Friday, July 20, 2007

Creating explosives

Noah has been creating explosive compounds during readaloud time. Not real ones -- just the models. We're reading from "Napoleon's Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History" and are into the chapter on nitro compounds. Schonbein's wife's exploding apron ('guncotton') was a great segué into this chapter.

There are lots of chemical structures drawn in the book, so while I'm reading the text, we'll be building the molecules in questions out of our MolyMod kit. It was fun to look at glucose transforming itself from a linear to a cyclic arrangement, and to imagine how big 100 million such rings would be in a cellulose molecule.

I have a thing for colour. Not in the artistic sense -- in the symbolic sense. I love cuisenaire rods because the association of colour, length and mathematical value works so well for me. And I love how striking the two-reds-and-a-blue nitro group combination is in the MolyMod kit. We'd made lots of molecules in the past, but focusing on the nitro group through our reading and its distinctive colourful representation in the kit has really made this information stick for the kids.

Chemistry is poking it's many-faceted face out of a variety of corners around here lately. For some strange reason some of my children have decided to memorize as much of the periodic table
as they can. Erin, who is a visual/textual learner, decided to write the elements out in order. From memory for the first 50 or 70, and then cribbing off the table.

There's something funny about a four-year-old coming up to you with a big grin and saying "Magnesium is 12 and Aluminum is 13."

As with everything, even the apparently mundane task of memorizing the periodic table turns into hilarity and storytelling with my kids. Elements quickly become associated with people whose ages match their atomic number. Jokes and stories evolve. Grandma E. is radon! People hate her because she lurks in their basements and does unhealthy things.

Life's never dull.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like an interesting read. I will add it to my future-reads list. Thanks!

    My sons have become very interested in the elements over the past few years. So much of their science interests seemed to require some basic understanding of elements. Recently I found a small poster size periodic table for their room. While they haven't asked many questions (to me) about the details, the different groups of elements and some individual ones they recognize have worked their way into their play.


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