Return to Five in a Row: Science with Lentil.

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The other night, rocking in Daddy’s lap in the darkened bedroom, Colin looked up at Michael and said, “You know what, Daddy? I think Lentil is fiction. The things could have happened in real life, but you can usually tell it’s fiction from the cover.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we use Five in a Row. That joy of inquiry.

We’ve been studying Lentil by Robert McCloskey this week, and Colin has been reveling in this odd story about a harmonica-playing boy who saves the day when his town’s celebration is threatened by a lemon-sucking antagonist. (Really.)

Lentil lends itself to some great science activities centered on the senses. On Tuesday, we looked at our taste buds in the mirror and talked about the four primary tastes: sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. I set up a plate with little piles of sugar, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder, plus a wedge of lemon, and we tasted all four.

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Then we tried an experiment. Colin lay on his back with his mouth open and his eyes closed. I dipped a wet Q-tip in each of the flavors in turn, and touched the Q-tip to the roof of his mouth. He was completely unable to identify the taste. Then I touched the Q-tip to his tongue, or even just let him bring his tongue to the roof of his mouth, and he was able to tell sweet from sour, salty from bitter. Without a doubt, those little tongue bumps are critical for the sense of taste! That was a really cool and effective demonstration.

Lentil practices his harmonica in the bathtub, “because the tone was improved one hundred percent.” We’ve experimented with that aspect of the senses, too. Of course Colin had to try playing his harmonica in the bathtub, like Lentil. We also did a direct comparison between playing the harmonica into the blankets and pillows of a bed and playing it in a tiled shower stall. “The Magic School Bus Inside a Haunted House” (link is to the full video) helped us understand that sound is produced by vibrations, which make waves that can bounce off the tiled bathroom or be muffled by soft cloth bedding. We spent some time testing the sound-is-vibration thing, too: singing with a hand on our throats to feel our larynx vibrate, and seeing how the sound of whacking a metal rail changes when someone holds it tightly to reduce vibration.

Today we’ll finish up our study of sound with an activity Michael devised back when Alex studied Lentil: sprinkling salt on the head of an improvised drum and seeing how the grains “dance” when exposed to a nearby sound.

Five in a Row is so much fun.

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3 Responses to Return to Five in a Row: Science with Lentil.

  1. tchemgrrl says:

    We were just reading Lentil last night! It’s hard to take Old Sneep seriously as a villain.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Love these ideas! Trying to plan out what we are going to row, this sounds like too much fun not to do it soon. :)

  3. Deb says:

    Really fun to be back reading about Five in a Row again.


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