“There is no great discoveries and advances, as long as there is an unhappy child on earth. “
Is there a right age for science? Can 3-year-olds understand STEM principles? What can you expect a child to learn about science by the end of kindergarten? In general, they will learn some basics of the physical sciences, Earth sciences, life sciences, and scientific principles of investigation and experimentation. Children are encouraged to develop their curiosity about the world around them and to make observations. As they are introduced to science, children develop organized and analytical thinking as well as problem-solving skills. So, my answer is: yes, 3-year-olds can and should be involved in STEM projects in kindergarten.
Our STEM adventure with water
The “Ladybugs” are a group of 3-year-olds from “Naša radost” Preschool Institution from Subotica (Serbia). We joined a very interesting eTwinning project called WORLD CHILDREN’S COUNCIL. With our partners from Greece, Turkey and Spain we come across a very interesting topic about water saving, collecting and reusing rainwater, and about the importance of biodiversity, and how it supports ecosystems to provide and purify water.
On the 22nd of March, World Water Day I challenged my students to brainstorm about what do they know about water, how do they use it, what can we do with it? It was a great opportunity to play with water: to pour it, drip it, spray it, etc. We learned how to use a funnel, a jug, a glass. It was interesting for them to see how would a water level rise in a glass if we put a toy in it: we coloured the water to make it more obvious and marked the initial water level with a pen. The 3-year-olds soon were competing who will find an object which will raise the water level even more?
We built a village from some cardboard base, paper houses and paint. In the middle of this village, we built a river/stream/water system from paper rolls. In the cardboard rolls, we put a plastic tube and pour some water through it. With this experiment, we showed how can we transport water with the help of gravity, because the water had run from up to down. The next step was to challenge the children to think of a solution to how to make the water travel from bottom to top: “How would the villagers receive water if the well or spring was at the bottom of the hill?” They poured the water, spilt it, and even tried to blow into the tube. The activity was fun and interesting, but the “village” was left without a solution.
The Archimedes screw
We searched the internet for some ideas and came across a video on Youtube about the Archimedes screw. An Archimedes’ screw is a simple machine (a type of pump) which lifts water up when it is turned. It has been used since ancient times. It is used mainly for lifting water from a lower to higher level, such as rivers or lakes, to irrigate fields, and also for draining water out of mines. Its name is from the person who is said to have invented it, Archimedes (287-212 BC). Even though the Archimedes’ screw was invented in ancient times, it has been adapted throughout time. Due to the simplicity of how it works, the Archimedes’ screw can be environmentally friendly by being powered by a windmill.
We decided that we will try to build it with the help of:
- PVC pipe
- Clear vinyl tubing,
- Duct tape and hot glue gun
- Containers for water (2)
- Something to elevate one of the containers, like a small box or a third container
- Optional: food coloring (blue)
Making this simple machine was fun for the kids, especially rolling the vinyl tube on a PVC pipe: it moved, it fell off a couple of times and was hard to fix it with a tape etc. So, it needed all the help of little hands. In the end, we decided to use a hot glue gun.
How does it work? The lowest portion of the screw just dips into the water, and as it is turned a small quantity of water is scooped up into the tube. As the screw turns, the water slides along the tube. Meanwhile, more water is scooped up at the end of the tube and then it slides along, and so on until the water comes out the top of the tube. The children were asked to turn the screw in one direction, and then the other because the screw only works when it is turned in one direction – in the opposite direction to the winding of the tubing. Otherwise, the water will not get scooped up.
The experiment was exciting for the kids, and they played with the screw all day long.
STEM Discovery Campaign 2021 webinar
I invited the project partners to a webinar, where I talked about the Campaign, my experience with it, how to get involved, etc. On the webinar, I presented the work of my students and encouraged the teachers to try the activity, and we also discussed some other experiments with water, which can also fit in the campaign slogan of sustainability and citizenship. The next challenge for our students will be to make a water wheel from paper plates and plastic cups.
How does it work? The energy of the moving water is transferred to the wheel, which makes the wheel spin! In real life, this motion energy of the wheel turning can be used to spin a generator that makes electricity. That electricity can be used far away from the power plant to turn on lights, charge your computer, and so much more!
This STEM activity will be great for the online involvement of students (for example in Greece the kindergartens are still closed) because this water –wheel the kids can build with their parents, and then present it to the class.