Science Friday: Some clouds filled with ice lollipops | Toddlers understand more than you might think about scientific inquiry

By JoAnna Wendel

A cloud full of lollipops may sound like the most delicious carnival treat ever… except this cloud’s lollipops are made of ice. Scientists spotted the lollipop-shaped ice crystals during a research flight in southwest England. The researchers describe their findings in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers, from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, flew through a large cloud system in 2009 to better understand how ice forms at relatively mild temperatures (warmer than minus 30 degrees Celsius). Pure water freezes at around minus 38 degrees Celsius, so scientists want to understand the formation of ice in clouds warmer than this temperature. That information would help them understand processes like precipitation formation, cloud lifetime, and cloud reflectivity.


High Chair Philosophers

Toddlers understand more than you might think about scientific inquiry

Watch young children digging in the dirt at the playground or watering plants at a community garden. What do you think they’re doing? In addition to having fun and getting messy, they’re also starting to grasp fundamental concepts about science and the natural world. Their hands-on experiences are laying the groundwork for deeper learning about environmental science and plant biology, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and trial and error.

But these experiences aren’t just about creating foundations for future learning. In fact, as the new report STEM Starts Early reveals, it turns out that young children—those between birth and eight years old—are already capable of tackling some pretty impressive questions in the domains of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This doesn’t just mean that they can parrot the words “deoxyribonucleic acid” with a little practice; more profoundly, young children are in a near-continuousprocess of conducting evidence-based, systematic experiments to help them understand how their mysterious environments work.



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