new challenge or a new material, they may return to open exploration
in order to become more familiar with these new things before shift-
ing back to focused exploration.
Focused Exploration: Flow, Drops,
Sink and Float
Children have been using a variety of materials as part of their water
play. They have had opportunities to notice how those materials
move water, how they either sink or float in water, how water drops
look and move differently on materials with different textures, and
how water fills containers of various shapes and sizes. You have ob-
served their play and have encouraged them to share their experi-
ences with these materials.
Now, by introducing new materials to children’s water play, you
focus their exploration more narrowly. Bottles and cups with holes
punched in them invite children to notice streams and to do so more
closely; eyedroppers, hand lenses, and different kinds of fabrics, pa-
pers, and other materials encourage children to explore cohesion and
adhesion; boat-building materials and a good variety of objects to
place in tubs full of water will focus children on sinking and floating;
and shelves in the water table, along with pumps and empty buckets,
encourage childrento create and control water flow.
Guiding children’s focused explorations requires the teacher to
know which property of water she is helping children explore or re-
flect upon. Thereforethe next section of the guide presents three dis-
tinct focused explorations of water that teachers can match to their
children’s interests. These focused explorations are named Flow,
Drops, and Sink and Float. Teachers can choose to facilitate them one
after another, in any order, or simultaneously.
Of course, providing children with the time and materials they
need to focus on a particular property of water is just the beginning!
Teachers continue to facilitate science talks, but now they focus the
discussions on particular properties of water and what children are
noticing as they engage in exploration that might result in evidence
for their developing theories.
Rainy-day walks; visits to a water works, stream, or harbor; or a
look under the sink gives children opportunities to compare their
water explorations to what they see away from the water table and
water center(s). Guest visitors can share their knowledge and enthusi-
asm for working with water.Sailors, plumbers, and people who design
sprinkler systems can provide children with new information about
how the properties of water influence real-world work. Books and
Web sites offer still images of water, which can help children look
moreclosely at how water moves and the shapes it takes as they en-
gage in their own explorations. The extension section (p. 89) has sug-
gestions for field trips, guest visitors, and books. See the section on
science teaching (p. 95) for information about young children’s in-
quiry and for strategies you can use to focus and deepen their experi-
ence and thinking during the exploration.
36 Exploring Water with Young Children
Teacher note: It was a rainy day
so we went outside to play in the
puddles. A group of four children
became intrigued with the water
running out of the drain pipe. It
was beginning to make a stream.
They busily piled sticks and stones
to dam it, to see how high they
could get their puddle to fill, and
then they broke the dam and
watched the water flood their
stream. When we got back inside,
we talked about how hard it was
to hold back the water with the
sticks and stones; how quickly the
water flowed into the stream once
the dam broke. Amy and Melissa
asked if they could make a river
outside again. If it doesn’t rain
soon, I’ll see if I can get the custo-
dianto hook up the hose for us.