I first presented this lesson months ago as a large group lesson. I thought the tray looked beautiful and the lesson interesting, yet none of the children ever chose the work. This past Friday, I stood looking at it for a few minutes wondering why its was not being used. I decided to re-present it as an individual lesson and soon another child was asking to observe the work.
The work requires that the child pour water from the pitcher into a small bowl (in this case a vintage sugar bowl). Next, he adds several drops of vegetable oil to the water. He then stirs the water to see if they will mix or not.
When the oil appears as small circles on the surface of the water, the child notes that they did not mix. Next, using a q-tip, the child sees if any of the oil can be remove from the water. This again proves that they did not mix.
So that he could see the circles of oil better, as is often done in my classroom, the child got a magnifying glass.
The next step is to add food coloring to the water/oil in the small bowl. The food coloring mixes with the water. The oil now stands out even more on the surface of the water. The child again stirs the oil, water and food coloring. When asked to remove some of the food coloring, he cannot. When asked to remove some of the oil, he can.
One of the most remarkable elements of this work is how steady the child's hand must be to carefully skim the water surface with his spoon and with the q-tip so as to gather some of the oil. His face tells it all. See below: