Friday night we had a Christmas party for Megan’s side of the family. Poppy, Bev, Beth, Brad, Nathan, Julie, and Taylor all joined us for the most amazing chicken Parmesan I think I’ve ever had. We also had Eggplant Parmesan, which I’m sure was just as good but I didn’t eat any so I can’t say for sure 😉 After we ate, we all sat down for the gift exchange. This is perhaps the most exciting point of the party for just about everyone (duh). Jonas was running around screamin’, gigglin’, and laughin’ having a great time. He got this toy car tower that was amazing. I was surprised to find that he was able to actually put the cars at the top, watch them go down, grab the car at the end and do it all over again. It was amazing. He totally has that toy figured out. The best part of the toy, in my opinion, is the design. I’m not talking functional design, I’m talking about aesthetics. The colors they use are awesome, and they’re exactly the reason why that toy will find it’s new home in the living room section designated for Jonas’ toys.

What we proved last night, was that every event is an opportunity for learning. Last night was the most perfect example of just that. I noticed that Eliza was extremely interested in Jonas’ toy car tower mentioned earlier. I started to talk to her about it, and we decided to have a race! She lined them all up, and let go. But before she did that, we made bets on which would win. I told her the first car is always going to be the winner. She asked why and I explained that the tower is a one lane tower, there is no room for passing therefor the car in front will always remain in front until the end of the race. What we decided to do after that was the first step towards the scientific method… we began sending the cars down one at a time, to see which would go furthest. This is the point when I introduced the idea of logging the winnings to a sheet of paper to track who wins the most.

We found that yellow was winning almost every time! I asked Eliza why she thinks the yellow is always winning. She said “Yellow wins because we always send it down first.” This was true, we had been sending it down first because we had a policy that the winner goes first, and yellow won first. We now have our first hypothesis. I then proceeded to explain what a hypothesis is, why we make them, and how we test them. The next step was to work her critical thinking. I asked her, “If the yellow car wins every time because we send it first, how can we test to ensure this is always the case?” She looked blankly at me. I said “What if we were to find a way to test whether sending it first or not makes a difference in who wins the race.” At this point something clicked and she said “Hey, I have an idea, what if we send it down last!”… “Great idea Eli!” So we sent down the cars, and ensured that the yellow was the last. We found that the yellow did not when this time. At this point, I explained to her that it is possible that this trial was a fluke, we need to test more to see. *Note, I use keywords like “trial” so that the lingo seems normal, not memorized. This is similar to how you would teach a language in full immersion, you just speak… explain later if they have questions. So we begin our 2nd trial, then our 3rd. During these trials, she began cutting corners, not putting the car all the way at the top of the ramp, but instead half way up the ramp. While this doesn’t technically matter because the momentum restarts every time the car turns to go the other direction, I still thought it was a great opportunity to explain the need to maintain controls, and limit variables. Again, using the lingo “controls” and “variables”. After this, she began precisely setting the car at the top of the ramp. What we found was that the yellow car was still winning most of the time, though not every time. So I said to Eliza: “You’re hypothesis suggested that the yellow car was winning because it was first. The yellow car is still winning most of the time, even though we’re sending it down last. Do you still think your hypothesis is correct?” She quickly responded with “no, not at all.” I had so much of her attention, I decided to take it 1 step further and introduce the art aspect… yes, we graphed it!

It was awesome. I showed her how to draw a graph (bar chart), how to plot the bar height. She had trouble understanding why we had to put a zero at the corner, but after making the graph she quickly understood why. We graphed the winner (excluding all other data collected). What we found was that the yellow car was winning WAY more than any other car. We began with a new hypothesis that the yellow car was winning because of it’s wheels. We decided not to pursue testing of this final hypothesis. All-in-all there were numerous flaws in our testing, however, the point was that she had her first introduction with the Scientific Method, how it is used, and some of the lingo used when following the method.

Have you ever snuck education into your interactions/playtime with your kids? How did it go, did they catch on, play along, or have no idea they were being taught something? Post a comment with ideas you think we should try with Eliza, we’d love to hear! -Jake