Recipe for a STEAM Lab: Geometric bubbles

Kids love bubbles – we know this. But can bubbles open up a conversation about something more than who can pop them the fastest? Absolutely! For this STEAM Lab, we’re combine concepts of geometry and abstract reasoning with soapy, splashy fun!

Before the mess begins…

What you need:

  • straws
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors
  • deep, clear containers (for holding bubble solution)
  • twice as much bubble solution as you think (homemade and store bought will work equally well)
  • plenty of towels to dry up with
  • table covers (if you’re worried about soapy tables)
  • printed instructions (if, like me, you get 100+ people at a program and you don’t have time to instruct them all as they straggle in)

What you’re investigating:

Most bubble wands are circles, and they blow spherical bubbles. If you make a bubble wand that is a different shape – a triangle, a pyramid, a square, a cube – will the bubble be a different shape as well?

What you’re able to discuss: names of 2D and 3D shapes, and their relationships to one another, predictions and observations, trial and error, cohesion and adhesion.

Now that’s a bubble!

Steps for your patrons:

  1. Start by building a triangle. Cut a straw into three equal pieces, then thread a pipe cleaner through the straw, folding into a triangle shape. Use a second pipe cleaner to build a handle.
  2. Blow a bubble! What do you observe?
  3. Turn your triangle into a pyramid. You need three more, equal-sized straw pieces, and one or two more pipe cleaners, to build the sides of your pyramid off your original triangle.
  4. Dip your pyramid into the bubble solution. What do you observe before you blow? What do you observe after?
  5. What other shapes can you make?

What was our turnout like?

Because we as a library only have one program room, children’s programs sometimes have to be hosted in our children’s area on the tables and chairs that are already there. This can be a challenge, especially for a drop-in program with unpredictable attendance!

Big hands and little hands working together!

We had about 60 children and caregivers for our 10:30-11:30 am Saturday program. Sometimes for this program, we have as few as 40, and sometimes we have upwards of 120! This means we tend to overcompensate in terms of supplies. For this program, I pushed several of our tables together, covered them with tablecloths and supplies, and pushed all the chairs away from the tables to encourage kids and caregivers to stand (which takes up less space, and meant more families could participate).

Our STEAM Labs are designed to be family projects – that means caregivers are expected to stay and participate. Some caregivers grok this naturally, but for others we model scaffolding behavior that will let the kids be in the driver’s seat. In this case, that looked like asking questions like, “Let’s each make a prediction about what shape our bubbles will be. I hear that our kiddo here thinks they will be squares. Mom and Dad, what do you think?” and making statements like, “It looks like your kiddo really wants to try out the scissors. Let’s let her try and see what she comes up with!”

Yep, would do again!

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