I recently registered for the RiseUp Summit which is a free online conference for Christian educators in both public and private schools. Click here for details. You can join live from October 22nd-23rd and On-Demand from October 21st-26th. Pass the word if you know someone who might be interested!
I am resharing this post about block play (from several years ago) with a few updates:
My undergraduate degree is in early childhood education (birth through seven years old) and I taught kindergarten for twelve years and second grade for eight. I experienced firsthand the value and benefits of block play. Blocks provide an opportunity to explore math concepts including shapes, measurement, mass, symmetry, patterns, and fractions! Eye hand coordination and small muscle movements are refined. Children develop awareness of space, balance, and cause and effect. As children plan and make representations of their ideas, creativity and problem solving skills blossom. They intuitively apply the Engineer Design Process. Children also learn to effectively communicate their ideas and to work collaboratively with their peers.
As you look at the pictures of the block structures below, look for examples of balance, patterns, and symmetry. Block building is considered a STEAM activity and schools with Makerspaces and STEM labs always include various types of blocks. You are never too old to build with blocks! My second grade classes always found blocks a favorite activity. For more fun, add plastic animals, cars, and people, as well as natural objects.
Click here to read an article about block play from NAEYC. Block play is important work!
The developmental stages of block building:
Unit blocks are divided into fractional parts.
This preschool had a “Block Party”. It would be a fun birthday theme too!
Among educators, there is still confusion and debate about how to recognize and implement excellent STEM programs. I believe this is an accurate description of its components:
The goal of a quality STEM program is to produce scientifically and technologically literate citizens who can solve complex, multi-disciplinary problems through analytical and innovative thinking in real-world applications needed for college and career success. (National Research Council 2012) These goals are often met through Project-Based Learning.
In the second half of both of their labs, prefirst and first grade grade scientists connected math and science as they learned about anaglyphs. We learned that a 2D shape has two dimensions (length and width), while a 3D shape has three dimensions (length, width, and height). We looked at examples of anaglyphs and noticed that red and cyan were added to the photos. When we wore glasses with lenses of the same color, the pictures became 3D. These scientists especially enjoyed watching a 3D movie. Click here to take a ride on a roller coaster. Want to learn more about the art of anaglyphs? Click here.
Have 3D glasses at home? Click here to review shapes.
Investigating bubbles is a fun way to learn more about the properties of matter. Our bubble blowers were made by trimming off the ends of pipettes. My scientists were excited to take them home!
First grade bubbleologists discovered that no matter the shape of our wands, the bubbles formed spheres. Why? Click here to learn more. Make your own bubble wands with pipe cleaners.
Bubbles are iridescent. We checked out some other iridescent items that I have collected too. This centripetal spinner looks just like a bubble.
We also blew hemispheres on our trays. Look below for bubbles inside bubbles and bubble mountains. Notice how the bubbles connect with each other. Some scientists discovered that if they smeared bubble solution on their hands, they could hold a bubble.
But is there a way to make a cube bubble? We used cubes to make it happen! Click here and here to watch videos for more information. I made these cubes with pieces of erasers and toothpicks.
I find the analytics on my science blog fascinating! I can’t see who is visiting, but the data tells me from where a viewer is visiting and when he/she reads my blog. I’ve had more international visitors recently. In the past, those visitors have been parents traveling for business.
Math and science were connected in this first grade lab. After viewing a variety of scales, we learned how to skillfully use a balance scale. Use scales in grocery stores to reinforce this concept. Just a Little Bit is a fun story about using teamwork to balance a seesaw! Click here to watch it.
We estimated which one would be heavier before we placed the items on the balance scale.
The number balance is one of my favorite math tools. This tool can be used for greater than and less than, addition, missing addends, and multiplication. Students also learn to balance equations which is a basic algebraic skill. How can two weights on one side balance just one weight on the other?
Sweet potatoes grow underground. Can we trick a potato into growing if we place it in a dark cabinet, as if it was underground?
My scientists knew that blood travels through our body in veins, but they didn’t realize that plants are designed in a similar way. Food and water travels throughout leaves in a network of veins. We split a Napa cabbage leaf and placed it in red and blue food coloring. Before the end of lab, the colored water had moved through the veins. What a great reminder that whatever we pour into our soil is absorbed by the plants around it. For more information about this investigation, click here.
Before the end of lab:
The next morning:
Symmetry was the next topic. God created many plants and animals with symmetry. Where would you draw the line of symmetry on these pictures? Some objects have more than one line of symmetry and others are asymmetrical Click here to watch a video about symmetry. We did not watch this in lab. Look for symmetry as you are out and about with your child.
Engineers use symmetry in buildings.
Use some type of construction material at home to build a symmetrical structure.
Second grade botanists folded a piece of paper in half and then used the fold (the line of symmetry) to cut out a symmetrical leaf. Use fall colors and cut out symmetrical leaves to decorate your home.
Finally, we drew designs on one side of lines. We placed a mirror on the lines which made our drawings symmetrical. This is a fun activity to do at home.
Second grade engineers reviewed the names of solid shapes, including prisms and cylinders. Students paired and discussed which shape they believed would hold the most weight. Most of our debate focused on whether corners would or would not make the shape stronger. We weighed the books on a kitchen scale before we placed them on the pillars. We discovered that the cylinder easily supported the most weight. We looked at how cylindrical columns are used by engineers, but we recognized that God was the first engineer!
Next, I tasked my engineers with building cylindrical columns. They had many design choices, but teams were only able to use four pieces of paper. Masking tape, scotch tape, and rubber bands were available. Would their cylinders be tall, short, thin, or wide? Would more cylinders hold more weight? How does balance impact your structure? I witnessed collaboration and problem solving as they constructed their pillars. Several engineers used all four pieces of paper to make one stronger cylinder. Others made multiple cylinders and taped them together. What would happen if we made more cylinders and distributed the weight? There was much celebrating as they tested their designs. One structure held 24 pounds, but many others held at least 12 pounds! (Each book weighed 2 pounds.)
Try this at home with different types of paper and be sure to send me a picture! For additional directions click here. and here.