For the culminating stage of our machines project, the children planned, then built, a model of a machine with scrap materials such as boxes, buttons, and tubes. Some children stayed with the candy factory idea. Others are moved on to ideas from their own imagination, or twists on appliances or known machines. First, the teachers sat down with each small group and showed them the materials we could use to build our model machines. Then, the children brainstormed ideas with the group. They talked about parts of the candy factory, machines they enjoyed using or seeing used at home, and machines that they imagined. The ideas that came out of this were amazing! The children then moved to the tables and drew what they thought their machine would look like. The teachers were there for guidance if they got stuck. Each child then dictated the parts of their plan to the teacher, including what materials they thought they would use. In their next project time session, the teachers had all of the materials laid out, along with adhesives like masking tape and tacky glue. The children followed their plans for two project time sessions (about 30 minutes) and built their machines with help from the teachers and each other! The children were very proud of what they came up with and constructed. Many of them took their final machine home and played with it with their family, or put it on display. Below you will see each plan and the machine that was constructed from the plan. This was a wonderful project for the class. We are excited to see what projects our class will move on to in the new year! - Senior Preschool teachers Ms. Trisha MIller and Mrs. Lorna Rankin
Our Senior Preschool class (children age 4, or turning 4 in the beginning part of the school year) started out the school year in September with a strong interest in playing “Candy Factory” or “Chocolate Factory”. This play scenario was carried over from the year before by a portion of the children. They were joined this year by some children that were new to the school, but who also enjoyed construction of buildings and spaces.
On the first day, one child said that they would be playing Candy Factory at choice time, and then the play scenario continued in many ways for weeks. It mostly consisted of setting up big blocks in no particular configuration, and then using large wooden trucks and other means to bring materials such as unit blocks, caps, wooden disks, etc. over to dump into their building. A couple children would say they wanted to sell the candy, and if someone came to buy it, they would hand something to them. As the play evolved a bit, some of the children made signs with candy flavors/menus or directions (such as “STOP”) to indicate that it was a factory. The teachers tried to help organize the barrage of materials a bit by asking the children to dump their wares into containers, or even to sort them. Some of the children started to do this. A couple children even started using the ramp blocks to send materials down as part of the factory, and set up some of the materials in a little enclosure to be a shop.
All of this activity influenced others in the classroom immensely. The children who were playing something else often would get involved in passing - being asked to buy a chocolate, or to help with the transport of a material. Their interest would be piqued, and they would end up joining the game.
The teachers of course were involved in helping the children this whole time. We had been carrying on a “Lines and Shapes Project” during our daily project time. This was to help the children to recognize lines in shapes in the world around them in order to advance their drawing skills - so they could express their thoughts and feelings and represent their ideas a little bit more. When that project felt done, we discussed how we could build upon the children’s interest in machines and factories, and also help them to take their ideas to the next level.
We decided to start a Machines Project and to teach the children about simple machines and what they could do with them. We started in the beginning of November by giving each project group of 6 children some planks, big blocks, unit blocks, tubes and other materials. We divided the group into sets of three children with one teacher, and gave them a starting place and a goal. We asked the children if they could use the materials provided in a cooperative effort to move the felt balls from the start to the goal. The cooperative effort of the children with some guidance from the teacher was remarkable. They were able to set up systems of ramps together that moved the balls to the goal - success! The children were very excited about this.
We saw immediate effects of the ball machine activity on the children’s play at choice time. The children started incorporating ramps in different ways into their factory play. They also started using ramps for other kinds of play, such as making a miniature ball moving machine out of unit blocks, or as a bridge for cars. The children also started playing “garbage factory” where they processed garbage and recycling and sent it down ramps to go to different places. One child even built a “saw machine” as part of the factory, using it to cut up the garbage and send it down the ramp. They used the ramps to help sort items into different areas for their factories.
The next week, we introduced a machine that would lift cups up and down on a string at project time. The children enjoyed using the machines and trying to figure out how they worked. When one cup was heavier, it would go down and pull the other cup up, so it was kind of like a scale.
The third simple machine we introduced to the children were levers and fulcrums. We had already seen examples of children using them on the playground when they used logs and branches to create their own see saws.
At project time we chose to introduce two lever and fulcrum activities, first using a game called jumping pixies. Small balls are launched with a lever and fulcrum toward a target in the center of the table. Children had to use just the right amount of force to get the pixie in the target.
The other lever fulcrum activity involved making a lever and fulcrum from wooden sticks and blocks, and using them to launch felt balls in the classroom. Again children enjoyed experimenting with the effects of different amounts of force.
The next machine we introduced to children was a conveyor belt. Given their continued interest in playing factory, we wanted to give children an example of a more organized process they could incorporate into their play. We found an unused roll of contact paper and taped a dowel to each end. At project time we stretched it out across a table and showed the children how to turn one of the dowels while someone else held the other end, making the conveyor belt advance across the table. We then organized other children to place plastic caps on one end of the conveyor belt while two more children collected the caps from the end of the belt and sorted them into boxes. Periodically we would all switch jobs so that everyone would have a turn.
Children were given the opportunity to use the machine project materials in the following days at choice time. We began seeing more process and organization to their play that earlier in the year often centered on dumping classroom materials inside their “factory” or “house”.
Here children at a “recycling center” are sorting materials into separate containers as other children drop them off.
These children have created an “oven” in which “candies” are placed on the ramp and slid into the oven with a long stick, while another child pulls them out of the other side with his stick.
We then found a short video clip for the children to watch showing how chocolates are made. The children were fascinated by a few steps of the process including the filling extruder/slicer, the chocolate curtain, and the cooling tunnel. At project time we revisited the conveyor belt activity, this time adding a tunnel, mixer, and slicer stations.
Again, many children were eager to replay the activity at choice time over the following days, trying out a variety of materials to represent the candies in the factory.
As we progressed in our machines project we continued to see its influence in the children’s play. These children built a ball machine in which there was a defined process to follow in order to play. A large red tube was filled with balls which were then released onto the floor. All players would scramble to pick up the balls and set them rolling down a ramp, then the balls were all gathered up and the process was repeated.