I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the fifth Science lesson in our unit about wood. This lesson is an extension of the previous Design Challenge. Then, I provided them with a problem to solve. In order to better connect this design process with the real world, this lesson requires them to identify both the problem and the solution. To engage them, I do a quick review of yesterday’s lesson. “Who can explain the solution they designed to solve the locked door problem?” “We put a spike under the door to keep it open.” “When you test your prototype, you can discover solutions that you never even thought of!” Brief discussions like this, as simple as they are, can be valuable tools to encourage focus and direct attention on the lesson at hand. When the responses are complete, we are ready to move on.
For this lesson, I re-introduce the book titled Wood, and focus on pages 16-21 to illustrate some of the ways we use wood in our environment. The author, Abby Colich, has written a fantastic series of books about a building materials so this is a great way to make the concept accessible.
“Based on yesterday’s design and test of the prototypes, what solutions did you discover?” “Pointy ends stopped the door from closing.” “Great place to start. Anything else?” “When we put it up against something else, the door couldn’t close.” “It sounds as if the shape and size could really make a difference in the success of the prototype?” “It didn’t fit under the door before.” “That’s a great observation. When you notice things like that, you can connect it to the next problem. So today, we’re going to do that. We're going to use the Design Cycle forms to create our own prototype. The engineers in our class are going to do all parts of the Design Challenge- identify the problem, design a solution, and test it. Who is ready to be engineers?” “I’m an engineer!...Me!...Of course!”
• Wood Collection (1/student)
• Sand Paper (1/student)
• Design Challenge Worksheet
To make an authentic connection to real life applications, I structure this lesson as a Design Challenge. Kindergarteners can be fearless thinkers, so I want to see how they could identify a problem in their environment and create a solution to that problem they have identified. I was especially interested in the things that they thought were problems. To give them a little direction, I create and present a simple prompt. “Look around the classroom. What kinds of things could you make with wood to help us learn?”
I show them the materials-a collection of wood and glue-and explain the process:
First, decide a problem that can be helped by this Design Challenge.
Next, design (draw or sketch) an idea you can make to perform a function.
Then, start using the wood and glue to create a prototype that will do what you illustrated.
Last, test your prototype to see if it performs the function. Adjust it if necessary.
I watch as the children get together with their tables groups and go through the process to choose the wood, discuss the options, plan the prototype, and test the results. The design process experiment takes about twenty minutes long. It may be long for a Kindergarten lesson though necessary to fully complete all the steps. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern. I ask the students to take their planning papers and return back to their carpet squares.
Once we gather, I tell them, “Take a minute to share your result with another group.” I begin with this step to give the students practice to present their ideas to peers in a real life way. This is an important skill to support their future learning, so I take any opportunity to see it in action. “Can anyone come up and present their problem and solution to the class?” “We keep losing our erasers so I wanted to make a place to hold them.” “What makes you design that shape?” “Because it has a place to put a lot of erasers so they don’t get lost.” “The reason most people design things is to figure out a way to do something better.” I take a second to clarify the result, while supporting the process. To address the design cycle, it’s important to include the explanation piece. It helps to think through mistakes, while adding valuable language skills. This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share their results, thus making the material more concrete. Once this initial presentation is complete, I again ring the chime to end the lesson.