Blog: Nurturing Children Together

Machines Project: Part III

 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


The Machines Project: Part II

(This is second of a two part article. For Part I, follow this link)

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.