Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metal Working With Preschoolers

I started collecting aluminum beverage cans with a project in mind that never materialized, so I've been living with several bags of them taking up space in the office-turned-workroom-turned-storage-room for the past month. I was on the verge of dumping them into the recycling bin when I came across this post from Kami over at Get Your Mess On! in which she writes about discovering that she could use her hand-held die cutters to punch out shapes from the very thin material from which they manufacture cans these days.


Luckily enough, I'd just purchased a pair of these tools a few days before when I discovered a local craft supply store selling them for 40 percent off. Whoo hoo! Now I'm going to run out and get a couple more.

I was a little nervous about the potential for kids to puncture themselves on the metal (I've done it to myself just opening the damn cans) so I used a pair of kitchen sheers to carefully cut the edges smooth, then tried mightily to impale my own fingertips without success. I assess the risk at about the level of a paper cut, although it might bleed a bit more if it happened.

When I demonstrated the process to the kids, I heard several voices rise up in a half-whispered, "Cool," at the idea they were going to be cutting metal. Some of them needed a little help squeezing the handles hard enough, but once they realized that it took two hands and real force, most of them managed it. It was a good thing we were wearing our safety glasses because some of the pieces really took off. Fitting the curved metal sheets into the slot was actually a bigger challenge. Next time I'm going to try to flatten the metal sheets: a night under something heavy will probably do it.



Kami strung her resulting discs of metal together to make sun-catchers, but we nailed ours to pieces of scrap wood.

Check out this brilliant technique!

Notice how our new workbench top is thin enough to
allow us to properly clamp the wood.



I can think of a number of ways to use this scrap aluminum now that I know we're not going to be spewing blood all over the place. After class, I was the first to mar the new workbench surface by testing to see if I could make an impression of a quarter in the metal by pounding it with a rubber mallet. I got a nice round shape, but no George Washington profile. I did, however leave a perfect circle in the wood below. (Sorry, Rob.) Something with a stronger relief might still work with this technique, which I think the kids would enjoy.

Of course, I'll bet our craft store sells tools for embossing paper that would work . . .

. . . or we could just use nails to draw pictures on rectangles of aluminum we've nailed to a board . . .

. . . or use nail holes to create patterns in the metal . . .

. . . or make perforated tea candle holders from the bottoms of the cans . . .

. . . or use the metal to manufacture vibration robots, vehicles, or other things . . .

. . . or string together sun-catchers (a la Kami) to hang in the garden to frighten off birds . . .

. . . or maybe we could fold it like origami . . .

I have some experimenting to do!

Bookmark and Share

5 comments:

Sherry and Donna said...

Great idea Tom ... and Kami! I love the idea of hanging them in the sun BUT I know our children would love to hammer them everywhere!
Donna :) :)

amyahola said...

What a great idea!!! Here in Michigan, all of the carbonated beverage cans have a deposit on them, but I have been collecting a large amount of cans from non-carbonated beverages (juices and teas) I am super excited about this idea, especially the sun catchers (our front porch is filled with suncathers, whirly-gigs, etc.)

Preschool Playbook said...

Your classes have way too much fun! Love this idea.

BarbaraZab said...

I had already been thinking about giving my class rubber mallets to smash cans for recycling. I like this even better. We'll do it for sure next year. We can get the die cutters with coupons from Michaels one at a time this summer.

Thanks, Tom!

toasted said...

Hey - I find your blog very inspiring - and honest. My favourite combination.

I found you about a month ago via Filth Wizardry and wanted to let you know that you've had a pretty big impact on my parenting style - thanks!

I've written a post about it that touches on it a bit. It links to your blog Hope you don't mind?

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Technorati Profile