Discovery bottles

All summer I was getting ready for the upcoming school year by collecting clear plastic jars and bottles with screw-on lids. Now they are on the shelf at school as “Discovery Bottles”, compact and beautiful, and (best of all) contained. (Click on the photo to view more photos of Discovery Bottles and other early childhood science activities.)

These containers hold objects that engage children’s interest and provide the materials needed to explore a topic such as magnetism, bubbles, or buoyancy. With a sealed lid small items stay inside, safe for young children and kept together to illustrate a concept such as liquids can float on top of other liquids (have different densities), some objects float and others sink, and different shapes move (fall) through liquids in different ways as they sink.

Here’s what I put in one:

Water tinted blue with food coloring, clean sand, small shells, sea glass, a key, and a few coins, and mineral oil. I wanted something to float at the boundary between the water and oil but when I tried a cork it also floated above the oil even though I had weighted it with several nails. So I put a few nails into a squishy plastic whale and it floated right at the top of the water. Then I poured in mineral oil up to the very top, put hot glue into the lid and screwed it down tightly. Tape around the lid is not really needed but it’s a good symbol for children that the jar is not to be opened.

Other ideas? The exploration of soil or sand in water could be adapted for very young children by putting each soil and sand sample into a separate bottle of water and sealing the lid. Shake and watch the particles float or sink, forming layers.

Older children can do an experiment as they construct a Discovery Bottle—see the article Discovery Bottles by Sandra Watson in the July 2008 Science and Children.


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