We have been exploring some fun ideas in Earth Science over a few weeks here at Imagine That. We concentrated more on geology one week, and then moved into weather the following week. We learned that rocks are made out of different minerals, and certain minerals fluoresce under a black light. We enjoyed exploring our rock and fossil collection, trying to identify each specimen and testing them under a black light.
To model the minerals in rocks and the way they are mixed to form rocks, we used Starburst candies. We used minis, but you could also cut the Starbursts into smaller pieces. Each color represented a different mineral. We used our hands to press some of our candies together to model sedimentary rocks, using sandstone and granite as an examples. We created a small tray out of aluminum foil and placed some other Starburst inside this tray. We heated these little trays in the toaster oven, watching for when they began to melt. As they heated, we talked about igneous rocks made from lava and magma. We mentioned obsidian and pumice as two examples and discussed the differences in these rocks. When our igneous “rocks” cooled, we broke off some of each of the two rocks and added them together with lots of pressure to create our final metamorphic rock.
We also created a model of the Earth’s layers out of dirt pudding. You can use your favorite recipe. We used a solid cookie to represent the Earth’s solid layer of inner core. Then we used a layer of pudding to represent the liquid outer core. We used a combination of cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped cream for the liquid magma mantle. Then we used crushed Oreos for the crust. Oddly enough, there was recently some investigations into the layers of the Earth’s crust that we were able to mention.
We had several weather demonstrations. We began with some blue colored ice and red colored warm water. We placed these together in a bowl to represent two fronts and model how the warm water rises. Once our warm water has risen, we created clouds. To do this, we used a glass jar. Inside the jar, you should have some steaming water. We dropped a smoking match inside, then quickly placed a lid on top with ice covering it. The steam will condense in the cooler air, but it needs something to stick to in order to form a cloud. That’s where the smoke from the match comes in. The smoke provides particles for the condensing steam to stick to, hopefully creating a cloud in a jar.
Our next demonstration created a cloud of shaving cream floating on the “sky” water. Our cloud became supersaturated, as we slowly dropped blue liquid water color onto the cloud. Eventually, the rain began to fall from the cloud. We finished with some balloon play, as we talked about static electricity and lightning. Lightning is created when there is a buildup of negative electrons at the bottom of a cloud because of all the molecules rubbing together. They are attracted to the positive charge of the earth’s surface. We used balloons to create a little static electricity of our own and made hair stand on end.