What are Waves?


Knowledge is constructed, not transferred. – Peter Senge

What even is a wave? Is the water moving along the horizon or rippling in place? If the water is moving, how much of it is actually moving? This is what we set to find out as we continued deconstructing our knowledge relating to wind.

Last time we experimented with moving water with wind, they decided that we just needed stronger wind. Our Atelierista, K, found a new fan for us to use. When we first arrived at the studio J exclaimed that this time the fan will be stronger. When K asked him how we will know if the fan is stronger he stated, “The blades spin faster. There will be bigger waves.”

When asked what is a wave they stated:

“A wave is when the top of the water moves.”

“When the bottom is low and the top is high.”

“The water moves.”

“It’s a beautiful thing.”


When asked how long they think it would take a wave to move from one side of the sensory table to the other, they guessed between 3 and 7 minutes. We turned on a timer, dropped a bit of purple water color on one side of the water table, and turned on the fan.

It ended up taking 1 minutes and 30 seconds for the color to reach the other side of the table, and the group cheered it on as it began to spread.

“It’s going so fast!”

“Look, look! It’s racing!”

“Go! Go! Go! You can do it!”

Last time we experimented, we added gems to see if they would move in the water – and they didn’t. We gave it another go, following through on their theory that they would move if we had stronger wind.


We stared down the gems and willed them to move – but alas, they never did.

“Gems just don’t move.”

After, we sat down together and I asked them why we did that? Why is having a model of something helpful? In fact, what even is a model?

“A model is something that you make to show you made an experiment.”

“To show people.”…”Like your mommas or zazas.”

Each child then chose something they would like to make a model of, in order to show others. They also said what they would need in order to build their model.

T: A map of a tornado going towards a house. With glue and paper.

F: A volcano. A strawberry plant. Magic would turn it into a volcano. Ha! Or soil.

M: A hurricane eye going near near. Some wind, glue, paper, paint, and markers.

J: Sandstorm. A bottle and sand and wind.

M: Volcano. Clay.

They then each sketched out what they want their model to look like.

I hope to bring the group to the River soon to do some Pooh Races  – in which you throw sticks into the river and watch them race down the river, under the bridge, and onto the other side. I wonder how this information will fit into their current information on why the gems won’t move. We have done sink and float experiments before, but not with wind as a major factor.

As we move forward and through our deconstructing phase, I am curious where this project will continue to go. Will it stay on this path of scientific inquiry, or will it lead itself to a more abstract place? We have introduced books to the classroom that personify wind in a variety of ways, and I wonder if those will impact their exploration of what wind is, and how we can capture it.

One seeks to equip a child with deeper, more gripping, and subtler ways of knowing the world and himself. – Jerome Bruner

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