by Kornelia Eppmann


For my 4th practical task in the IHVO Certificate Course, I also want to start with the interests of my observation child Felix (4;3):
What is the Earth’s core? What is a volcanic eruption?

I want to:

1. support Felix in making and consolidating cross-group contacts with adequate play partners.

2. carry out a small group project that leads to experiments on a volcanic eruption.
The age of the participating children is 4;3 / 5;6 / 6;2 / 6,3 years. I have changed the names or used anonymous titles.

See more projects with Felix:

In the Forest with a Ranger

Felix and His Photography  

Objective 1:
Making contact with adequate play partners across groups

Increasingly, I could observe that Felix turned to older children by observing their play and then discussing it with his friend.

Situation 1 – Felix thinks Leo is great

Felix: „Shall we ask if we can join in?“
His friend: „I don’t think so, they are much faster than us.“
In the playground, the older boys were playing soccer, Felix sat on the edge and cheered on his favourite of the older boys: „Go on, kick the ball into the goal“ and applauded.
At the lunch table, Felix (4;3) then told me that he thinks (six-year-old) Leo from the purple group is great. „He always has such good ideas and sometimes lets me play along.“

…in a nutshell…

The author forms a small group of four children across kindergarten groups, all of whom are „geologically interested“. Four-year-old Felix, who is particularly gifted, can keep up well with the older boys; he finds adequate play and learning partners in them.

The author steers the children’s learning process through many good questions that respond to the children’s ideas. The climax of the children’s engagement with natural phenomena is the volcano experiment, which does not stand in isolation, but is embedded in the children’s shared intellectual discussion.

Situation 2 – Why don’t you ask him?

I told him: „Why don’t you go to his group and ask him if you can play something together? Leo can’t know that you would like to play with him.“
Felix: „Hm, when we’ve finished eating, I’ll go to the purple group and ask him.“

It took a while. When Felix came back, he said proudly and with joy: „I can play together with Leo, we’re going out into the sand. Before that we have to pick up two of Leo’s friends from the green group, they want to play with him too.“

Situation 3 – Sandpit conversation

When I arrived at the playground, the four boys were digging eagerly. „What are you doing?“, I asked.
Leo: „We are digging for mineral resources and the earth’s core“.

In a sandpit conversation with Felix and the three boys from the other groups, I asked who had come up with this idea and how they came up with the earth’s core.
Leo replied: „My grandma gave me a new book and it explains a lot of things about the Earth. My mum reads it to me every evening and it said that the earth has a core.
Mum didn’t finish reading it though because it was already too late, maybe she’ll finish reading it today – now we’re trying to dig for the earth’s core.“

I remarked, „I’m curious to see if you can find that. That’s really interesting!“
Suddenly Felix shouted, „Look, I found a treasure!“
Everyone turned around, let me see.
Felix was holding a piece of white plastic in his hand. When Leo had wiped the sand off, he said, „No, that’s from an old plastic cup, just rubbish.“
Felix: „Oh well, maybe I’ll find a gem if I keep digging.“

One of the older boys asked Felix, „Do you even know what gemstones look like?“ Felix: „Yes, I have some at home, I found them on the Rhine with my friend on a treasure hunt when it was his birthday.“
At that moment, his friend was just coming out to the playground. Felix called out to him, „Come here quickly, we’re digging for mineral resources!“
This word impressed him and he used it frequently that day.

Felix asked the boys, „Can my friend join us too?“
The boys turned and agreed, „All right, but it’s getting pretty crowded here in the hole now.“

„Do you guys know what mineral resources are?“, I asked the older children.
„Yeah, sure,“ one of the boys replied, „coal, gems and gas, for example.“

„That’s right,“ I replied.
Felix: „Coal looks black, but the sand here doesn’t.“
„Coal is found very deep in the earth,“ I explained to Felix, „and has to be mined with large equipment. It is then formed in a factory, just as we know coal in individual pieces.“

„Gas is air, isn’t it?“ said Felix. „We saw that in our experiments, didn’t we Konny?“
I replied, „Well, air is gaseous and consists of several substances. And there are other gases in the earth.“

Leo called out, „I have a book that explains that.“
Felix: „Can you bring it tomorrow?“
„Oh yes,“ I said, „we could meet together tomorrow after breakfast at the Quasselbude  〈a loose word for a room where people chatter, so I name it in English „Chatter room“〉 to look at your book.“
The children agreed and continued digging. Felix found a shard of clay: „Look what I found here!“

The children examined the find and thought it was a shard of clay, Felix’s friend said, „It must be from the knights.“

„What makes you think that?“ I asked his friend.
„Well, I have a knight’s castle and a knight’s book, they used to have bowls and jugs made of clay like that, my mum said, maybe there used to be knights here.“

Situation 4 – The next morning / Leo’s book

When Felix came into the kindergarten the next morning, he rushed up to me, said good morning and in the same breath: „I have to go to Leo in the purple group, to see if he has brought his book“, and ran off.

