Friday, June 23, 2006

Get Your Math On! at the Spray Park

We went to the new spray park at the Greenbrier YMCA and had a lovely time. I've included some lesson ideas based on one of the toys there, that dumps buckets of water on the kids. Learning in the summer -- ACK -- stop the madness!

My children love water. I may be a close second (or possibly the dog, let's be realistic) but when it comes to summer entertainment, their idea of fun involves beaches, pools, sprinklers, and buckets of sunscreen. They're not happy until they've ingested their weight in chlorine, wrinkled up like prunes, and had their retinas incinerated by UV rays. And who am I to stand in the way of such harmless fun?

We normally go to the downtown Norfolk YMCA because it's close, they have towel service, and we're just shallow like that. But this summer, I'm branching out in search of the ultimate outdoor YMCA swimming pool experience. You know, with waterfalls and geysers for the children, palm trees and frothy pineapple smoothies for me. We started out at the Trashmore YMCA, which was nice. A big wading pool for the babies, including a turtle slide and a fountain. Lots of kids in the big pool for Benny to play with, and they had a great time.

Then we went to the Greenbrier YMCA, which shall henceforth be known as Chlorinated Water Nirvana.

First, allow me to say that the decor in the building is fantastic. Somebody obviously had a vision there. Outdoor murals, indoor faux finishes, including decorative frames around all the bulletin boards and flier holders -- you have to see it to believe it. It looks like a hotel. Second, they have a pool house. This means you can get out of the car, walk straight to the (tastefully decorated) family changing room in the pool house, and then plop right into the pool. No mucking about indoors. They have a wading pool and a big pool, just like Trashmore, but then there is...

The spray park. Benny leaped into it immediately, and spent the next 30 minutes dashing around through it, screeching with joy. Then he came and got a drink, and rejoined the spray park, screeching and leaping away. Sadie took a little longer to warm up to it, but by the end of our time there, she was carrying on like a regular. There is every kind of sprinkler, every kind of hose -- even a bench that's a sprinkler, and a mounted sprinkler for spraying your friends, and the tower of pouring cones.

The tower of pouring cones caused my evil homeschooling brain to kick in. It's a tall pole with five metal cones hanging around the top of it. These cones are constantly being filled by streams of water, and they periodically dump over and send a mass of water down on whatever kid is waiting hopefully below. Of course there are lots of lovely physics and math questions to be asked about these cones... so I wrote down a few ideas, which I've included below.

Do not miss the Greenbrier Spray Park. It is too much fun.

Learning Questions:

What makes the water fall out of the cone onto the kids?

Why doesn't the cone tip over right away instead of tipping when it's filled up?

How much water would have to come out of the bottom of the cone to stop it from tipping over?

How can you explain the fact that the cones don't always tip in the same order?

How could you change the shape of the cone to make it hold more water before tipping?

What could you do to the cone so that it never tips?

If you're standing under one particular cone, what are the chances you'll get wet next?

How could you change the probability of each cone tipping?


At home, give the kids some plastic cups and let them try to rig up their own pouring cones by punching holes in them and using string to hang them somewhere. They'll need a hose or a steady stream of water. This would be good to try in the sink or bathtub.

At home, using plastic cups, figure out how to control the rate of flow out of a cup and into a cup to reach an equilibrium.

At the spray park, think of some story problems while you sit there, and have the kids work them later after they're dry and hydrated. For example... If there are eight sprinklers in the gauntlet and kids sit on five of them, how many sprinklers are still spraying? Or, if you have older kids... what angle would a hose spraying at a certain pressure need to reach to propel the water fifteen feet?

At the spray park, have five kids lie down on their bellies under the five pouring cones. Predict which kid will get hit next. OR, have all the kids hum a different note in a cord. When they get hit, they stop humming. When they get hit again, they start again. OR, have each child that gets hit recite whatever memory project you're working on -- poem or verse or whatnot, as loud as he/she can.

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