In Mrs. Fielder's classroom they read Bartholomew and the Oobleck. The story describes the adventures of Bartholomew as he watches the King of Derwin order his royal magicians to create storm that will drop a different substance to fall from the sky than the normal rain, snow or fog. This substance is a very sticky substance called Oobleck and it gets into just about everything in the kingdom and life as they once knew it was completely in interrupted because they are stuck to the Oobleck. The falling blobs of Oobleck eventually start to get so large that eventually everyone gets stuck in it and cannot escape. The king tries to make the storm go away by changing magic words but Bartholomew tells the king he just needs to say sorry to the sky. Once he does, the sun comes out and melts the Oobleck away freeing all the citizens of kingdom. Mrs. Fielder's class first wrote a hypothesis based on what they read about in the book to predict what Oobleck would look and feel like. Next, then they followed a recipe to make it themselves. After having time to explore and make observations, they concluded by comparing their original hypotheses to their observations and discussed if they thought Oobleck was a solid, liquid, or a gas. Most students agreed that they thought it fit best as a liquid because it could be poured.
Here is a picture of the students mixing their Oobleck. If you want to try and make it at home, follow the link to Scientific American's Home Activity. They not only have the recipe there but also a nice video clip that walks you through how to make it as well as some fun things you can do with Oobleck. Oobleck is similar to the bouncy balls in that it is considered a Non-Newtonian fluid which explains its strange properties. For more on this, look through the blog on the bouncy balls.
In Mrs. Christopherson's class, they read the book The Butter Battle Book. The battle at the center of this book is between the Yooks and the Zooks who are separated by a large wall (not too different than the Berlin Wall) because they butter their bread on opposite sides. The disagreement leads to an arms race where they are sure to destroy one another. The arms race starts with slingshots, progresses to guns followed by airborne copters to drop goo on their enemies, ending with the creation of bombs which neither side can defend. The book ends with the generals of both sides poised to drop the bombs on each other and leaves the reader to decide what might happen. To see what this dispute was all about, students made butter themselves by shaking it in a jar and following a simple recipe. Here is a link to a similar recipe and process used in class from PBS Kids Zoom. You can do this at home with your children as well and they can post their results on the website and read about what happened when other people tried this around the country. Once they made the butter, they got to spread it on the top and bottom of a piece of bread and then they collected class data to determine which tasted better and made a graph, just like in the book. Deciding if the butter was a reversible change sparked a heated debate in their classroom. Most students agreed that it could melt back into a liquid but some were bothered because they didn't think it could turn back into the cream it started as. Turns out the kids were exactly right! Since butter is made by causing all the fat in cream to stick together during the shaking or churning process and you poured the liquid off, it cannot be restored to its original cream state but when exposed to higher temperature the fat will soften and eventually melt into a liquid. Here are some pictures of the students buttering their bread for the taste test.