The Crow and the Pitcher – Introducing Volume to Preschoolers

I wanted to start introducing some basic science principles to the children, as my oldest seems rather interested in how things work around him and as he is reaching 6 years, he is noticing and observing more of his surroundings and is particularly interested in how machines work. So i thought i will try to introduce the concept of volume to the children, but the concept of volume isn’t the most exciting topic, plus just the words “concept of volume” is enough for me to start yawning myself. But i remembered an old favorite children’s story my parents read to me when i was little, the story of the crow and the pitcher. The crow and the pitcher

I don’t have the actual story anymore, but thank goodness for the internet! I found a short clip of the crow and the pitcher, and i used it as an introduction for the children, on how the crow tried his best to solve his problem and didn’t give up until he had a solution (also another talking point you could elaborate on with the kids). He added pebbles into the pitcher to displace the water, so that he could reach the water. I didn’t go all the way and talk about displacement concepts with the children, as i wanted to keep it really basic about different sized marbles or balls having different volume, so its simple for them to understand (it is my first time as well!).

Our set up was simple, a see through measuring jug, so that they can see the water level rising, a bowl of different sized marbles, golf balls and some ping pong balls, and in our case, Mr Lego man that has fainted and dying of thirst….

 

I let them put in the marbles and have fun throwing balls into the jug for a little while and then called to their attention the different sizes of the balls, hence, the small marbles have the smallest volume as it is the smallest, the marble is larger so it has a bigger volume than the small marble, and the golf ball has the biggest volume as it is the largest. They also observed that the water level rises the most with golf balls versus the small marbles. Disclaimer: I get that this explanation is too simplistic, “But what about density?!” some might ask. Agree, but i think density is a little too hard to understand for preschoolers, if anyone has a better way of explaining volume or density please drop us a note!

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In any case, i did try to address this issue, by giving them them some ping pong balls to throw in, we also had some random balls that floated that were the same size as the marbles, and the children noticed that they float even though they are almost the same size as the golf balls and marbles. I explained that even though some objects may be the same size, they could be different “weights”, and so some will float and some will sink, but i really left it at that point. I think anything more and they would be totally confused.

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All in all, it was a fun hour for them, watching the video a few times, and then getting to “re-create” the bird throwing pebbles in the pitcher. They understood the concept of volume, so am happy since that was what i set out to achieve, and they unknowingly performed a simple water displacement experiment using balls of various densities, and Mr Lego man finally got his drink.

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