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Driveway science

I let him loose in the driveway today.

Earlier in the day, in the car on our way home from nature camp, I asked him what he wanted to do with the afternoon.

"Math, spelling, and grammar," he said, "and then I want to experiment with water."

I asked him what kind of experiments he wanted to do.

"I want to find out what else fizzes like vinegar and baking soda."

Now, we've done the whole vinegar and baking soda thing a couple of times. We did it once when he was about four and totally obsessed with volcanoes so we did the obligatory conical explosion in the front yard. At the time it bothered me because vinegar and baking soda inside a plastic cone painted to look like a volcano have absolutely nothing to do with volcanoes, and volcanoes have no direct connection to the acid/base lesson that is the vinegar and baking soda reaction. So we followed the volcanic eruption in the front yard with a quick lesson on solutions and acids and bases a la The Young Scientist Club.

I'd like to say that I've relaxed a bit since that time when I was afraid to let him explode a volcano lest he mistake the kaboom of vinegar meeting baking soda for the nuts and bolts of a real, honest-to-goodness volcano. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Who was that mom anyhow? But actually, that kind of "science" still drives me nuts. The argument is moot, though. When I asked him if he knew why vinegar and baking soda reacted that way he remembered neither the volcano enactment nor the subsequent acids/bases exploration unit.

Not an entire loss, however, he did know that the reaction itself releases carbon dioxide gas, the culprit responsible for the fizzing. And, since everyone loves a good fizzy experiment, this afternoon he was off in search of more such explosive pairings.

And here's how I know—without a doubt—that I have relaxed in the past four years. When he asked for five glasses, five spoons, a measuring cup, water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, corn starch, and food coloring...I didn't bat an eye. I piled it all up on a tray, asked him to experiment in the driveway please, and delivered the goods. I watched for a while, and let him school me on his methods, but mostly I did laundry. And, when he used all the vinegar, salt, and corn starch in the house, I simply added those staples to the weekly shopping list.

It's a great big learning world out there.

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