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Digging for Gold

Exploring Cause and Effect

Theorists such as Rogoff and Vygotsky have highlighted how children are active and involved learners who thrive on experimenting and "hands on" learning. It is important to provide children with opportunities to engage their curiosity and inquisitive natures, and to demonstrate the skills of hypothesis, experimentation, observation and analysis.

"Children are naturally curious and continually engage in exploration and play. They are intrigued by cause-and-effect phenomena and delight in being surprised. Cause and effect simply refers to the relationship between an action and its outcome." 

Providing children with opportunities to explore cause-and-effect phenomena, including the wonders of nature, is important to support their growth and development.

Excerpt from Exploring Science and Mathematics in a Child's World, by G.A. Davis, J.D. Keller, 2009 edition, p. 4-5.

You will need:

  • Tray

  • "Treasure"- such as sparkly pom poms, beads, rhinestones

  • Ice cube tray (or spheres like the ones here from Kmart)

  • Hairdryer

  • Bowl of salt and a spoon

  • Jug of hot water

  • Sunshine

  • Stop watch

What to do:

Step 1

Place treasure in ice cube trays or spheres, fill with water and freeze in a freezer.


Step 2

Set up experiment with materials listed.

Step 3

Having read the story of Betty the Yeti, draw the children's attention to the page where Arctic Hare is digging in the snow and ice. Ask "Do you think here is gold or treasure under the snow and ice? What kind of treasure might there be? What kind of treasure would you like to find?"

Step 4

Show the children the treasure trapped in the ice cubes. Ask them "How could we get the treasure out? What tools could we use? How can we make ice melt quickly'" Explain that this will be their job today.

Step 5

Show the children the different pieces of equipment and ask them to identify what the items are. Ask the children to predict which item will make the ice melt the fastest. Ask the children to identify which item will make the ice melt the slowest. You could put these in a table for graphing later.


Step 6

Work through each material- Hot water, Hairdyer, Salt and Sunshine, using the stop watch to time how long it takes . I would suggest doing the Hot Water and Hairdryer first, as these melt the ice relatively quickly. Document time taken for ice to melt and the treasure to be revealed.


Step 7

Salt- time using the stopwatch for a while and notice that the ice is melting more slowly, so keep the timer going and move onto final experiment. Document time taken


Step 8

The experiment with Sunshine is somewhat weather and temperature dependent.  On a hot day in Australia, the ice would melt pretty quickly, but on a Winter day in colder climates it might not melt at all! This leads to an interesting discussion about what it is about "sunshine" causes ice  to melt. Again, use the timer to monitor time and document the results.

Step 9

Revisit the children's earlier predictions and see which of the hypotheses were correct. Graph the data in a column graph with "item used" on the horizontal axis and "Time taken" on the vertical axis.