This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.
Engineering with my preschoolers.
Let me share about one excited preschooler - I'll call her Laurel.
Laurel loves to create.
She rushed over to the table to be one of my first engineers.
I handed the small group blue paper to draw their 'blueprints', designing what they wanted to build. Laurel declared, as she drew, "I'm making a ball. No, I'm making a monster. Yes, I'm making a monster."
She searched through the recyclables and fixated on a paper towel roll. I encouraged her to gather several pieces of cardboard, but, no, this was the only recyclable she wanted to use - one paper towel roll.
What she needed was tape - lots of tape, lots of different colors of tape. She worked tirelessly, using red tape, black tape, pink tape, yellow tape. She covered the paper towel roll with tape. "Yellow is my favorite!" she declared, wrapping this fourth color around and around the roll.
What next captivated Laurel's interest was all the found objects - especially, the jar of blue items. There were many, many small blue foam 'snowflakes' and she needed these in the monster. She picked up a few and put them inside the roll, only to find out - immediately - that what went inside the top of the paper towel roll fell out of the bottom.
"It comes out here!" she exclaimed, irritated.
Me - "What might you use to stop it from doing that?"
"Oh. A snowflake. Yes, a snowflake. I'm going to put it on the bottom. To stop it." She chose one of the foam snowflakes as the base [it measured almost exactly!], securing it with more colored tape. This took some doing. She asked for my help holding the small snowflake, while she cut the tape.
[From an adult perspective, this might seem so insignificant - working with a paper towel roll, adding tape, trying to close or block the base opening…however, consider for a moment the hard work of this task for a three year old, cutting and manipulating the tape, without it getting all twisted, while working with the round edges of the paper towel roll.]
Laurel persisted and finally covered the bottom successfully. She tested the new base by throwing in a snowflake. Then another. Then she added in lots more found objects from the jar. Many many snowflakes and … "Oh, look a key! He needs a key!"
I try to figure out what she's thinking about, to see what is her purpose…I ask, "Why are you putting those inside? Is the monster taking those things?"
She doesn't answer me; she is too busy searching for objects to put into this paper towel roll. Finally, when it is full to the brim, she declares, "Now I need to cover the top."
Still trying to figure out what she is planning, I interject - "You are covering the top? You are covering both ends?"
"I'm going…I'm going…I'm going," she begins, but then she is lost in thought and action, making a cover for the other end of the paper towel roll. Finally she continues,
"He put some keys inside. He doesn't have anymore. He doesn't have anymore monsters. He just have one friend. And snowflakes. Those things are his family."
"Let me show you," she declares, and she tears off the tape at both ends and shakes the paper towel roll. "See these! Look!" Many found objects fall out.
Laurel notices a few things still in the roll; "Oh, it is stuck." The next thing I know, she is unwinding all the tape from the outside of the roll, undoing the taped base, deconstructing the whole thing. Within seconds, we are back to:
A blank paper towel roll.
Laurel sets it down on the table and scampers off to play dress up.
Welcome to design and construction by preschoolers.
An engaging, involved, focused, demanding, rigorous activity,
Thank goodness I sat and chatted with her while she worked (and took notes)…otherwise, I wouldn't have realized Laurel had created anything!
The following photos are not "Laurel," however, they illustrate the work involved in working with tape and cardboard recyclables when you are only a preschooler. Enjoy!