Friday, April 20, 2012

Preschoolers Explore S.T.E.M.: Forces of Nature

Children can discover forces of nature through their senses long before they may explore them in a classroom. DCM’s Preschool S.T.E.M. series explored several forces with hands-on, minds-on, full-body experimentation and made discoveries about centripetal force, gravity, friction and magnets.

“Hold onto my hands and spin me around!” Children love the feeling of their feet flying up into the air as a parent spins them around. They do not realize they are experiencing centripetal force. In our S.T.E.M. class, children experienced centripetal force in motion by mixing paint in a salad spinner.  The paint flung to the sides of the spinner making a beautiful work of art.  By the end of the class students knew that centripetal force could overcome gravity as they kept loads of shredded paper in a bucket spinning over their heads.

It is easy to help children feel the impact of friction by rubbing their hands together. In class, children had the opportunity to feel the effect of friction when parents pulled them on blankets of satin or wool over differently textured surfaces.

DCM's Extending the Force
exhibit encourages exploration
with a magnetic field

Capitalizing on exhibit components in the Museum’s school programs, many different magnet explorations were available.  Children discovered new facts about magnetic toy trains and large powerful magnets.  Through designated activities and illustrations, children learned about magnetic poles and magnetic fields as well as how magnets are able to attract and repel. Some were surprised to discover that 
magnets were powerful enough to lift cars in a junkyard.   

Young children learn through their senses--one of the best ways to explore natural forces in our world. Many creative connections were made in our S.T.E.M. series. Pedagogical tools for experimenting with important science concepts were offered that even brought math and art into the mix.  

This week's post is written by Marcia Z. MacRae, Interdisciplinary Specialist for DuPage Children's Museum.

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