„Yes, he has it with him,“ Felix said when he came back. „We can meet in the chatter room after breakfast.“ Which we did.

Situation 5 – In the chatter room with Leo’s book

Leo showed us his book and gave explanations about it, for example that it would have taken millions of years for the mineral resources to form.
„I’m just thinking,“ I added, „how we can find out more about this.“
Then Felix called out: „Maybe with the computer? My dad always looks on the computer when he wants to know something.“

Leo said, „Yes, by Google, we can ask Susi (kindergarten teacher) in my group, because we have a computer in the group.“
„Which one of you can go ask her?“, I said.
Felix: „I can do that!“, and he stormed off. He was back quickly and said, „When Susi gets out of lunch, we can go to the computer in group.“

We continued to leaf through the book and discovered a picture of the earth in cross-section and a picture of the planets.

„Look,“ said Felix, „is that the Earth’s core?“
I answered his question in the affirmative: „The earth is burning inside, it’s a glowing mass.“
„Is that why it’s so warm in summer?“ asked Felix.
„No,“ I said, „that has nothing to do with it. The earth is a sphere, it’s closed like a ball and consists of several layers that enclose the earth’s core, like you see here in the illustration.“

Course leader comment:
This would have been a good opportunity to encourage the children’s own reasoning: The idea that the warmth in summer is due to the heat inside the Earth is not without logic, but just ignores a few (albeit crucial) details. You could have asked why it is not so warm in winter, whether the earth’s interior is ’switched off‘, or whether there is another reason why it could be warm in summer. You might have found that the sun is higher and the days are longer, so that more of the sun’s rays warm up the earth.

Leo: „Look, there’s the Earth’s mantle around the outside, it’s all hard and solid, so the glowing mass can’t get out.“
Felix` friend looked at the adjacent illustration of the planets: „Look, the sun is much bigger than the earth, nobody can go there, otherwise he will burn.“

We arranged to meet in Leo’s group after lunch. My colleague Susi looked up on the internet which mineral resources there are and how they were formed, and read to the children, among other things, that mineral resources are found all over the earth.

When I asked, „Do any of you know what mineral resources we have in Germany?“ one of the boys said, „Not exactly, because there are so many. But coal there is, because my dad told me that some quarry ponds were old coal areas, now they’re full of water.“

Leo said, „I have a children’s atlas at home, you can see there where there are mineral resources in Germany.“
Felix asked, „Can I come to your house sometime? Then we can look at the atlas together.“
Leo: „I’ll have to ask my mother when you can come, I sometimes have an appointment, so I can’t.“
„OK,“ said Felix.

Situation 6 – Chatter room/ World map / Natural resources

A few days later we arranged to meet for an open discussion in the Chatter room, I had brought a world map.

When I asked how far they had got with their search for the earth’s core, they said we wouldn’t make it.
„Why?“ I asked. „We only found concrete, so we couldn’t dig any further.“
Leo: „A bricklayer made it and it’s so hard, you can’t do it with children’s shovels.“

„What did you bring?“ asked Felix.
„What do you think?“ asked I to the group.
„A map of the world,“ said one of the boys.
Immediately everyone pointed a finger at countries they had seen on a map before.
„That’s where my dad went deep sea fishing in Norway,“ one of the children pointed.
„This is where my grandma comes from and we fly there on holiday in the summer,“ said another boy.
„Do you also know what this country is called?“ I asked the boy.
„Yes, Italy,“ he said and I asked: „Did you also see what a funny shape the country has?“
Felix: „It looks long and thin, look“ – he ran his finger along it. Leo: „Like a boot, my grandma showed me.“
Felix: „Hey, that’s funny!“

„There’s Germany,“ one of the boys quickly figured out.
„Right,“ I confirmed.
„Where then?“ asked Felix.
Leo: „Here’s the little dot. Look closely, so small!“
„Because our country is so small, we have to buy mineral resources we need from other countries,“ I added, „for example oil.“
Felix: „For the cars, they need oil, otherwise the engine breaks down.“

The children named some more countries they knew, and Felix was amazed at how much water there was.
One of the boys asked, „Konny, have you heard about the volcanic eruption in Iceland?“

I nodded. „Yes, it’s a natural phenomenon. Volcanoes have been around for a long time.“

Objective 2:
Explain relationships, using experiments on a volcanic eruption.

I took up this theme to do some experiments on it with this group of children.

