Saturday, September 12, 2009


When I was a kid, I really liked science. I always liked the experimentation and documentation that it fostered. Were it not for the math skills that I was sadly lacking, I can imagine that I might have wanted to go into a scientific field. Graphs of information really did it for me. Case in point: I decided to document the books I read over the course of a year. For each third of the year, I had a different type of chart—bar, line, pie. I made the skeleton of the charts on poster board, tacked them up on my wall and every time I read a book, it was documented. At the end of each marking period, I would take my findings and grid it out, seeing where I had had lulls in my reading and where I couldn’t put books down. I can’t remember which month had the most, but I remember really enjoying the process and I remember that I read a lot of books that year.

A while back, Harrison and I participated in the Super Summer Swap. Harrison got a pirate chest from his pen pal, John, that was filled with all kinds of goodies. We’ve been slowly meting out the prizes in it, making the booty last as long as we could. One week, Harrison ate the candy ring and another week, he played with the stickers, creating a kind of a collage.

This weekend, Harrison got out the Incredible Growing Alligator to play with. I decided to make it a learning experience because, well, I’m just that kind of dork. Thing is, the boy is having a blast with it. We made a chart (my favorite part of any experiment) and documented the alligator’s length in centimeters—14 cm. (I refuse to do science with Imperial measurements. Base ten has always made more sense to me and if I could, I would drop this whole inches and miles business in a heartbeat.)

After “John” the alligator (named, of course, for his pen pal) had soaked for an hour, we took him out, blotted him dry and measured him. Harrison was very excited to see that it had grown half a centimeter. Another hour, though, brought no growth at all. The third hour brought our measurement up to 14.7 cm and at this point, we decided to make our guesses about what would happen in the next hour. Harrison guessed that “John” would get bigger while I thought it might take the same pattern of grow/don’t grow, so I guessed it would stay the same. Much to Harrison’s delight, after the fourth hour in water, “John” had grown to 14.9 cm. We’re leaving it in water for 12 hours overnight, which will bring it up to a total of 16 hours soaking. Both the boy and I think it will be considerably larger in the morning.

All of this is to say that my son is having fun with this experiment. He is learning about hypothesizing and documenting. Perhaps as important, if not more so, he is seeing that we can have differing ideas about how something will go and that just because I’m the adult, I’m not always the ultimate source of knowledge. I want him to learn to trust his judgment and I think this activity is fostering that.

Thank you again John and Kelly for participating with us—we continue to have fun with the pirate chest and it’s contents!

[P.S. I’ve got photos and video documenting the whole process that I’ll be posting soon!]

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