Teacher Professor

April 13, 2010

Science on the Back Porch

Filed under: Home Things — Teacher Professor @ 12:12 pm

I never cease to be amazed at Ray’s interest in questions.  He asks them, he pesters me with them, but he also does something about them. 

We gave him a book recently about “Do your own science experiments”.  It was an effort to to harness his “experiments”.  He is always taking ice cubes, putting them down on the floor, and walking away, only to yell at me when I step in his puddle, “That was my experiment!”  Then, he’ll fill a pan with water, and put it in the freezer.  When I take the pan out, he yells at me (you guessed it),  “That was my experiment!”. 

We’ve talked about how an experiment has a question, how an experiment is trying to find out something.  He already knows that water freezes in the freezer and melts when it’s out.  What other questions does he have? 

He doesn’t know.  He just likes watching things melt and freeze. 

So, we bought him a book for him to see questions that other people ask.  I was in the middle of cleaning and preparing lunch for the children this weekend, when he dragged it out.  “Can I do this one, Mommy?”

“Umm, sure,” I answered.  Never say that he didn’t ask permission…

He ransacked my cabinet, and made a “volcano” on my driveway.  I am now out of vinegar- a whole bottle gone. And baking soda.  And we have jello stains on the driveway. 

“I need a metal cookie sheet, Mommy.  And are you using these sticks of butter?”  Maybe I needed to take a more active role in this…

And so I present to you, Ray’s question- on what surface does butter melt faster- metal, wood, or plastic?”

Results: Plastic heated up faster- wood the second fastest and the metal heated up the slowest.  We had great discussions about how the different materials changed temperatures, and why the results were not what the book said when it suggested that you do an experiment on which material CONDUCTS heat better.  (Metal was supposed to conduct heat the best)

“Mommy, can we heat up each one on the stove and see which one CONDUCTS heat the best?”  I had visions of melted plastic all over my stove.

“Let’s try that one later… ”

Any engineers out there?  Why DOES metal conduct heat better but warm up the slowest?  I found myself curious, too…

And my son?  He’s a GENIUS!


  1. The can is more reflective: the light bounces off. The plastic absorbs all the light except the blue part of the spectrum; that’s why it looks blue to us.

    Comment by Exhibit C — April 14, 2010 @ 2:50 pm | Reply

  2. Hmmm, so not a material issue, but a color issue. We’ll have to do ANOTHER experiment to figure out material v. color!

    Comment by profmother — April 14, 2010 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

  3. I’ve thought about this some more. Another factor is that since metal conducts heat, when the top gets hot, the heat flows down the sides. So to get the top really hot, you have to get the sides and bottom hot, too, at least to some degree. Or, you can think of the sides and bottom as being radiators to keep the whole can cool. All in all, it’s complicated.

    Steel isn’t a really good conductor of heat, like copper or aluminum, but it’s better than plastic or wood.

    Comment by Exhibit C — April 14, 2010 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

  4. You could use a just can lid. That would be more like the other things. Be careful of sharp edges with young scientists.

    Comment by Exhibit C — April 15, 2010 @ 7:53 am | Reply

  5. Always! We’ll try some variations and get back with you!

    Comment by profmother — April 15, 2010 @ 9:54 am | Reply

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