Today, I taught 3-6 year olds about friction! I love taking fundamental science topics and teaching them to young kids in a way that they can understand and learn from. To me, kindergarten is all about kids being introduced to as many things and ideas as possible. I find that science experiments for kids, especially when they are hands-on, help them gain an understanding of the world around them. Our activity today involved a bunch of old wooden blocks covered with different materials. We then let the blocks slide down a ramp and watched how the different coverings affected how the block slid. Was it fast or slow? Did it even make it to the bottom?
I glued the different materials to the bottom of the blocks. The specific material used is not important, just that there is a variety. Some of the materials work better when they are hot glued or completely wrapped around the block.
For my blocks, I used the following: (foam anti slip) bath mat, plain wood, electrical tape, felt, cardboard, foam board, fabric, duck tape, mesh material, bubble wrap, colourful duck tape, tinfoil, cotton batting, scotch tape, parchment paper and wax paper. I made 2 of each only because I wanted to make sure that I had enough to last through 100 kids.
Students then built a small ramp using a long wooden board. They attached 2 sticks to the sides with large clothes pins. These acted as bumpers. I found doing this activity in groups of 3 worked well. Before testing, students first made a hypothesis for which blocks they thought would be the fastest. Then, block by block students tested. They were encouraged to try each block on its own, and then race two blocks at a time.
Once everyone was done, we discussed which blocks worked best and what these blocks all had in common. Students commented that the smooth blocks were all the fastest. I explained that because it was smooth, there was less friction between it and the ramp. Therefore, it goes down without being slowed. To continue this idea I asked students what would happen if their slide in the playground was made of carpet instead of plastic? They knew that this would not be a good material for a slide, because they would get stuck at the top. This allowed them to relate their experiment to their real world.