Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coffee Oobleck!

One of our lovely teachers, Ms. Leslie, brought in a week's worth of used coffee grounds for us to use. I immediately added them to our sensory table, thinking they would be an instant hit! 

Not so much. 

I didn't get it. How could they not be drawn in by the smell alone? I even tried sitting at the table and inviting the children to come join me...I had a few takers, but no one stayed for long.

Usually it's just a simple fix to draw the children in to the sensory table. In this case, our simple fix was the addition of cornstarch (I added two cups.)

...and a container of water.
I also added wooden spoons (for those who don't like coffee's gritty texture), measuring cups, and measuring spoons.
Jackpot! The table began gathering attention, although they didn't immediately dump the cornstarch and water.
 Instead, they used the measuring spoons to mix

Their favorite thing to do was transfer the cornstarch and coffee grounds into the cup, watching the water slowly swirl, mix, change colors, and settle.
You can see the layers of cornstarch, coffee grounds, and water. The children lovingly called this, "Chocolate milk."
The language this activity inspired was amazing. The kids started calling it the "coffee table," and spouting out words like "mochachino, and cappacino."
I heard stories of Mommies and Daddies who always drink coffee...
...and how coffee was for grown ups only, although no one really knew why.
Eventually, the container became so fill, that the water overflowed, creating a river of coffee.
...And this became a new sensory experience. The smell was incredible, but to be honest, the texture was not. It was very gritty and wet, which was off-putting to most of the kids. Most...but not all (obviously).
They truly savored the process of creating a new substance. It was very relaxing to watch the white cornstarch swirl and mix with the contrasting, brown coffee.
The next day, I added another box (2 cups) of cornstarch to the table, as well as some more water.
*Side note: If you decide to do a coffee/water/cornstarch combo...leave the mixture UNCOVERED over night, or it will mildew. I've forgotten this in the past, and came to class the next day with a healthy growth of mold...and well, you can just imagine the smell. Ugh. Leave it uncovered!
There was more mixing action...
You can see the coffee in the table change as it gets more attention from the kids. The consistency is thicker, like gravy.
Eventually, all the cornstarch is dumped, and little hands start to mix it up. The process took two days...If I had my way, I would have done it immediately. Adults are efficient like that. But children need time to explore, and figure things out on their own.
Here it is...Coffee Oobleck: Mix 2 boxes of cornstarch (4 cups), 2 cups of water, and a few days worth of coffee grounds (maybe 3-4 cups?)  

 Just like normal oobleck (cornstarch and water), this was completely addicting to play with, and filled the classroom with beautiful smells.

Ready for some nerdy talk?
The cornstarch/water combo creates a non-newtonian substance. It's viscous in nature (something all cooks know from when they add a little cornstarch to thickens up!). This substance looks like a liquid, but when you touch it, it feels solid. When you force the molecules into motion (for example, letting it drip from your hands), it acts as a liquid once again.

Because of the unique nature of oobleck, you can roll a ball, and watch it melt before your eyes. 

Did you know that coffee grounds act as an exfoliate?  
Who knew? The cornstarch will leave your skin feeling silky smooth, and the coffee rubs away dead skin! 

 So, rub your hands in some coffee oobleck, and after you rinse, they will be rejuvenated and silky smooth. Bonus: They'll smell great, too!

Happy playing!

1 comment:

  1. I love the smell (and taste of coffee) but wow- it must of smelt like a coffee bean farm in your classroom ;-) They looked like they had fun and what a different type of sensory play! Thank you for stopping by the Sunday Showcase!


Thanks for you comment! Happy playing!

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