Saturday, August 10, 2013

Testing a project idea.

     I love natural materials for children, and I also love an authentic audience for something we create. If you're on pinterest you may have seen this project:

which leads to this link , which got me thinking.......

Can I use this project to teach my new 5th graders about tool safety and make something our preschool class might like?

      So I needed some rising fifth graders to try this out......... hmmmmmmm. I only needed to look as far as my living room because my youngest daughter M. will be in my teaching partner's class, and her friend C. was spending the night. We had recently pulled down an apple tree in our yard that was half dead thanks to a lightning strike and a persistent yellow-bellied sapsucker, and I had my husband save a bunch of the branches. I practiced first, and then called out the girls so I could see what problems we might have in teaching the kids.
Here is C. measuring a small branch to 2 inches

and then cutting it off.

     M. tackled a thicker branch.  So far the pitfalls seem to be NOT bending the saw as you are sliding it back and forth, as well as lengthening the cut and using the whole blade, not just short strokes. The other issue is holding the branch steady - which isn't hard when its long, but a pain when it gets shorter.  The vice grips I had at home wouldn't hold the round branch. The girls let go of the idea of parallel top and bottom because they realized that little kids would learn about balance too. 

     Here are our cut, but un-sanded pieces. I contacted my "engineering buddy" teacher in Kindergarten and she thought these might be useful skills for the kids when it comes to her ecosystem unit on habitats - I'll have to see what her ultimate plans are for her project.  I was thinking the fifth graders AND the Kindergartners might be able to sand them together as well and then either keep them in 5K or send them over to the preschoolers. 

     I'm sure another question some of you might have is, "but what standard does this teach?" Um...... none really, but it does meet engineering guidelines, so this is probably something I would pull out at recess for kids to choose to do (like I did the pallets last year), or during my engineering time which I try to build in (about 30 minutes a day for my math/science kiddos).  This would also allow me to stand RIGHT THERE with them while they are using the tools and discuss safety ad nauseum.  This project also wouldn't take too long and I think it would also be an easy one to begin to introduce different sorts of tool skills.  From here I would probably add in the mallets, crowbars and hammers with the pallets, and then teach them the lashing technique I taught last year. From there we could move on to more substantial building projects I hope to mention later. Please keep in mind.... I am not a woodworking sort of person, so really anyone could take this on. I do find that it motivates kids quite a bit, and they springboard with their own ideas. It also builds a confidence and an independence in the students and lets those kiddos not so fond of traditional school projects shine

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