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Amazing Bubbles

How you can help at home: Here's an activity that will get your child ready to learn science by engaging her curiosity and building her observation skills.

By Dr. Fred Stein, Consulting Educator

This activity encourages curiosity and reinforces the skill of observation. Our science consultant Fred Stein explains: "At this grade, students are naturally curious. Learning to observe closely and communicate what they notice gives children a basis for asking personally meaningful questions. Once they notice something surprising, they naturally want to know why that happens. However, at this age, children may not express their questions verbally so much as through what they do. One way to help children develop the skill of asking questions is to model asking a question for them. For instance, if you notice that your child repeatedly blows up bubbles bigger and bigger until they pop, you might ask them if they wonder how big a bubble can get."

What You'll Need:

  • Commercial bubble solution (or 10 parts water to one part dishwashing soap)
  • Straws
  • Plate
  • Flashlight (optional)

Here's How to Do It

Bubble domes are bubbles you blow on a flat surface. When looked at closely, they are full of movement and color.

Pour a thin layer of bubble solution on a plate. Place the end of your straw into the liquid and blow gently until a bubble forms. Keep blowing as you pull the straw up a bit and the bubble will grow. When you are happy with the size, pull the straw out of the bubble and watch it carefully. Your child may prefer moving the bubble with the straw to letting it be because the bubbles are so delightfully wobbly. But if she just watches the bubbles, interesting things appear.

The shape of the bubble stays the same, but the surface of the bubble appears to swirl. Look at any bright reflections on the bubble (such as a window or your flashlight) and you'll see colors. How many can you find? Just after the colors disappear and the swirling stops, the bubble will pop and you can blow another. If you wet your straw with bubble solution, it won't pop the bubbles.

Dr. Fred Stein is a science educator at the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, a national science-education-reform project based in San Francisco.

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