The "drawbots" came out yesterday. This time I didn't monkey around making them with the kids. It's possible for motivated preschoolers to assemble some aspect of these simple robots on their own, working one-on-one with an adult (you can read about one such process here), but I wanted to introduce them to these machines for a session first before getting down to trying to build one on our own.
There were only 3 robots dancing on our canvas and never fewer than 4 boys gathered around the table (my entire 9 child Pre-K class this year is boys). I'd given them the instruction that their job was to keep the robots on the paper by gently steering them with their hands as they approached the edge.
As you can see from the photos, this was a more difficult challenge for some of the boys than others. Our "vibrobots" nearly always had hands on, or very nearly on, them as they danced their circular patterns around the paper. I found myself continually saying things like, "I want you to let go of the robot now," or "If you hold it, it can't draw."
And I had to correct more than one boy when he said, "This one's mine."
What is it that's so fascinating about robots? I know they fascinated me as a boy. From having played with these robots with children a few times now, I think it's safe to say that part of the attraction for many of the kids is the motor, but it's more than that. We don't see the motors in Wall E or R2D2. We assume, I suppose, they're in there somewhere, but that's not what we're thinking about, just as my Pre-K boys weren't spending a lot of time thinking about the motors on our drawbots as they did the job of keeping them on the paper.
I'm working on the theory that it has to do with the fact that robots, at least as they're portrayed in the media, are evidently powerful and made and controlled by humans (look at all those hands "controlling" the robots in these pictures). The fact that robots actually exist make them show up as genuine avenues to attaining super power in the world, unlike the obviously unrealistic manifestation of these powers in the form of superheroes or princesses.
We've been talking about robots for a couple weeks now in the Pre-K class and will continue next week as we introduce the basic principles of electricity. We've already built one from boxes and other odd parts that we've decided is going to appear in our Pre-K play this coming May (how's that for advance planning?) so I'm expecting to have plenty of opportunity to explore the question.
Not long ago Max came up and whispered, "I am a master giant robot builder." He then swaggered away, almost strutting. Well, let's get going, man!