Build On!

Driver’s license, check. Hands and feet, check. Something to drive? Not quite yet!  This morning’s message asked the children to think about what type of vehicle they wished to make.  Their decision became more complicated with the additional possibility of either creating on your own, or with a friend. They had to do some serious social negotiation and practice the essential skill of perspective taking  to make a group project a reality

Each child also had to think quite abstractly to design a vehicle from our various boxes.  Not one child said, “The box can’t be a car!” or any other such silly thing.  Instead, they envisioned a plan and drew their first draft. We had representations of trains, airplanes, fire trucks, and cars.  They chose boxes based on size, but not on shape.  We’ll have to see how they adapt to the confines of the length and height of the boxes.

Tasty Mathematics

A large collection of paper ice cream cones arrived in the math center this week. During small group time, the children have been finding ways to group them together. We’ve been recording their attribute choices to find out what the children value in their ice cream. The sorting rules they have used so far are:

  • Colors (pink, brown, white, yellow, blue, and green)
  • Cone Shape (triangle and rectangle)
  • # of Scoops (1, 2, 3,  and “a lot!”)
  • Size (big and small)

This morning, the ice cream cones were requested during choice time. After dumping them out, sorting them all, and mixing them back up, the children decided that we should use these for our dessert shop. We discussed what happens when a customer approaches the window at an ice cream shop and the role of the worker.

Child: Welcome to our shop. What ice cream do you want?
Me:  I’d like one scoop of vanilla, please.
Child: (searches through the pile to find the right one)

Searching for the right order.

Child: Here you go.
Me: I need to give you money, right?
Child: Yes.  One money.

Paying “one money” for a single scoop.

We decided to use the magnet square blocks as our cash since they were handy and easy to count. At first, all of the ice cream cones were “one money”. When I began ordering cones with eight scoops, the children caught on quickly to the need for higher costs. After negotiation, we finally decided that cones would be $1.00 per scoop. At first, they attempted to charge me $1300 for a cone with one scoop, chocolate dip, and peanuts, but we found out that the pricing on that item was a little too steep. Eventually, the sharp sales-children bargained for one dollar for each add-on plus the original one dollar per scoop.

Counting scoops.

Later, the counting bears were added to the mix as “Gummi Bears”.  They, too, were one dollar per bear.  We practiced more one to one correspondence by placing each bear on a “money magnet” to make sure we had the right amount of payment for a handful of bears.

Isn’t it exciting when the children grab an idea and run with it?

Inventor’s Dream Center

“Welcome to the center for inventor’s dreams.”  Or at least that should have been the way I introduced today’s art center.  Maybe it should have been, “Let’s see what we can make with a bunch of junk!”  Instead, I simply invited the children to invent their own robot using any of the found supplies we’ve collected over the past few weeks.  So far, we have two first drafts.  I think they show lots of promise.

Robot Experiments

Our fuzzy little robot friends have been cause for much experimentation this week.  The children have been building structures to house them, race them, and test their abilities.  After some attempts at allowing the Zhu Zhus to roll on the carpet, it was decided that smooth surfaces are easiest for them to maneuver on.  Luckily, we have some large flat blocks that make a perfect floor.  The arch shaped blocks made a great bunker for the robots to “sleep” in until they were ready to be on the move.  A few attempts at ramps were also adjusted until the children found a way to butt the pieces together in a such a way that the Zhu Zhus’ wheels didn’t get stuck.

“He goes down the slide and through the door and into his playground”

A separate experiment involved speed.  Three children were taking turns placing a Zhu Zhu on the top of a ramp.  They then tried pushing the various buttons in turn to see what would happen when they let go.  Usually, it made a noise and then rolled quickly down the ramp.  Sometimes it fell off the side and sometimes it made it to the bottom and pushed the “blocking” block out of the way.  Interestingly, one of the Zhu Zhus had a second speed.  One of the children discovered  if she pressed the back button in a special way, it made the Zhu Zhu go very, very slowly down the ramp.  Then they tried to replicate the results with a different robot, but it didn’t work.  After much frustration and many attempts, I thought they would give up the process with the second Zhu Zhu, but I was pleasantly surprised that their hope and interest did not flag.

“I pressed my fingers like that [uses three fingers to press the back button of the robot], and made it go slow.”

“This one doesn’t go slow.”

“Let me show you.” [She pushes down in same manner and it goes fast, down the ramp.  She flips it over, inspects the underside and tries again.]

Although the second Zhu Zhu never did “learn” how to go slow, the experimentation, cooperation, and willingness to meet a challenge was very exciting to see.

Robolox and the Three Bots

Yesterday, we began a discussion about robots.  We were so inspired, we decided to remake a popular story as a “new-and-improved” robot version.  Here’s what we came up with:

Robolox and the Three Bots

"The Whole Bot Family"

Once upon a time there were three bots, Papa Bot, Mama Bot, and Baby Bot.  One morning, Mama Bot made metal sandwiches for breakfast, but they were too hot to eat, so the family went for a walk.  While they were gone, Robolox knocked on their door.  When no one answered, Robolox went inside.

