive in upcoming posts.


A child has traced the “t” and can now practice on the chalkboard.  The next work for this Kindergartner is to practice on a tabletop blank chalkboard then a lined chalkboard before moving to paper.  Writing this way becomes finer as the child gains more control.  From the whole arm (at the chalkboard) to the elbow down (table top chalkboard) to the wrist and fingers (paper).

photo 2

The Kindergartners this year are taking an active role in preparing our room for lunch. We are now using placemats along with our dishes, silverware and drinking glasses.  They are so excited when it is time for them to set the tables.  In one week they have begun to take charge of this and will be independent soon.

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We were able to play outside every day except one due to pouring rain.  We planted pansies!

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We ordered ice cream!

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We dug in the sandbox and so much more!

Also in the afternoon:

In Physical Science we explored three states of matter: solids, liquids and gasses. We read an excellent book entitled “What Is the World Made Of?  All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases”  by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfled.  We turned a liquid into a solid by making lemonade popsicles and observed (from a safe distance) a whistling tea kettle boil a liquid and turn it into a gas. When we teach science we strive to be inquiry based rather than didactic. When we observed that the cooled tea kettle no longer contained any water, instead of telling the children “the water turned from a liquid state to steam”  we asked them where they thought the water went.  It was great to hear their thoughts. “In the stove.” “In the steam.”  We also did an experiment inspired by the book where we opened a bottle of perfume on one side of the room and noticed how long it took for the smell to travel to the other side of the room.

Earth Day- making paper, worms, alternative energy

For Earth Day we focused on many topics related to celebrating the Earth and keeping our planet healthy.


We talked about Solar Energy!  Thanks to Brian for bringing in a solar panel and telling us how it works.  The children all tried to pick it up and realized how heavy it was.  Brian inspired us to look for solar panels in our community and report back to him.  (Thanks Brian for coming in!)


We ordered a small solar panel to take outside and show how it creates energy to make something work.  In this case it was a small fan.  See below for a movie clip.  We used this on the one sunny day last week.  (We also have tiny solar cars but have been unable to use at this point due to the lack of sun.)

Mini Solar Panel


We made bracelets out of solar beads.  The children chose regular pony beads and the white solar beads.  When we took them outside, they changed colors!  BEFORE is above and AFTER is below.


We talked about wind energy one afternoon.  The children made pinwheels and watched them turn with the wind.


The children made paper in class for several days.  First rip paper scraps into small pieces.


Put in a blender with a small amount of water.


Pour the pulp through a metal screen into a can.


Place another metal screen on top and press down with a sponge.


Lift up to reveal the paper.


It needs to dry on the drying rack so we placed on small paper plates.  (We re-used these!)




The children have been interested in worms lately.  We talked about how they are good for the soil and for growing plants.


Some children wanted to make parts of a worm book to take home.


The children have been spending a lot of time digging up worms on the playground and relocating them to the garden.


Happy Earth Day!





We have been studying dinosaurs!  There are SO many dinosaurs, it is unbelievable!  Thankfully, we have many 3, 4 and 5 year olds experts in the classroom to help us.  Some children enjoy looking at our big chart of dinos and match up little models of dinosaurs to the pictures.


Some children like to match up the dinosaur cards.


We have matched up various dinosaur skeletons.


We also made our own fossils!  Pretend paleontologists!
We used Model Magic and pressed in a mini dino skeleton.


Take the model out and let it air dry.  It takes a few days.


We then used brown paint to make it more realistic.


We are fortunate to have access to some REAL fossils!

First up was dinosaur poop!


This rock was said to have been in a dinosaur stomach to help it digest food.


And here is part of an eggshell.


Finally, our music teacher led the children in a song about dinos:

Circuits and Electricity!


We have been discussing Benjamin Franklin, circuits, and electricity in school!

We have read several stories about Benjamin Franklin and began our own experiments!

First up was static electricity!


We then talked about circuits!


We have many hands-on ways to understand how these circuits work.