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The Oobleck Method of Teaching

October 17, 2009

This Oobleck  is great stuff!  Just cornstarch and water and a dash (a couple drops will do) of food color and PRESTO!  Instant entertainment!  The best part?  NO COOKING!

Shane "getting into" the experimentation!

Shane "getting into" the experimentation! (We tried - not a good hair gel.)

Listen to this perfect description of Oobleck’s unique properties (It’ll be important in a minute):  (Oobleck) seems to behave like a liquid part of the time and a solid part of the time… The polymers can move around and past each other, but they do so slowly. If poured slowly the mixture will flow like a liquid.  However, if the long polymer chains are forced to move more quickly than they can, they get so tangled up that they act more like a solid.*

As I watched Shane and Eric try to pound the stuff into submission and then let it drip over their hands and fingers  I thought about how beautifully this weird stuff illustrates our homeschool experience.

Sometimes I push too hard, too fast, trying to meet my own goals and failing to consider the readiness and learning styles of my sweet children.  I force them to move more quickly than they can.  Pushing for one more math sheet to get ahead.    Trying once more to help him write a 3 that does not look like a backwards “S”.  But the more I push, the more tangled and hardened Shane’s thought process becomes.

Over and over since Shane was an infant I have seen that the thing I try to teach him one month, the thing that is still impossible for him the next month and the next suddenly becomes the thing he does easily and cheerfully and well a couple months later.

Like Oobleck, Shane’s ideas and connections and understandings  can move around and past each other, but they do so slowly.  At their own pace.  And in their own way, totally unmindful of my agendas.

I think that, at least for our family, school needs to be more holding out an idea to see if it’s ready to drip than trying to pound it (excuse me – I meant teach it) in too much of a hurry.

Eric with "liquid" oobleck

Eric with "liquid" Oobleck

Oobleck formula:  2 cups cornstarch, 1 cup water, or any 2:1 ratio.  Food coloring is best added to the water before you pour it into the cornstarch, as stirring formed Oobleck is a bit of a challenge.

Above quote from “Gak and Oobleck Activities” at http://w3.shorecrest.org/~Lisa_Peck/Physics/syllabus/phases/liquids/gak_oobleck/gakhome.htm

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. kelly permalink
    October 19, 2009 7:28 pm

    We made this Monday morn for our activity……………………thanks for the great idea. Once the twins got over being such “girls”, they loved it!

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