Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Non-Newtonian Fluid, The Properties of Corn Starch, Pudding Science, and Another Day of Unschooling

Yesterday, the children ask if they could make some more non-Newtonian fluid with corn starch, and water. Actually, they asked if they could make more of "that goopy, corn starch stuff". I said yes, because...

1. It was raining out again.

2. The man of the house was not coming home for lunch, so we were free to make a mess.

3. And, it gave me a chance to say "non-Newtonian fluid", a bunch of times.

But, it also led nicely into a science lesson, when about the time the Lego men were discovering the dangers of struggling against quicksand, someone asked if it was edible. I suppose they were wondering if the Lego men could eat their way out. My oldest daughter answered, that it was edible, but wouldn't taste very good.

That led us into a discussion of what corn starch is, and how it doesn't dissolve well in water, but will absorb water when heated, to change from polymer chains, to more of a mesh, that we call gelatinization (you can find out all about this process, as well as how the starch is removed from corn kernels, and then how that starch is used in all sorts of daily applications, in this, printout from the Corn Refiners Association).

Which in turn, led us to a pudding making "experiment" from Joan D'Amico's The Science Chef. Luckily, the chapter on corn starch, and pudding, can be viewed in Amazon's instant view (just search for pudding), because I had already returned that book to the library.

Since we didn't want quite as much pudding mix as the recipe called for, it also led us into a lesson on dividing fractions.

And, since we couldn't find our 1/8 cup measure, we had a quick lesson on converting cups to tablespoons (and then dividing that number into eighths, and multiplying out the number of tablespoons we needed to make 3/8 cups).

And then, because we had dirtied our 1 cup measures (making muffins for breakfast), we reviewed how many thirds make a whole.

All, in all, it was a pretty good science/math/reading comprehension/home economics/group activity.

Of course, now that we've eaten up the pudding, there's been a request for another batch of non-Newtonian fluid. Which, is still being referred to as goopy, corn starch stuff.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I am starting to see the wisdom of math through cooking :) It looks like cornstarch play is quite popular in your house.

Ticia said...

Hee hee hee, non-newtonian fluid, yeah I'd have fun saying it too......

And, yes that would be brilliant to have them eat those meals, if only I could convince Jeff to eat those meals, okay and me. I have to admit I wouldn't be thrilled with a meal made of canned green beans, pinto beans and rice.

Debbie said...

I love how no matter how many times you said "Non-Newtonian Fluid" your kids still called it goopy corn starch stuff.

Great math lessons here! I love using cooking to teach math, and look forward to exploring this as Selena gets older.

Leah Courtney said...

We call that goopy stuff Ooblek (like from Dr. Suess). But Non-Newtonian fluid sounds much more intelligent. :-)

Christianne @ Little Page Turners said...

Great impromptu lesson! I still have a hard time converting from one measurement to another. :)