Science lesson by Max Millard
Written for New College of California, fall 2006

Ia. Learning objectives and outcomes

- Students will learn to follow a recipe to create a substance.

- Students will investigate the substance to find out its properties.

- Students will ask scientific questions about the substance.

Ib. Language objectives

- Students will acquire science vocabulary about the substance.

II. Standards addressed

Science Standard 1. Properties of materials can be observed, measured and predicted.

Science Standard 1.a. Students know objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of (e.g., clay, cloth, paper) and their physical properties.

Reading Standard 1.17. Identify and sort common words in basic categories (e.g., colors, shapes, foods).

Reading Standard 1.18. Describe common objects and events in both general and specific language.

Listening and Speaking Standard 1.1. Understand and follow one- and two-step oral directions.

III. Background/rationale

This is a very popular lesson that is taught each year to the three combined kindergarten classes at Spring Valley Elementary School, where I am an observer/participant this fall. One of the classes is English-only, one is bilingual Spanish-English, and the third is bilingual Cantonese-English. The students talk about, make, distribute, play with, and then clean up the Oobleck. In the process, they get exposed to a fun side of science that has valuable lessons about observation, experimentation and scientific conclusions. I took part in this year's Oobleck lesson on 10-13-06, led parts of the discussion before and after the lesson, and helped supervise the cleanup.

IV. Process

A. Into

The students are introduced to Oobleck the previous day, when the teacher reads aloud the book Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. The teacher follows up the reading by discussing the different types of materials that come from the sky -- liquid (rain), solid (hail), and gas (fog). The book tells how a new substance named Oobleck is made by mixing up some materials in a big pot and chanting magic words. The students learn that Oobleck is different from the other types of precipitation, and that it is green, sticky and gooey.

The teacher talks about solids and liquids, and demonstrates some of them. Then the teacher shows samples of things that are solids but sometimes act like liquids, such as clay and sand. The student start to ponder what is the real difference between a liquid and a solid.

B. Through

In the cafeteria for the Oobleck lesson, the students are first shown the Oobleck recipe on the whiteboard: 2 cups of cornstarch, 1 cup of water, and some green food coloring. Some students are chosen to measure the materials with measuring cups and pour them into big bowls. Other students take turns stirring the materials until the Oobleck is mixed well. Then others are given the task of distributing some Oobleck to each of their fellow students in cardboard trays.

While the kids are playing with their Oobleck, the teachers review vocabulary words for the lesson, which include: gooey, sticky, runny, liquid, solid, food coloring, measuring cup, cornstarch. These words are especially useful for the LEP students. The teachers ask the kids how the Oobleck in the book is similar to what they have just made.

The kids experiment with the Oobleck by picking it up and letting it run through their fingers. They tip their boxes at an angle to watch it flow. They add a little more water if it gets too dry, and see how it changes. A few children taste it out of curiosity, even though they're not supposed to. Finally, they pour it into plastic baggies and try to pound it back into a liquid.

The teachers solicit opinions from the kids about why Oobleck acts as it does. Some kids notice that when the water dries up, the Oobleck turns into a solid that no longer acts like a liquid.

Finally, the kids clean up the mess on the floor and tables. They observe how quickly the material turns back into a powder, how it sticks to the floor in big pieces, and how it can be cleaned up by shaking it loose or wiping it up with wet paper towels.

C. Beyond

The teacher follows up the lesson with questions about what the kids learned from the Oobleck. Did it act more like a solid or a liquid? Can something be both at once? The teacher makes a list of what they observed and writes it on the blackboard.

The kids are encouraged to take their Oobleck home in a plastic baggie. Some of them get it on their clothes or in their hair. When they get home, they will learn more about Oobleck from the reactions of their family members. One lesson is: how easy is it to get green food coloring off their hands and clothes?

V. Assessment and Teacher Reflection

All the teachers agreed that the children will remember the Oobleck lesson for a long time because of its entertaining quality, its element of surprise, and its uniqueness compared to other lessons this year. The teachers will use it as the basis for other science lessons that involve mixing substances together, stirring, experimenting, and studying physical properties.

VI. Materials (for each 10 students)

large mixing bowl
1 cup water
2 cups cornstarch
a few squirts of green food coloring
measuring cup
large spoon
10 cardboard trays
extra water
broom, dustpan, paper towels for cleanup