Experience is the best way to learn. The fourth graders at the Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens started off the year with a science unit on matter. The girls explored triple-beam balances to understand mass. They learned about the three states of matter. The girls studied a solid ice cube and then a melting ice cube, noting properties of each state. One teacher commented, “It’s amazing to see the joy of learning light up my students’ faces! They love when the lessons become real, with a hands-on component!”
They ended off the section with a bang! The girls mixed solid cornstarch with liquid water to create – slime? Ooblek? What is it? Whatever you call the resulting substance, it was loads of fun! The girls mixed and touched, let the goo ooze through their fingers, and held it in their hands. “This is the best day ever!” an excited student declared.
So, is it solid or liquid? Neither. Both. The technical answer is: a non-Newtonian liquid. Interestingly, the girls applied their learning and discussed a halachic application of this concept. After washing for a meal, some people will make a SheHaKol on a candy before eating ice cream. Why? Ice cream is not a distinct solid or a distinct liquid. If it was a dessert food, we would make a brachah on it. If it was a drink, we would not. Since it’s neither, we make a brachah on something else to be sure we’re covered.
The very real take-home message: Some substances don’t fit exactly into one of the three states of matter; and even more importantly, science and learning new things are fun!