An Invitation to Play: Water Exploration in Kittitas County


By Elizabeth Ketterer
Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition

Children timidly approached the sound of laughter and splashing water, without knowing what to expect. Holding tightly to her parent’s hand, a child heard volunteers asking, “Will it sink or float?” As she looked around, everything was just her size. What initially felt overwhelming soon became an exciting adventure as the child was invited to toss a rubber ducky and toy block into a toddler table filled with water. She was invited to carefully place marbles on a flat piece of foil, floating in the water. Letting go of her parent’s hand, she turned around to see a small wading pool filled with water and giant foam noodles cut into large chunks. A little boy was “beading” the large foam pieces on to a thick, long rope. There was even a tank filled with goo, which changed from a solid to liquid as she held it in her hands!
The babies and toddlers at the Sink or Float events are don’t know the phrase “fine motor skills,” nor could they discuss the concept of “mass to volume ratio,” but they were experiencing both firsthand. As their brains start to absorb these and other STEM concepts, they could gain an edge that will help them in school, years down the road.

Classification, physical attributes, and size and weight comparisons – all are introduced and taking shape in children’s brains as they experienced these activities, though all were less than 5 years old.
As adults, we often expect education to occur only within the four walls of a school classroom. Yet learning opportunities are everywhere. Expensive equipment isn’t required; using everyday items as materials for lessons broadens our understanding of the world and about the materials themselves. That’s exactly what the creators of Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition’s Sink or Float event strived to model for parents of children birth to 5 years old. As children were exposed to scientific thinking, they not only experienced the concepts, but they also began to discover that items within their homes can have more than one use.

Take-Home Experiment

Every family at each of the three Kittitas County Sink or Float events was given a science book and egg carton, which was filled with ordinary items and “recipes” to conduct experiments at home.

Cartesian Diver by Megan Rivard

1 plastic water bottle with lid
1 soy sauce packet

Instructions (Note: Parents should always supervise this activity.)
Fill the plastic water bottle with water almost to the top. Put the soy sauce packet into the bottle, and fill the rest of the way with water. Screw the lid on tight! Try squeezing the bottle – what happens to the soy sauce packet?
How It Works
Air is usually less dense than water. The soy sauce packet has a smaller air bubble inside, and so floats in the bottle. When you squeeze the bottle, you apply pressure to make the air bubble smaller, and the air in that bubble a little denser. It is just enough change to make the packet sink!


1 comment An Invitation to Play: Water Exploration in Kittitas County

November 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm, Stacie Marez said:

Great blog post! I loved seeing the event in action via the video.