Robolox saw three sandwiches sitting on the table and thought about how hungry she was.   First, she tried Papa Bot’s sandwich, but it was too crunchy.  Then, she tried Mama Bot’s sandwich, but it was too oily.  Next, she tried Baby Bot’s sandwich and it was just right.  She ate it all up!

When she’d finished, Robolox began to wander around the house.  As she arrived in the living room, she saw three charging stations.  First, she tried Papa Bot’s charger, but it was too buzzy.  Then, she tried Mama Bot’s charger, but it was too strong.  Next, she tried Baby Bot’s charger and it was just right.  She played and played and played in the charger until it sparked and fell apart.

"The part where Robolox went into the Baby Bot's bed closet."

Feeling rather tired after this episode, Robolox climbed the stairs to find the sleeping chambers.  She found three closets with beds inside them.  First, she tried Papa Bot’s closet, but it was too big.  Then, she tried Mama Bot’s closet, but it was too narrow.  Next, she tried Baby Bot’s closet and it was just right.  She stepped inside and powered down right away.

While Robolox dozed upstairs, the three Bots returned home.  Papa Bot said, “Somebody’s been eating MY sandwich!”  Mama Bot said, “Somebody’s been eating MY sandwich!” And Baby Bot said, “Somebody’s been eating MY sandwich and it’s all gone! Boo hoo beep beep!”  Then they went to check on the living room.

Papa Bot said, “Somebody’s been using MY charger!”  Mama Bot said, “Somebody’s been using MY charger!” And Baby Bot said, “Somebody’s been using MY charger and it’s  been broken into bits! Boo hoo beep beep!”  After giving Baby Bot many hugs and figuring out how to fix his charger, the three Bots went upstairs.

"Robolox jumped out of the closet and the window and she runned away and she runned away and she runned away."

Papa Bot said, “Somebody’s been sleeping in MY closet!”  Mama Bot said, “Somebody’s been sleeping in MY closet!” And Baby Bot said, “Somebody’s been sleeping in MY closet and she’s still there!” All of a sudden, Robolox woke up and saw the three Bots.  She yelled, “Aaaaaahhhhhhh!”, jumped out of Baby Bot’s closet and leapt out of the window.  Robolox ran far, far away and was never seen near the Bot house ever again.  The End.

A Horse Transformed

You might remember that a few weeks ago one of our students was inspired by our box-0-saurus and created his own horse.  Along a seemingly unrelated vein, some of you also might have heard that we’ve been working on writing a play. (I was über inspired by Teacher Tom on this one!) Today, the horse took on a new job and personality.  He has been dubbed a “War Horse”.  Since we were trapped indoors due to the weather, we had a lot of time for tinkering today.

Just in case you don’t remember, here is how our lovely horse began:

Our play, which will be unveiled in the next few days, underwent some rewriting today.  We added new characters, changed the plot a bit, and added an ending.  Though it was quite fun to act out our third version of the script, I wasn’t sure if this project was making it into the collective mindset of the students.  I was shown just how influential the idea has been when a group began making “props” for the play during our inside “recess”.

"We need a War Horse so our town can be safe from enemies."

While this project was being constructed, I was attending a fashion show on the other side of the room.  When I realized there was some major construction going on in the block area, I sidled over to find out what the hubbub was about.  I was amazed to find over half the class working on this project.  Some of the children wandered in for short periods of time, adding just a few details, while others spent over an hour (throughout the day) on it.

"It has music so that it doesn't get bored when it wants music."

I, of course wanted to know why we needed a War Horse.  Why, for the play, of course! Silly me.  I guess the fact that there is not actually a war in the play is not really a good enough reason to skip having a War Horse.  With all of this focused work, I wanted to know more about the design.

The bottle on the back is so he can squirt at people who are behind him.

Although at first glance, it looks as though the children haphazardly taped random pieces of cardboard together, they describe it with much more intentional thought.  They pointed out a row of pipes that make music, a small cannon at the front, armor to protect it from Army Men, rear defense systems, headphones, and speakers.  I find it interesting that the ability to listen to music was considered paramount to at least two separate students.   Who knew music was a prerequisite for a War Horse?

"I added the hair and the teeth. He's an armored horse because he's a bad horse." (Across the room: "No! He's a good horse!") "I mean he's a good horse."

Watching them build this creation as a team is inspiring.  They’ve gone from creating their first dinosaur with Mrs. Allan (where they built what she told them), to building an Ankylosaurus with me (where I built what they told me), to this.  Here, they built what they decided upon without any input from adults.  The previous experiences gave them just enough practice to feel confident and ready to experiment with the tools in their own way.

A War Horse with all the musical trimmings.


My goodness! I hope you are hungry when you visit our classroom!  The dramatic play center has been re-invented with the simple addition of a basket of blank menus.  During a morning meeting last week, we talked about creating a dinosaur restaurant and realized we’d need two separate menus, one for carnivores and one for herbivores.  This sparked some interest in what other types restaurants we could open.  Some of the suggestions included well-known burger joints as well as menus devoted entirely to: tiger food, ice cream, bugs (I’m still unsure whether they meant food FOR bugs, or bugs to EAT), food for pets, fruit only fare, and even menus consisting entirely of candy.

Menu production began immediately and has continued with added gusto each day.  Here are the first two menus.  One includes prices while the other leaves it up to the customer to decide how much to pay.