Friday, June 28, 2013

Water Week - Update #4



As a teacher, I made Flubber with my Physical Science students when we studied polymers. The kids always enjoyed it, and it brought up some great conversations about the properties of materials. My plan for today was to help M make a batch, then give her some "props" to create a mini ocean scene. She clearly had other plans.

First, she wasn't interested at all in helping to make the Flubber. To be honest, she wasn't interested in doing much of anything this morning - it was just one of those lazy days I guess. So she sat on the couch in her pajamas and princess skirt and watched an episode of Doc McStuffins while I whipped up some Flubber.

I started by mixing about a cup of Elmer's Glue with about 3/4 cup of water and some blue food coloring. It takes quite a bit of glue (two full 4 oz bottles). When we did this at school, we would buy the giant containers of white glue, but Elmer's brand seems to work a little better. I cleaned out four half-empty bottles of glue, and coaxing the glue out of the bottle and into the bowl was definitely the hardest part of this whole "experiment."

I used a small rubber spatula to mix the water and food coloring into the glue.

Next, mix a teaspoon of Borax into 1/2 cup of hot water. Mix it until the Borax is completely dissolved.

At this point, I transferred the Borax solution into the container I planned to use to store the Flubber. I have read that Flubber can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I haven't tested it (yet), but we'll see.

Finally, I poured the glue mixture into the container with the Borax solution. This part was really cool because the glue immediately reacts with the Borax and form clumps that seem to grow. Continue to pour the rest of the glue mixture into the container, and use the spatula to get as much glue into the mixture as possible. Stir the mixture (or use your hands) until most of the liquid has been absorbed. There will probably be some water remaining that you can pour off into the sink. The final material should feel slimy, but should not stick to your hands.

Flubber is neat because it is a synthetic polymer and has properties that make it different from most materials we are used to. When you hold the Flubber in your hands, it will spread out and seem to flow like a thick, viscous liquid (like honey). When it's pulled quickly, it will snap apart, more like a solid. If you push on it with your hands, it feels hard, but if you let it sit it will spread and appear to "melt" into a puddle.

This may have been M's favorite activity of the week (once I pulled her away from the couch). She's not a huge fan of getting her fingers sticky or messy, so she immediately handed it back to me when I gave it to her. When I started to show her what it could do, she grabbed it back and spent close to two hours exploring and playing with it.

I gave her a box of materials (sparkly pipe cleaners, shells, straws, smooth rocks, plastic sea creatures, small cups and containers) to create an ocean scene. She tossed the sea creatures and told me she wasn't interested in making an ocean. Instead, she wanted to make an "un-birthday cake" and a couple cups of coffee. I'm not sure where she learned to drink coffee with a straw, but she enjoyed using the straw to poke holes in her coffee.

We found that the Flubber could hold the impression of different materials for a short amount of time, so we made shell and rock prints to compare the shapes and patterns.

 When we were done playing, we packed it all into its container and put it in the refrigerator. She had so much fun that she requested it again when we got home later that evening. She thought it was funny that the Flubber "plopped" out of the container and held its shape (like a can of cranberry sauce!). First she rolled it out like dough and made hand prints, then she stretched it to make a really long "snake" that she draped over her learning tower. She was really proud of her creations.


After our fun with Flubber, we headed to the library to return our books, meet up with some friends, and check out a new set of books for the upcoming weeks. Next week will are taking a trip to Disney World (yay!), and will spend the following ten days at the beach, so we checked out several books about the ocean and marine animals.

Like last week, I did a quick search in the online catalog to find a list of books about the ocean before we got to the library so it would be easier and faster to find our books. As a bonus, a friend let us try a travelling handwoven wrap (Denim Dreams by Ruck Star Handwovens), so M was able to take a quick ride on my back while I collected all of our books!

M spent some time playing with friends in the children's room while I got a chance to relax and spend some time with other moms. It was another great day!

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