We have been exploring science, technology, engineering and mathematics using the most awesome of summertime treats: the S’more.
Challenge #1 was all about creating customized s’mores using a variety of delicious and unusual ingredients.
For Challenge #2, we designed a top notch solar s’more oven.
Ready for today’s challenge?
Challenge #3: Understand basic fun physics using marshmallows
We are going to use discovery learning to grasp some big science ideas. Open-ended exploration is exciting and challenging. It is a “best practice” for leading learning in curious children who want to investigate and figure out an idea.
Discovery question: What is Heat?
Heat is a form of energy. The measurement of that energy is temperature. Temperature is a measure of how fast molecules in an object move. If an object has slow moving molecules, we say it is cold. Fast moving, bumping-into-each-other-molecules equal what we call hot. The kinetic theory of matter explains that the more movement of molecules in an object, the more heat energy it has and the higher its temperature.
Consider your marshmallow: Does it contain energy? What is its temperature? At what speed are those marshmallow molecules moving?
Discovery question: How does heat move from one object to another?
Heat flows from something with higher heat to one of lower heat. Using our marshmallow as an example, heat invades the sugary fluff, heats it up because the heat energy of fire is higher than that of the marshmallow.
There are three forms of heat transfer: convection, conduction and radiation. Convection is how air and liquid change temperature. Hot air or liquid rises and pushes the cold air or liquid down and this begins a circular current of energy.
See how this works: drop a marshmallow in a pot of water on the stove. Notice what happens to the marshmallow as the water heats.
Discovery question: What happens when things get hot?
Thermal expansion explains why things grow a little bigger as they become warmer. Those molecules are moving, hitting each other harder and taking up more space in your object.
Try it: Find a way to warm up your marshmallow–a fire, the grill, an oven. Observe what happens to it as those molecules begin to get excited.
Discovery question: Does one form of heat transfer work better than another?
Again, there are three ways to transfer heat energy: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction involves heat transfer through a solid. Think about the pans you use on the stove…metals are great conductors. Convection happens when hot air or liquid circulate. Radiation is the transfer of heat energy in rays–think the sun or your microwave.
Fun Physics: Try using conduction, convection and/or radiation to heat your marshmallow. Which works best? Come up with as many ideas as you can–we made a list of practical as well as silly or outlandish ideas and tried them out!
We discovered using copper wire in a variety of different ways worked well. We tried using radiation by heating the copper wire in the sun. We used tried conduction by using a curling iron to heat the wire and a soldering iron to change electric energy into heat energy. Tinkering with materials and methods is a great way to flex those scientific muscles.
Start some tasty investigations with your kids; you may be surprised with the complex ideas they can understand with discovery learning. Fun physics will lead to lots of great discussions and more investigations. Try and notice these ideas as you go about your day and point them out.
If you want a step by step investigation on energy transfer, check out this experiment: Hot Wire S’mores.
I share more creative ideas for learning with you in a monthly newsletter. Go sign up! Or follow me on Instagram and connect to the fun! And don’t forget to try s’more STEM ideas with culinary exploration and solar energy. Enjoy your summertime science!
Linking up with Homeschool Nook!