Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Miracles: A Multigenerational Program on Living in Awe and Wonder

Activity 3: Three “Aha!” Transformations

Part of Miracles

Activity time: 35 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 1, Transformation Station Instructions
  • Timepieces (minutes); one for each Transformation Station
  • A chime, bell or other sound-maker
  • Paper and pencils for all participants and (optional) clipboards
  • Optional: Tablecloths to cover experiment stations

For Changing States of Water station

  • Tray to hold experiment materials
  • Printed instructions (Leader Resource 1)
  • Ice cubes (one bowl full for each group)
  • Plates or bowls for melted ice
  • Clear, heat-resistant container, such as a Pyrex(R) bowl
  • Electric or battery-operated hot pot or tea kettle to heat water
  • Optional: Electric frying pan

For Blech station

  • Tray to hold experiment materials
  • Printed instructions (Leader Resource 1)
  • Corn starch (one or two boxes)
  • Water
  • Shallow trays such as recyclable aluminum pans
  • Optional: Small, sealable plastic bags for participants to bring home some blech

For Solubility station

  • Tray to hold experiment materials
  • Printed instructions (from Leader Resource 1)
  • Three clear, heat-resistant glasses for each group
  • Ice cubes (a bowl full for each group)
  • Liquid food coloring and an eye-dropper
  • Sugar and teaspoons
  • Electric or battery-operated hot pot or tea kettle to heat water
  • Optional: Thermometer

Preparation for Activity

Read instructions for all three stations (Leader Resource 1) and take careful note of the materials lists. Plan where to set up Transformation Stations. Access to a kitchen is ideal, but experiments can be conducted with optional equipment such as an electric or battery-operated hot pot or tea kettle. All the experiments use water.

Changing States of Water and Solubility both use ice cubes. Plan how to keep ice cubes frozen until each group needs them.

Changing States of Water requires an electrical appliance to generate heat.

For Solubility, each group needs to start with water at three temperatures: hot, room temperature, and ice cold.

Safety is all-important. All stations must have adequate adult supervision.

  • Estimate how many participants will be in the session. Decide how to form groups and structure their rotation among the Transformation Stations so every participant can have a role in each of the three experiments. The ideal group size is three to six. (If the group has more than 20, prepare multiple stations for each experiment to keep within the estimated time frame.) Note: Changing States of Water offers the most time for observation. Solubility has the most structure, with more hands-on tasks to engage everyone in a small group.
  • Print and cut out the Transformation Station instructions from Leader Resource 1 for each station.
  • Arrange adult supervision. Adults could be assigned to each station, or adults could be assigned to each small group to move with them. Tell adults they will read aloud the printed instructions, facilitate turn-taking, assist participants in using appliances, and prompt their group’s observations. If you expect to bring the Transformation Stations to the broader congregational community (see Faith in Action), invite your religious educator to join you to become familiar with the requirements and purpose of this activity.
  • Prepare the Transformation Stations. Leave room between stations to keep the entire space accessible and the noise level manageable. If possible, keep the stations covered with large cloths or otherwise out of view for the first part of the session.

Description of Activity

Participants transform everyday materials in three simple science experiments, and then discuss their observations.

With the Transformation Stations covered (out of view), gather the group. Introduce the concepts of transformation and changes of state. You might say:

Some transformations happen quickly, right in front of us—like a snake turning into a human in the story. Or, like a sudden rainstorm on a clear, dry day in real life. Some transformations are slow, like an ocean tide going out and coming back in twice a day, a baby growing into a toddler, or leaves changing color over several autumn months.

Today we will do some experiments with everyday materials and see some real, rapid transformations right here. In science, physical transformations like these are sometimes called “changes of state.”

Explain that the “states” you mean are liquid, solid, and gas. Ask participants for examples of a change of state. Affirm or suggest examples: a melting popsicle; dry flour and solid butter becoming pasty batter when mixed together; a rain puddle evaporating into mist or freezing into ice. But, do not take a long time explaining—save time for everyone to have a hands-on experience.

Say that everyone will have a chance to do three experiments today in which they will create and observe three changes of state. Distribute paper and pencils (and clipboards, if you have them). Form three smaller groups, each with an adult.

Indicate the Transformation Stations. Tell the participants their group will have about six minutes to try each experiment, and you will ring the chime (or other sound-maker) when it is time for groups to clean up and move to the next station. Ask the participants to take turns at each station so everyone has both a hands-on role and a chance to sketch or write notes about their observations.

Assign each group a station and ring the chime. Watch the time carefully, now and throughout the activity; it is important to leave five minutes for the group to re-gather and process their observations.

After about six minutes, ring the chime. Ask the groups to clean up, replace the items on the trays, and move to the next Transformation Station.

Allow groups six minutes at their second Transformation Station; then, ring the chime again and remind groups to clean up and then move to the third station. With about five minutes left, ring the chime again to re-gather the entire group.

Process the Experiments

Invite participants to share their visual, tactile, and other observations, taking the experiments one at a time: Changing States of Water, Blech, and then Solubility. You can lead the sharing in several ways, including those suggested below. Be mindful of how much time you have for sharing and make sure your process invites all ages to share. Articulating and sharing one’s personal observation is part of the learning process for individuals at every age and stage.

  • Prompt with questions about how substances felt, looked, smelled both before and after the experiment.
  • Ask participants what they did, saw or felt that surprised them.
  • Ask participants to show their sketches or read aloud their notes.
  • If you have done Session 2, The Miracle of Close Attention, you might invite participants to comment on how they paid close attention.

Now, focus the group on their understanding of a physical transformation with these questions:

  • Did anyone witness an exact moment of transformation? When was it? What was it like?
  • In any of the experiments, was there a time when something was in two states at once? For example, was the water ever liquid and solid at the same moment? How is this possible?
  • What are some words to describe the transformations you saw?
  • Which did you like the most: doing the experiments, finding out scientific explanations, paying close attention, or drawing and/or writing about what you observed?
  • What did it feel like to be the agent of transformation—the person who made everyday materials change into something else? Did you feel you had some power? Did you feel as if you had made a miracle? Why, or why not?

Including All Participants

Adult participants are likely to volunteer comments from their own knowledge or prior experiences. Children are likely to report quite literally what they observed. Affirm all contributions; yet, be mindful that too much adult explaining can pre-empt a child’s experience of discovery. Set a tone that values questions at least as much as answers.