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

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.

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