Today we learned about rain.
During lunch, Phoebe asked me, “Where does rain come from?” I have been explaining the water cycle to her a lot lately, as well as the principles of evaporation and freezing, but she never asked me this specific question. Until today. I asked her if she wanted the long answer or the short answer. She chose the long answer. So we went for it.
We did two main things this afternoon: we experienced water in its three forms, and we created a diorama to use in imaginative play.
For the real-life experience of a cloud, and a physical experience of the water cycle, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil. While we were waiting, we took ice cubes out of the fridge and watched them melt on our hands, and eventually on the counter. We talked about the differences between solids and liquids, then identified liquids and solids around the kitchen. Milk: liquid. Juice: liquid. Corn: solid. Scooter (our cat); solid…and fuzzy.
Then the pot whistled! I opened the top, kept it on the burner, and we watched as a cloud of steam billowed up and out. Then I emptied our large glass fruit bowl, inverted it over the steam, and “captured” a cloud. Periodically, I showed the condensation on the bowl to Phoebe. Eventually I was able to hold the bowl over the floor while a few drops of “rain” drizzled out.
We also made a diorama, complete with hills and ponds and the Puget Sound. For sky, we painted with watercolors on printer paper. We each made a house for the diorama. We glued fiber fill to the top as clouds, and strung ribbons and floss hanging down as rain. We gathered together clear, white and sparkly buttons, and put them in a jar that we placed up top to represent the rain held up in the clouds. And we included an enclosed pond and garden (made from a tissue box) to “catch our rainfall.”
Then we demonstrated the process.
We let the ribbons fall into the diorama. Then we poured the buttons over the pond and garden. We shook the box with the buttons inside, and it sounded like rainfall! Then we put the ribbons back up top, to indicate the rain was no longer pouring. And we turned on a nearby lamp, to represent the sun, and gathered the buttons back into the jar on top of the diorama to represent evaporation.
We also talked a little bit about how the rain soaks into the garden to make the flowers grow, but we didn’t get into depth about it.
Phoebe gathered together toys that she wanted to play in the garden and “swim” in the pond. And I think it will be fun to make more flowers for the diorama another day.
This was our first diorama together. I tried to involve her in the creation of it at every single stage. It was very difficult; my instinct was to make it all by myself and present it to her. But that would not have interested her, and it would have only created a lot of work for me. Once I was able to let it be an imperfect and slow-going project, I also found more fulfillment from it, because it wasn’t about the project so much as it was about us working alongside and growing together. And, when I let go of control, I made room for fun.
What tools have you used to teach the water cycle to your preschooler?