When you tell your elementary students that part of today’s lesson involves destroying a squishy toy, their jaws will probably drop in awe. Sure, they love tearing apart their squishies, but never have they thought that anything could be learned from doing so. Kids like squishies for all kinds of reasons: they come in cute shapes, their texture is pleasant to feel in their hands, and they bring lots of laughs when they are stretched, compacted, and torn to bits. Little did they know that a simple squishy toy was a valuable tool for teaching kids about close observation, making a hypothesis, recording data, and using their five senses.
For this lesson, your students will need a few basic supplies: chart paper or their science notebooks, writing utensils, safety scissors, and measuring tape or a ruler. You will also want to have a few small containers; empty prescription pill bottles will be ideal. The most important supply is the squishy, of course. You will want to have at least one for every student. You will find several inexpensive options at GEDDES. Pick out a variety of shapes and sizes for your students.
After reviewing the five senses with your class, have everyone make a graphic organizer in which they can record their observations about the squishies. Before having students destroy their squishies, have them complete notes on how the sensory toy affects each of the five senses. For sight, students should take notes about the squishy’s visual characteristics. Shape and color should be recorded. Have students make predictions about what its color will be like on the inside after being cut or torn apart. Explain that scientists make a hypothesis based on what data they already know and then conduct experiments to find out if the hypothesis was correct. Students should use what they already know before making any predictions about the characteristics of a squishy’s insides. They can also measure the length of the squishy in its natural state; conversely, they can measure its length when its compacted by one’s hand. Additionally, if squishies resemble something that exists in the real world like an animal, students can compare the squishy with that real thing and make notes about their similarities and differences.
For the sense of sound, students can note any noises the squishy may make as it’s being handled and when it is pressed into a small container. They can also listen for any sounds made when the squishy reshapes itself after being compressed. When it is torn or cut, will any noises be heard? Ask your class what they think will happen.
Next, have students describe how the squishy feels in their hands. Is it soft? Smooth? When it is destroyed, will it have a rough texture on the inside? Will there be any liquids that gush out? For the sense of smell, students will record data about the scent of their squishies. Some squishies are made to be scented and will have a familiar aroma. They may be fruity or floral, but some may not have a distinct smell. Ask students to predict whether the squishy will have a scent to its inside. Have them explain their reasoning.
Of course, you won’t want to have your students putting their squishies in their mouths but ask them what they think the toy would taste like if they tried. Some may say that theirs would probably taste like whatever had been in their own hands prior to handling the squishy. This is a good opportunity to have a discussion with students about using objects as they are intended for the safety and health of the user. You may talk about how misusing these types of things is dangerous. Ask students if they have noticed toys with packaging that recommend one be a certain age for play. You may even want to show students an example and discuss the product’s warning label. Ask students how they can help keep younger siblings safe when toys like these are in the household.
After students have recorded their data about their squishies inside and out, have students record what they learned about squishies that they had not noticed before. You may want to have students each share with the class the observations that they made, especially if a variety of squishies was used during the class. For a closing activity, you can have students design their own squishy and write about the sense appeal theirs would have on a user. You can also ask students how one’s experience could be enhanced if they could change something about the squishy that they destroyed in class. Maybe some would design a kind that would be indestructible!