Situation 7 – Chatter room / Leo’s newspaper clipping

In another meeting in the Chatter room, we had put together some things about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions.
„The mountain explodes, it looks like a firework“, Felix said.

Leo had brought along a newspaper clipping, which we looked at.
„Felix, look at this thick cloud, why does it look so grey?“ I wanted to know.
„That’s ash,“ Leo replied, „the volcano shot it upwards.“
„Like with a rifle?“ I asked in the round.
„No,“ they all said in unison.
Leo: „Because there’s pressure in the earth. It then explodes and sprays ash and lava out of the volcano.“
„Aha,“ I said, „do you know what ash is?“
Felix: „When the barbecue coal is extinguished, all that’s left is ash.“

„Have you ever touched ash?“
Felix: „No, I wasn’t allowed to.“
Another boy in the group said, „It’s like fine flour. When you blow into it, it flies through the air.“
„You explained that well,“ I added.

„But what is a pressure?“ I asked.
One of the boys said, „In car tyres, there’s air pressure, otherwise you get a flat tyre and can’t drive on it.“
„Right,“ I confirmed. „What do you think we could try to make pressure with?“
„Aah,“ said Leo, „with a balloon, you blow it up until it pops. When there’s no more room for the air, bang, it pops.“

„That would be an explanation, Leo, I have already prepared something for an experiment.“

Situation 8 – The balloon and the lawn experiment

On the table were: a balloon, some flour and a funnel and a small cardboard roll.
„You said that the ash shoots out of the volcano. We’ll try that now with the balloon, into which I’ll fill some flour. What’s the flour for?“ I asked.
„Well, the ashes for sure,“ Leo answered.
„Why do I put this balloon in the cardboard roll before blowing it up?“
„Is that supposed to be the volcano?“ Leo asked.
„That’s exactly what I thought, let’s see if it works. Leo, would you like to blow up the balloon?“
„Nah, I’d rather not, if it pops it will hurt my face.“

„Who wants to try it then?“

„I’m sure you can,“
Felix said to me.

All right, so I had to make big cheeks.
„What happens if I blow up the balloon now?“, I asked.

Felix: „It explodes and the flour flies through the air.“
I blew until the balloon burst, the flour flew in all directions and slowly trickled to the ground, the children of course laughing their heads off at how I looked afterwards.

Two boys covered their ears, „That’s so loud!“
„Could it be like that in a volcanic eruption?“, I asked.

„Yes, I think so,“ said one of the boys, „but there’s a lot more ash coming down, people can’t breathe then, so they wear respirators and the animals aren’t allowed in the meadows either. My mum said they would be up to their ankles in ash.“
„Your mother is right,“ I confirmed, „I saw that on TV too. We can try that out in our next experiment.“

To do this, we went outside and got a small piece of the lawn. With a knife I stabbed off a piece (about 15 x 15 cm) and put it on a tray.
Felix: „We mustn’t break that, we still want to play on the grass.“
„Right, Felix,“ I said, „but I asked beforehand: and after our experiment, the piece of grass goes into the organic waste bin, this waste is then reprocessed. Here I have provided a kitchen sieve, a bag of flour and a small horse from our animal box.“

All the children touched the flour to feel how ash might feel and blew some off their hands.
„You have to be careful not to get it in your eyes and nose,“ said Leo.

Then one of the children sifted copious amounts of flour onto the piece of meadow until the others shouted „stop“. Felix took the horse and put it on the meadow covered with „ash“.
„That’s right,“ he said, „the animals can’t see and eat grass there anymore.“

In my book collection I had found another book in which a volcano in cross-section could be seen quite clearly and in colour. I brought it to our next meeting in the chatter  room.

Situation 9 – Chatter room / Book of the volcano in cross-section / Painting a picture

We looked very closely at the picture and the children commented, „There’s lava flowing down the mountain.“
One of the boys said, „And at the bottom that’s called magma.“
„Yes,“ I replied, „and when the pressure from below becomes too great, the volcano explodes and there is an eruption. I found an experiment on how we can build a volcano ourselves.
I still have to buy a few things for it, then we’ll set it up, but maybe everyone could draw a picture of a volcano until our next meeting?“

The children agreed. „Can we join you in the group then?“ „Of course. Let me know when you have time.“
They then thought about painting with watercolours, what colours they would need and that they would also need to mix some.

Felix, who is actually a painting sourpuss, painted a super picture in collaboration with the other children, which he didn’t want to leave to me because he was so proud of it. He took it home and his mother framed it.

