I’m going to blame the 96 degree heat for my foggy decision making that led up to The Great Oobleck Disaster of 2013. I took the six year old I nanny, (I will call him ‘A’), to the park. We brought a bag of balloons to make water balloons, and corn starch so we could experiment with Oobleck quietly in the shade. Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid consisting of a suspension of starch in water. Check Wikipedia for the scientific definition and summary of viscosity and shear rate, but basically it’s a non-toxic goop that is A LOT of fun to play with.
Once all the balloons were popped and every child was drenched, ‘A’ decided it was time to start mixing the corn starch with water. Everyone, (with their caretaker’s permission), was having fun experimenting with the proportion of water to corn starch to achieve just the right consistency of the gelatinous oozing substance that is Oobleck. It was getting a bit messy, as the kids shouted about how much they were loving their “science experiment”, but it seemed okay in the name of learning, right? After all, corn starch is a safe substance that appears in many food products, (I’ll save the GMO/Monsanto debate for another post).
The messier it became, the more fun the kids had. The mess was a kid magnet, and as the kids experimented, they were cooperating with each other more than they had all day so far. I didn’t want to interrupt their new found camaraderie.
The Oobleck oozed. The Oobleck gelatinized. The Oobleck oozed some more. The Oobleck spread. The Oobleck caked on to benches, pavement, hands, clothes, rocks, and the park fence. Holy moly, it made such a mess. it looked like half the park was covered in dried glue. It didn’t occur to me until the damage was done that we weren’t equipped with the tools we’d need to clean up the mess. We had a plastic cup with us, and some newspaper. We needed a fire hose. I began hoping for a downpour of rain. The sun did not stop shining in the clear blue sky. The other children left the park. The mess remained. “A” and I looked at each other. We knew what we had to do. We started to clean. It took over an hour, as we carted single cups of water back and forth to Oobleck covered locales, poured the water and scrubbed with newspaper. Then we had to clean up a lot of soggy newspaper.
Fortunately, ‘A’ found the clean up as much fun as making the mess, and we had a good laugh about what a disaster it was. Next time ‘A’ and I will find a less messy substance to bring to the park, but I have to admit Oobleck was a blast. ‘A’ made new friends and a lasting memory, and took responsibility for cleaning up his mess. Sometimes learning is messy, and sometimes we don’t realize the consequences of our actions until the mess has been made. Growing up is about making discoveries. Here’s to Oobleck!
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