Friday, August 06, 2010

More Science With Gutters And Tubes

Yesterday, I wrote about playing with the essential preschool equipment of house gutters, tubes and balls, but of course, they would hardly be worth the storage space if that's all you could do with them. 

One of my personal favorite ways to experiment with the gutters is to combine them with tempera paint and hard rubber balls. Yesterday we went with this set up:

If you can't tell from the picture, I've flipped a table, lined it with art paper, then also lined the gutters with strips of adding machine tape. You don't need the adding machine tape, but sometimes a particularly industrious parent-teacher will regularly replace them, leaving us with a collection of long, colorful rainbow ribbon. Usually, however, the process of saving the artwork gets in the way of making the artwork, which, after all is the whole point of doing this, so I don't insist on it.

Here, the kids are trying to get their balls to roll back uphill.

Once the excitement of rolling the hard rubber balls (juggling balls to be technical about it) dies down, we start adding other things like textured balls and wheeled vehicles.

The heavy rubber balls tend to race down the gutters at a pretty 
reliable pace no matter how much paint they have on them, but
if the cars and trucks get gummed up with too much paint, they
move sluggishly or not at all. It takes a lot of experimenting
to get it right.

There's something about this project that can even attract kids who do not like getting messy. And yes, we get very messy.

Which is why we keep towels and a bucket of water nearby.

In the comments to yesterday's post my Scottish colleague Juliet from I'm A Teacher, Get Me OUTSIDE Here! mentioned taking gutter and tube play outdoors. Absolutely! In fact, we always have gutters and tubes available in the outdoor classroom. Sometimes I set them up for the kids . . .

. . . but usually they're just stored amongst the other "loose parts" and the kids know where to find them. The shout of, "We need a gutter!" is a common one at Woodland Park.

Running water down them, of course, is almost a daily activity.

These guys have clearly worked together to create this
arrangement based upon their theories. Now they are standing
back as they test those theories. Their observations will then be
used to make adjustments based on revised theories. Science!

First one, then the other: these girls are also making 
observations, developing their theories, then testing them,
building upon the work of the scientists before them.

In another comment on yesterday's post, Deb over at Science@Home brings up another wonderful aspect of taking this kind of play large scale: "one or two children (can't) do it on their own." It takes a group working at quite a high level of sophisticated, cooperative play to make anything happen. The thing that these photos can never show is how much the children are chattering amongst themselves, debating, agreeing, taking turns, figuring out roles, organizing, and generally taking charge of their own learning. 

And when I get to just lean against the wall and watch, that's when I know I'm doing my best teaching.

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MOM #1 said...

Well, I'm not a teacher with lots of insightful observations, but I can say that it looks like LOTS of FUN!

Juliet Robertson said...

I think Mom1 has summed up guttering perfectly...FUN!

What I really like is that you've shown the benefits of indoor and outdoor activities with the same equipment. Double the use. Double the fun.

Incidently I have only spotted the word "fun" in one Scottish curriculum document, and that was the one about outdoor learning...and people wonder what's wrong with our education system...hmm

mamzx3 said...

This looks like SOOO much fun (yesterdays did too)! We have one piece of gutter for play, but I'm so getting a few more for shorter sections so we can do more stuff with it! ... question for you though. I have 3 kids (1, 3, 5) ... I LOVE how socially interactive a lot of your activities are -- do you think you need a bigger group to get the most out of doing stuff like this? Do you have any opinions on an "optimal" number for an activity like this, to get the most out of it?

Kami said...

That is really brilliant! I 'discovered' something like it last spring but this is far bigger and better... so great how engaging it all is!

Sherry and Donna said...

Tom we have a group of boys, I think I've mentioned before, who are CRAZY for ball sports, who are suffering a little bit at the moment as the grass has become a bit of a quagmire over the last week due to the rain (yay rain!) who I think might even trade their muddy footy (lets destroy ALL the grass play) for your gutters ... after all I reckon they could roll their soccer ball along the top edge of large gutters, maybe even the oval footy balance just right could make the roll down the ramp.
We will definitely have to put this one on our list of other people 'genius' ideas! Thanks again my friend.

Donna :) :)

BTW don't you just love the way science creeps into children's play ... Sherry and I love that?!

Ms. Patti said...

Does your camera have video???? I may have to send you one if not... I would love to hear what your kids have to say. The stuff you do is soooo amazing, I can only imagine the kidtalk it generates!!!

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