Situation 10 – The volcano experiment

Now that I had all the things together, I invited the four of them to the experiment. The children were full of enthusiasm.
„Look what materials I have provided.“

They pointed and named:
„This is vinegar,“ said Felix, „you mustn’t drink it or you’ll hurt your throat and stomach.“
This is dangerous, we agreed with what he said.
„It’s clay,“ said Leo, „I’m sure we’ll mould something with it.“
„Yes and what?“ asked I.
„Definitely the volcano,“ he replied and I nodded.
„It’s red paint,“ said one of the boys.
„Yes, do you know what they call that colour, you can eat it too?“
„Ah do you mean the one we used to dye Easter eggs with?“
„Yes,“ I said.
He said: „No, I’ve forgotten what the colour is called.“
Leo quietly added: „Food colouring“.
„Yes, that’s right,“ he said.

„Surely you all know this?“ I asked, holding up a bottle of dishwashing liquid.
„Well sure“ they all said, „this is for washing dishes.“

Felix: „Konny, why are there syringes on the table?“
„Because we’re about to need them to drip a liquid into our volcano.“
(We got the disposable syringes as a gift at a first aid course for children, they are great for dripping).

„We also have baking powder at home,“ said one of the boys.
„Can you read already?“ I asked.
„No, but my mother bought a packet like that too.“
„We need the pencil to make a hole, the vent, in our volcano,“ I explained.
„I see,“ said Leo, „I was already thinking we should draw, but I couldn’t see any leaves.“

„Now everyone gets a thick lump of clay, which you shape like a cone, that is, a pointed mountain. Then you take the pencil and push it into the cone up to the mark at the top, that will be our vent.“
While the children were busily shaping their volcano, I mixed food colouring with vinegar in a jar.
„Done!“ they called out one by one. They looked at their masterpieces.

„Now take your syringe and try to put air in and out. That’s how we check if they work, because if one of them is stuck, we can’t get any drops out.“
When that was done, I gave the next instructions:
„Now you carefully draw the coloured vinegar solution into the syringe up to the first line and place it next to you.“ This worked just fine.

„What do we have to do now?“ I asked. „What’s left of the material?“
„Baking powder,“ said Felix.
„Yeah, what do we need that for, baking cakes?“ I quipped.
„No!“ everyone shouted in chorus, giggling.
„Maybe we should put it in the volcano,“ said Leo.
„Yes,“ I replied, „and what after that?“
Felix: „The vinegar solution.“
„Then try it out.“

Now a difficulty arose. The baking powder must only be filled halfway into the chimney; I had brought a small measuring spoon and a funnel, but had forgotten to put the things on the table.
When the boys tried to fill in the baking powder, they protested:
„You can’t do that, it all falls down beside it and you can’t see where half of the chimney is either,“ the boys said.

„Oh, sorry, I forgot to put the funnel, which is very important, the measuring spoon and a brush for the washing-up liquid on the table,“ I said and fetched the things.
I cleaned the volcanoes with the brush so that the children could try it again. The measuring spoon held the amount of baking soda they needed.

„Finally it worked,“ Leo said.
„Shall we drop in the vinegar now?“ asked one of the boys.
„No,“ I said, „use the brush to drip the washing-up liquid on the crater.“
They did so.
„And now you add 6 drops of vinegar solution – you can already count to 6, can’t you?“ I asked.
They all giggled, „Ha ha, it’s baby easy.“

Then they waited anxiously.

„Look, look, red lava is already coming out of my volcano!“

„Cool!“ said the other boys, „It worked!“

They tried it with sherbet powder instead of baking powder and were fascinated by the result.
„Do you know why it bubbled out of your volcano?“ I asked.
„Because of the baking powder,“ said two boys, „when liquid gets on it, bubbles form, it gets bigger.“
„Very well observed,“ I told them. „And where does the foam come from that looks like lava?“
„Well, from the washing-up liquid.“
„Yeah, right.“
„You know,“ said one of the boys, „we did the same thing with baking soda and vinegar in the experiment with the fire extinguisher.“
„That’s right,“ I said.

Reflection on the experiments

The children were very interested in the experiments and worked together as a team, they complemented each other, exchanged knowledge among themselves, planned joint actions and showed joy about the work they had done, for which they received recognition when they told their kindergarten groups about it.

For myself, it was a lot of fun to see with how much perseverance and in what ways they dealt with this topic. There is more to come, of course, as the volcano in Iceland is still active. We are curious.

A mother reported to me that her son did the same experiment again in the afternoon with his friends from the neighbourhood – and everyone was amazed at him.

I believe that I have achieved my goals through set impulses. Felix now often plays with the older children and benefits from their knowledge and skills, which he in turn brings to his own group in games and conversations.

Course leader’s comment:
It was probably no coincidence that Felix chose the two years older Leo as his play partner; Leo proved to be a clever boy in the project who already knows a lot.

See also:

Playfellows and Friends of Gifted Children


Date of publication in German: March 2015
Copyright © Kornelia Eppmann, see Imprint