The Rubber Egg

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This week a colleague and the children started an experiment. The experiment involved an egg that is supposed to change into a bouncing object when submersed into vinegar for three days.

The experiment originated with four eggs being placed into a large bowl. White vinegar was then poured into the bowl to cover the eggs completely. For an added twist, an additional egg was placed in a plastic cup that was filled with vinegar and green food coloring.

The children enjoy choosing their own work and materials to explore. During this work the children are experimenting, looking for answers, and making discoveries. When the educators lead science projects, the children are very interested in trying the experiments. They love talking about the possibilities of the materials that are being mixed together and connecting socially with the educators.

The bowl and cup were placed on a shelf in the classroom and then the waiting game began. Over the three-day waiting period the children asked about the eggs, wanted to inspect them, and check for variations.

There was excitement in the air as the experiment started and the children wondered what might happen next. The children were focused on the outcome of the experiment and asked each day if the eggs were ready to bounce. Many of the children used time each day to look over the eggs, describe the changes they could see, and wonder about the changes they could not see. We all agreed the eggs smelled bad during their transformation.

Three days later, the children and the educators extracted the eggs from their smelly solution.  A large group gathered to see if the eggs would actually bounce. The first egg was raised about a foot off the table. When the egg dropped it did not bounce, but exploded into a small river of fluid and yolk.

Many oohs and aahs came from the crowd gathered around the table where the egg drop was taking place. The volume in the room rose as conversation ensued about why the first eggs broke, and did not bounce. On the spot theories were offered as the next egg was collected and ready to be dropped.

Before dropping the second egg, the educator shinned a light on the egg to examine what was inside. We all looked closely and were curious to see if the vinegar had transformed the contents of the egg. With light shinning upon it, a soft yellow glow came from the egg as the light passed through a transparent membrane.

We later discovered that vinegar melts away the shell of the egg leaving only a thin membrane to hold the entire contents of the egg together. The educator told the children that some of the eggs membranes felt thicker than others, and the thickness corresponded with the bounce potential of the egg. The second egg was dropped from a lower height than the first, about six inches off the table. This time it bounced a few inches off the table. Excitement, lots of conversation, and relief filled the room.

Next, the experimentation continued as the children and an educator walked one of the eggs over to a dark part of the classroom. A light was placed near the egg to see if it would glow in the dark. I did not see the actual egg, but there were many excited reactions to viewing the egg this way.

The original plan was for all of the eggs to be dropped on the table, but as the educators and children engaged in discussion, different ideas for exploring the eggs were employed. The best part of this experiment as an observer, was hearing all of the conversation and ideas the children were bringing forth. There were many ideas of what to try next with the eggs in an attempt to see how the vinegar had transformed them.

Finally, the group turned their attention to the egg soaking in the cup with green food coloring. This egg turned out the same as the others structurally, but transformed the clear membrane to a bright hulk like color that looked very interesting. The bounce test was not tried on this egg as it was going to be saved for one more day.

The possibilities of four eggs soaked in vinegar provided a path for the children and educators to connect over a wondering. Will this really work? What happens to eggs soaked in vinegar? Did what I thought would happen actually happen? These questions and all of the wonderings we explore together in child initiated or educator initiated work, is the basis for our coming together, and is the glue that builds the learning community.