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Cool Summer Water Lessons

"Caution must be taken by the teacher to let the children do the exploration by themselves and not pour out the information."
—Lakshmi A. Kripalani, More Montessori in Practice

Scrubbing Girl

Summer is here, and whether you have summer camp programs or year-around school, many hours will be spent outside. Summer and water go together, even without a nearby pool or beach. Not only are wet activities fun, but they also provide opportunities for children to discover how things work.

So our focus this month is on water activities in the outside environment. Following are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. (Please, excuse the pun.)

In the Garden and Playground

  • Children can be responsible for watering the plants. Small watering cans provide many indirect learning opportunities--sensorial differences in weight and temperature; development of concentration and coordination as the child learns to pour just the right amount of water; nature lessons, etc.
  • Set up an experiment to compare the growth of two plants: One that receives more water and sun than another.
  • Young children enjoy painting with water. A paint brush two or more inches wide in a small bucket of water is the starting point for "painting" rocks, fences or asphalt. The obvious extension is observing evaporation. Drying times for various objects could be recorded by the older children and compared by all.
  • If your school has a sandbox, summer is the time to add a water source. A faucet that limits each draw of water might be nearby; children can use the water with the usual sandbox equipment to create sculptures, ponds, or buildings.
  • Practical Life water lessons might be moved outside and new ones added. Children can use a scrub board to wash classroom items and hang them to dry outside. Outdoor chairs and play equipment can be washed. Cool liquids can be served to everyone at the picnic table. Pouring lessons with larger pitchers and more water can be set up outside without fear of flooding the classroom.

Wet Science Experiments

  • Float-and-sink experiments are a wonderful way to stay cool while learning. In a large tub, wading pool, or water table, children can observe how some items sink immediately, others don't, and some go slowly down to the bottom. We have a float-sink exercise in our catalog along with books and lessons that describe the process.
  • A water pump demonstrates displacement and the water wheel shows the power of water. Explore other aspects of water by setting up experiments from the book Nurturing the Young Scientist: Experiences in Physics for Children, which is available in our catalog.
  • The opportunities in weather and geography are endless. How much did it rain? Where does rain come from? What happens after the rain? (Worms, greener grass, taller plants, etc.) What is snow, or fog, or hail? How are lakes or glaciers formed?
  • Field trips to a pond or ocean or stream are the starting point for so many lessons. Where do waves come from? What lives in a pond or a stream? How does it feel to have oozing mud between one's toes? Or the sand coming out from under one's feet after a wave hits the beach?
  • Take a trip to the water treatment plant to discover what happens when the water goes down the drain, and how our water becomes drinkable.

Just For Fun

  • Remember it is summer, so a wading pool or sprinkler is a natural addition to the playground.
  • Balancing a glass of water on a tray or carrying a cupful without spilling is a challenge when walking an outside path. It is even satisfying when the glass spills because the water is cool!
  • When it's really hot, for an all-school activity, water balloons are fun - they are hard to catch, but develop a new sense of coordination. Of course, children need to wear bathing suits. Also, be sure to pick up all the balloon pieces so they don't get eaten by outdoor critters.

Tips for Success

The extensions and lessons are endless when it comes to water. You might decide to make the lessons less structured, talking about topics of conservation and environmental impacts. Biology lessons focus on the need for our bodies to have water, and how we are largely made of salt water. Experiments can explore the different forms of water: ice, steam, liquid, dew, or mist. You'll have many other creative ideas about incorporating water into all areas of the curriculum.

Last summer I dropped by a Montessori school at the end of the day. The teachers were at their weekly meeting after the children had gone home. They were outside under the playground canopy seated around the wading pool with their feet in the water.

Remember to cool yourself at the end of the day, too!

—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.

—Originally Published 2012

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