"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rube Goldberg Machine

You may remember this little boy's monster trap which was really a Rube Goldberg machine. I discovered two really nifty websites that you might want to use with your students to spark even more interest in making their own machine.

The first is by FOSS, a science company. The students can make adjustments to make the machine work.

The second is by PBS, called ZOOM, and again allows for student's to make adjustments to make the machine work.

One very important skill for children to learn is that most great inventions didn't work the first time. You have to study it and make revisions. If all things worked easily, we wouldn't have those old sayings like..."try, try again", and "practice makes perfect"...

Perserverence is a value that many of this generation have a hard time with, because they have grown up in a fast paced, instant answer time. It is a value that is going to have to be taught. This would be a great way to do it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Building Structures Part 2

Here is the next installment to Building Structures.

By just allowing the primary students to have that time to build, experiment, and then share is great engineering. The way the teacher used the science and math vocabulary to reinforce their knowledge was worthy of noting. However, the story continued with the scientific inquiry natually unfolding.

The teacher noticed that the students were preoccupied with only building straight up. She put their focus into a question. "How tall can we build?"

She took their drawings and photographs she had taken of their structures during center time, and asked for predictions. Their responses included numbers or height in relation to something (as tall as the door). She recorded all of their ideas. They worked in groups at the center to build each day. At the end of their build time, she helped them measure their towers. They recorded the number of blocks and then compared heights.

In one of their sharing sessions, the students were able to see that the tallest towers had more blocks. In another session, they discussed which type of blocks (cardboard vs unit blocks) made the tallest towers.

By encouraging the students to talk about their findings and use evidence from their work to support it, the kindergarteners were addressing many scientific skills. They had many aspects such as collecting and recording data modeled for them. Sounds like a great idea!!!

When the interest finally waned, they held an open house to share all of their findings. I would think parents would have quite impressed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Building Structures Part 1

I read an interesting article, "The Science and Mathematics of Building Structures" by Ingrid Chalufour (an early childhood curriculum developer). Ms. Chalufour reflects on a intergrated unit that she was a part of in a kindergarten classroom. It caught my attention because of its relation to our upcoming engineering standards.

After identifying the standards that were to be addressed, a building center was added to the classroom.

The math standards to be addressed were shape, pattern, measurement, and spatial relationships. Science standards to be addressed were stability, balance, and property of materials. Of course, scientific inquiry would be a huge part of the building center.

The teacher started with foam and cardboard blocks, tabletop blocks of various shapes and sizes...(hollow as well). She took away her Legos in the beginning. Her experience with the Legos was that the children rarely built anything but small structures where everything fit together perfectly. She hoped that by removing them the children would experiment more. Her goal was for them to explore the kinds of building materials and the balance and stability of their structures.

Just like in a previous post about bird-watching, she displayed books and posters of structures for the children to look at. There are so many to choose from ...Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Tokyo's Sky Tree, the Taj Mahal, and so many more.

Tokyo's Sky Tree Tower

To introduce the center, they worked with the blocks as a class to explore how they balanced and how different designs and the kind of material could affect the structures' stability. I think this is a crucial point in why it was a successful center.

As part of the introduction lessons, the teacher introduced a materials and provided the students time to wonder, question, and just work with the materials talking about shape, stability, and balance. For example, in one lesson they learned that triangle-shaped blocks don't work as a base if you are trying to place a rectangular shaped object on the point. They learned that two triangles laid on their flat sides made a square block, but they weren't strong when you tried to stand them up as a square.

Each day they discussed something new along with what the children were discovering in the center. The talk that occurred in share time allowed them to learn from each other and strengthen their science talk. They learned how to build strong structures, what materials were best, and which blocks made good bases. As the students shared, the teacher commented using science and math terms. What a great way to model that vocabulary!

I am going to make this a two part post, because the story didn't stop here, even though what has happened thus far is good stuff. You must tune in again for the second part of the story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

States of Matter Video

This is a cute video for teaching about solids, liquids, and gasses.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kindergarten: Our next generation of engineers.

Engineering standards are on their way, but I am confident by next year that the students in our DoDEA labs will be ready for them. I wrote about the addition of the engineering standards to our upcoming revisions in the science standards here. Most kindergarten children could be described as little engineers the moment they enter their classrooms. They are ready to build, explore, and discover new things.

These two students worked together to build quite a lengthy project. "They had a doghouse as well as a place for the dog to stand so that he could be a guard dog."

 At Florosa today, two groups of kindergarteners visited the lab. Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Koch brought their classes in to work with the LEGOs. They did an amazing job of working together and sharing in the building of all sorts of things with their Playhouse set. This was their first visit, so we talked about what engineers do and how to work cooperatively. The students explored all of the pieces and built whatever they wanted. The goal was to learn what pieces were in the set and how these pieces fit together, as well as the function of the pieces. Teamwork was stressed in the building process.

These two girls worked very cooperatively together and planned all of their steps together.

The creations were amazing, but even more than the actual creations... was the discussion that took place between the students and what they shared about each of their creations.

 These students had built stairs and had even made a pattern with the colors of the steps.

The two boys in this group had worked on a playground. I loved their tree. There were no pictures of this that they copied. They thought of this own their own.

Now, the students will go back and do more sharing about their first builds in class. This will fit right in with the common core language standards (LACC.1.SL.1.1 and LACC.1.RI.1.1). I am quite sure they will get to write and illustrate more about their builds:)

I am so excited about our littlest learners. They did an outstanding job and are looking forward to coming back. Next time, they will have a specific idea to build with some specifications to it. I am sure they are ready for the challenge.