Teddy goes camping

The aim of this experiment is to work out which material is best to make teddy’s tent out of. It works best in the garden or on a large tray or towel as it involves water.

For young children, this could work well as a demonstration for a large group. For slightly older ones, they could try the materials for themselves. You can download this information here.

You will need:

  1. Three Teddies
  2. Small watering can or cup of water
  3. Frame for a tent – You can build a simple one using bamboo sticks and tape
  4. Materials to cover the tent – (we used kitchen roll, cotton fabric and plastic sheeting cut from a rubble sack )

The aim of this is to get children thinking about why we choose certain materials for different objects. We adapted an idea from this great website.

Introduction activity

Start with some different objects and put them in a bag. Get children to reach into the bag and choose an object. Before they lift it out, get them to describe it. Some words you can prompt them with are…

You don’t have to put the objects in a bag, but it helps for getting children to focus on touch and texture rather than what the object looks like. This activity would also work well as a scavenger hunt. Go and find a crinkly object, a soft object etc.

You can download a worksheet for a properties scavenger hunt here.

The experiment

Drape the first material (kitchen roll) over the tent and fold it underneath. Then start the story.

Three teddies decide to go camping. The first teddy made a tent out of paper. The teddy climbed inside and lay down to sleep.

In the middle of the night it started to rain! Oh no! (at this point, get one of the children to tip the watering can over the tent) What happens to teddy’s tent?

Poor teddy got wet!

Repeat the experiment with a bit of cotton sheet and plastic sheet. You should find that the cotton sheet isn’t as bad as the tissue, but it gets wet and eventually drips through. With the plastic, the children will observe that the water runs straight off.

Experimenting with different materials for a tent

The learning point from this experiment is that in our everyday lives, we use different materials for different things. Plastic is good for teddy’s tent because it’s waterproof. The rain runs straight off it.

A way to take this further could be to use a wider range of materials. Kitchen foil could work well. It’s really waterproof but what happens if you fold it up to pack away then try to unfold it to make the tent again? Is it as flexible as plastic?

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Going further…

You could use this session to talk about some problems with materials and introduce the children to the concepts of litter and recycling. You can explain to children that plastic is really useful for lots of different things because it is waterproof. But a bad thing about plastic is that it doesn’t rot down. If it ends up in a river or in the sea it will just keep floating around.

Keep the concepts fairly simple like “if the plastic ends up in the sea, something might eat it”. What creatures live in the sea that might eat the plastic?

A worksheet for exploring the properties of materials is also available here.

Page author: Zoe Schnepp

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