Shadow Science for Groundhog Day!

groundhogI am all about teachable moments.  I’d like to think when Allie asks me questions, I somehow incorporate science into my answer.  But then I have these moments of inspiration – especially around the holidays!  And what better holiday to teach my kids about shadows but Groundhog’s Day?!  This was also the perfect activity to start with the kids while I was making dinner (frozen pizza).  Hey, you do what you’ve got to do at 6:00pm!

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I made a quick shadow box using an old Amazon box and a flashlight.  I cut a hole big enough for a flashlight which made a “stage” for her plastic animals.  I love that Allie put a lamb and dinosaur standing under a giant heart together.  I’m so glad they can put away their “Jurassic Park” differences to play shadows.

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Of course, Allie got very excited about the flashlights in the dark so she decided to put on a fairy show.  She thought her fairy shadow was pretty neat.

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Andrew wanted to share in all the fun which meant sitting on the shadow box.

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Then we decided to put some white paper up as a screen so she could trace the shadows.  This time she made a scene with a lion, a lamb, and a cupcake.  Classic.

The Science:  Here are the things we discussed:

  • Shadows are made when an object blocks out light.
  • When the animals were close to the flashlight their shadows got bigger.
  • When the animals got farther away from the light, their shadows got smaller.
  • Then we talked about different ways shadows are made by the sun, like her shadow outside was when her body blocks the sunlight.
  • Finally, we talked about how a tree’s shadow makes shade when the tree blocks the sunlight.

The pizza was almost done cooking so I showed the kids this great video about Groundhog’s Day.  It’s super cute and I learned that woodchucks are groundhogs!  I had no idea, did you?  Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments Tags: , ,
Why do we wear a seatbelt in the car?

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This is how the conversation went:

Allie: “Mommy, do you know why we wear a seatbelt in the car?”

Me: “Why is that Allie?”

Allie: “So we don’t get hurt in the car if we crash.”

Me: “Very good , How did you know that?”

Allie: “Doc McStuffins had a toy alien that didn’t wear a seatbelt in his rocket!”

 

 

 

Leave it to Doc McStuffins to cover that important topic! I thought the conversation would end there, but I didn’t want it to. I wanted to show her in real life. Later that day we were playing outside, and I decided to do a little experiment to drive the point across with a little science. I love these kinds of experiments – they are not messy, and they don’t require much effort.

Question: Why do we wear a seatbelt in the car?

Plan: I wanted to simulate what it would look like by not wearing a seatbelt without injuring ourselves. So, we decided the test subject was going to be one of her favorite stuffed lambs, Santa Lamb.

We used her old tricycle and a jump rope as a seatbelt. We would simulate a crash by gently rolling the tricycle in the garage door. The first test was with a “seatbelt.” The second test was without a “seatbelt.”

Mommy Disclaimer: I told Allie, “Do not perform this test on her little brother, just on Santa lamb.”

Her guess: (This is when I asked Allie what she thought would happen.) Her guess of course was that Santa Lamb would fall off without a seatbelt.

With Seatbelt:

Without a seatbelt:

 

Why did that happen?: (This is when I attempt to use science to explain the result to her – in her terms.) Santa lamb rolling along on the tricycle has inertia. That’s a big word meaning Santa lamb wants to keep moving with the tricycle, even though the tricycle has “crashed” into the door. When he is wearing a seatbelt, he stays on the tricycle and stops with the tricycle. When he isn’t wearing a seatbelt, his inertia causes him to keep moving, fall off, and bonk his head. A lamb in motion tends to stay in motion.

Follow up: A few weeks later we were discussing Santa lamb and how he should have been wearing a helmet to protect his head. So we performed the test again, but this time Santa Lamb had a custom made helmet, courtesy of Tupperware and some tape.

Helmet with seatbelt:

 

Helmet without seatbelt:

 

Categories: 5 minute experiments, lovely conversations, STEM Tags: , , ,