Sunday, March 15, 2015

Simple Machines and Force: The Investigation

All year, ever since the beginning, I noticed that the students enjoyed creating things such as inclined planes, wheel and axels, and levers in the forms of ramps, catapults and creatve vehicles.

I told them these were called simple machines and that I had noticed they were very interested in them! When I asked if they would like to dig deeper and inquire about simple machines, they were very excited!  We already have a good supply of materials for engineering, but I set out some different materials for them to explore.

They were very excited to explore and see what they noticed! 

I cannot tell you how many times these kids failed, problem solved, failed again, collaborated, failed and persisted as they explored ways to create and use simple machines! They truly learned to look at failure as a positive learning experience in order to help them figure out why something didn't work and how they could change it and try again! Look at the excitement at the end of the video below of the children when one of their friends was finally successful after many design changes!

During an investigation of Inclined planes we created a challenge. They had to create an inclined plane that would roll the cylinder right to the end of the ribbon.  They observed each other and used what they noticed to adjust the board and see if they could do it. 

Look at how excited they got when a friend finally did it!  They noticed that the cylinder went faster or slower depending on the angle of the inclined plane! 

This brought up a question. We have been discussing the terms "effort," "force" and "load."  They learned that simple machines helped us use less effort. They learned effort was force and there were two kinds of force: push and pull...but no one pushed or pulled the cylinder down the ramp! This brought up the discussion of gravity being a force that pulls! They applied this knowledge and commented often about it as they created and played with lego and geoboard marble mazes. 

They also explored the force of gravity and inclined planes by creating marble paintings and drip paintings! I love combining art and science! 

They developed an interest in Rube Goldburg Machines! They noticed when observing videos that sometimes the balls went up ramps and wondered how since they felt gravity wouldn't allow that! They explored this concept and took it as a challenge. They created new ramps to figure it out and found out that the force of push could be stronger than the pulling force of gravity on the ball. 

They tried creating Rube Goldburg Machines. These machines are a chain of events that do something for you.  They really had to problem solve to make these work! The video below shows one one of many that were created.  It was supposed to knock over the blocks at the end, but she still had some problem solving to do!

The amount of dedication, problem solving, persistence, collaboration, and grit that these kids have shown during this inquiry has amazed me!  These kids have these 21st Century Skills and are using them constantly!  

The kids have picked a simple machine to become an expert in and are hunting for simple machines around our school. Their next steps are to organize their data  and then create their simple machine! We are hoping to do an open house or presentation to show our simple machines to other classes and parents, but with Spring Break and conferences coming up I know that will be difficult! We will try our best!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Bakery Project

One of our friends came up with the idea of opening up a cake bakery in our Home Living Area. We thought it was a great idea so she created a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to be involved. We sat together and created a list of what we would need and they went to work!

First they wanted a beautiful sign with the name of their bakery on it. With this they worked on literacy skills, collaboration and creativity. They had to discuss what was appropriate for their sign and agree on colors and what type of pictures to add. 

A fantastic teacher from the Columbus area came to visit our room just as this idea was taking shape. She had bought us this beautiful book to thank us for letting her visit our room. 

As we read this wonderful story, we came across this picture of a bakery display window! As soon as we got to this page, they noticed it and were inspired to create one for their cake bakery! 

To do this, we had to do some rearranging. We love the new set-up and may keep it this way!

We sat down and discussed how they wanted to organize and design their display window. They decided on layered cakes, cupcakes and cookies. We looked at pictures on the Internet for inspiration. Here they had to use the 21st Century Skills of creativity, coming up with a plan, persistence, dealing with frustration, and learning through failure! They really showed how well these skills have developed over this year!

Since we used some of our loose parts to create the cakes and the display window was right by the door where we line up, the kids learned very fast that they had to learn how to be aware of their bodies and control their bodies when we were near the display window! The cakes were very carefully balanced and it didn't take much for them to fall! I was very proud of their self control here!

The next step was to create menus. Here they had to use literacy skills and we had to research proper prices for bakery items. They learned about the dollar sign and how to write down prices using decimals. 

Apparently you can buy poop for $5.00 at our bakery (pop)! Plenty of menus were created!

They created money and sorted coins into a cash register. This introduduced them to the names of coins and provided practice for sorting by attributes.  

They learned how to set a table properly. 

We researched and discussed all of the positions needed to run a bakery. They took on the roles of manager, servers, cashiers, and bakers! They created a sign for the waiting area and then invited a few students into the bakery so that they could practice before their grand opening! They took this practicing seriously and practiced cake decorating and serving for over a week before opening!  

Finally the bakery opened!!! 

So many literacy and math skills along with social studies standards were used in this project! The great thing about teaching this way through play, inquiry, and projects is that the kids don't even think of it as learning and practicing skills!  They were the ones who initiated the learning. They needed to use certain skills so they used them. They needed certain information so they took initiative to find out what they needed. They needed to write and read to create and use menus and signs, so they used those skills without even thinking about it! They needed prices for the menus so they asked about them and used their new knowledge! They needed money so they asked about it and used their new knowledge! They needed information on goods and services provided in a bakery which falls into our Social Studies Standards. The only thing I had to do was provide materials and be there to guide them to resources to answer their questions! I can't even imagine how far the upper grades from first grade on up could take a project like this! So much math, literacy, research, social sciences, probably even chemical sciences if they could really bake could be taught even at the higher levels! Project Based Learning is definitely not limited to early childhood! If you are a teacher in the elementary schools or beyond, you have to give this type of teaching a try! Once you try it, you will never go back!