Over the next several days the children continued to think about where the puddle goes when it evaporates. G articulated her theory in drawing. She explained:
The puddles don’t go up in the air. They vibrate, and then they go back to the
cloud, and then it rains.
When we brought G's theory to meeting, H declared, "I know it's true, because I saw it in a book, and it said puddles evaporate, so that they go back up into the clouds."
"Does anybody have a different theory?" I asked.
LW said, "My theory is that the clouds vibrate, because the wind blows the air up into a ball of air, and then they go onto the ground, and then they go up."
We drew LW’s theory on the SMART board, and as we drew, LW clarified her theory. This is one of the purposes of asking the children to draw their theories. The act of representing their ideas supports, clarifies, and expands those ideas. But the children are new to this process so early in the year, and so we make collaborative drawings at first: a child poses her theory and I act as scribe at first, drawing what, where, and how the child dictates. It rarely takes long each year for the children to take over this making of theories visible.
LW's theory, clarified and expanded:
A ball of air comes down from the cloud to the puddle. When the ball slides down from the cloud it catches the water and puts it in the ball. Then it goes into the cloud and starts over again. My mommy told me this.
Then LM posed her theory, also clarified through drawing.
There’s a rainbow and a puddle. The wind blows the puddle to the side. The rainbow gets longer, into the puddle. Since the rainbow went into the puddle, the puddle goes all the way up there, and then a cloud up there goes down and gets the puddle. The clouds can’t go down unless there’s something like a waterfall or something. A rainbow goes down like that. It takes a long time to get back up. The puddle goes up to the cloud really slow. And then when the puddle gets to the cloud, then it rains again.
Then we asked all the children to draw their theories. “It might be like LM or LW’s, but most likely it’s not," I said. "You can draw your own theory about what happens to the puddle when it dries up.”
As the children sat together to draw their individual theories, most incorporated the agents of evaporation upon which they have agreed: rainbow and clouds. Some added the wind. And some included agents of magic (fairies) and anthropomorphized the puddle ("The puddle goes back down to his home.") But just about all the theories were cyclical, an aspect of the process they not only agree on but seem to understand.
Here are the children's theories of where the puddle goes when it evaporates.
The children sustained their interest in puddles for several weeks. Then, on our first trip to our school's forest, they found a large puddle in a hole created by the uprooting of a tree. Four children stayed with the puddle for quite some time, exploring the possibilities for enlarging it and spanning it, hypothesizing about and testing the suction in the mud below, and discussing whether the puddle represented the inside of the earth. The video clip of the children's exploration of the puddle, below, is a bit long (5:29), but I think worth watching to the end.