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Case Study: Exploring Water With Young Children

The water project unfolded over several weeks and followed the children’s discoveries and experiments. Teachers observed and asked questions to guide and to challenge the children’s curiosity and to test their theories as play with basters and funnels led to building a complex water system to drive a water wheel. 



One Day:

Of particular interest today were the large baster, pipettes and funnels at the water table. We observed children comparing the attributes of the pipettes versus baster. A teacher supported children’s inquiry of how water could go up into the baster with ideas such as these:

  • “It looks like you’re trying to get water into the baster.”
  • “I’m wondering how you think the water gets in?”


The children came up with theories regarding the ability of water to rise.

  • “This one (pipette) sucks up the water really fast.”
  • “This one (the baster) squirts the water really fast.”
  • “Yeah, that one gets more water in it.”


Another Day:

The teachers introduced clear, flexible tubes. Further exploration led to wonderment about the drinking fountain and children’s speculation that there must be “a tube hidden inside there.”


Next Days:

With more tubes and connectors, children constructed elaborate configurations. When water didn’t move through their creations as anticipated, they came to some of these conclusions:

  • the pipes had to be tightly connected or it would leak
  • the water had to be traveling really fast for it to go in one end and come out the other
  • the construction could not have more than two holes or the water would come out in all the holes.

As they built with the pipes and kept coming up with new configurations to have the water flow from one end to another, the interest shifted to creating a faucet of sorts with a water wheel that turned as the water dripped on it.


This learning journey, built from day to day on the children’s trial and error forward progress and guided by astute and caring teachers, gave each child profound experience with how water flows and can be used.


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