On your mark, get set, pour! Your first grader has probably already noticed that some liquids, such as pancake syrup, pour slower than liquids like water. While this topic is always fun (and a little sticky) to explore in the kitchen or at mealtimes, it’s good first grade science, too. In fact, a common core topic in early elementary school science is the difference between solid and liquid states of matter. And you don’t need any fancy lab equipment to learn about it. Use the activity below to help your budding scientist become familiar with the properties of liquids and solids.
What You Need:
- Plastic bottles
- Assorted liquids (water, syrup, dish detergent)
- Assorted solids (wooden blocks and pieces of plastic and metal)
- Basin or sink
- Pure maple syrup
- Heavy saucepan
- Journal or notebook
What You Do:
- Show your child the liquids you’ve assembled. Have her to name and describe the appearance of each liquid. Use a special journal to write down her descriptions.
- Now fill the water bottles with each liquid and pour each liquid from one bottle to another empty bottle. Be sure to write down her observations. Your child may notice that liquids pour and flow and liquids take on the shape of the container that holds them.
- Gather up the solid objects you've accumulated and have your child name and describe each one. Ask her what she would like you write down in her "scientific journal." As she examines each solid, help your child name different properties (hard, soft, etc.) of the solid objects. She can write some of the words in the journal herself.
- Compare and contrast! Encourage your child to compare the two states of matter and list the ways solids and liquids are alike and different.
- Now it’s time for some culinary fun. Pour one cup of maple syrup into a small, heavy saucepan. Heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, and let your first grader help. Make sure to use a long-handled spoon to minimize any spatters on your child. Hot sugar syrup can hurt!
- Gently boil the maple syrup for about ten minutes, and then invite your child to see what’s going on. Has the syrup changed? Is it thicker? That’s because some of the water in the syrup has boiled off!
- Now put the syrup back over the heat and gently boil again for another 10-15 minutes. Be careful to keep the syrup from burning the bottom of the pan! Observe the sweet development: the sugar will crystallize into a soft, solid, scrumptious maple sugar.
- Yummy knowledge! After all this scientific inquiry, your child can probably explain quite clearly the differences between solids and liquids -- unless she’s enjoying a mouthful of maple sugar candy. In that case, we recommend that everyone has a bite, too.
- Don't forget to save! Keep your child's "scientific journal" for other experiments down the road. Not only will she love showing it off to family and friends, it will also inspire her to want to learn more about science.
Latrenda Knighten has spent 19 years teaching in a variety of elementary school classrooms, from kindergarten through fifth grade. For nine of those years, she taught kindergarten. She also served as an elementary school math and science specialist. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.