Sunday, June 27, 2010

Boat Building

Last week we horsed around with making boats.

Our work bench was set up with craft sticks, corks, bamboo skewers, and glue guns. Off to the side was our magnificent sensory table filled with water for testing purposes.

I had an idea of what boats made from these materials would look like, but apparently I was wrong because no one shared my idea.

Some of our boats were little more than two corks stuck together.

While others were more rigorously engineered (although not necessarily more seaworthy).

This one (in hand) passed the still water test . . .

. . . so we had to try it under "real world" conditions.

"Why didn't it float in the river?"

We theorized that we would have to dig the water channel deeper if our boat was going to float in it, but never got around to testing that theory because digging was apparently a lower priority than continued boat building.

This is second time this summer that we've put hot glue guns into the hands of children as young as 2, and unlike last time several of the children reported getting "burned," mostly by virtue of accidentally touching the glue itself before it had sufficiently cooled. Only one had a visible mark, a small red dot that was forgotten almost the moment it occurred. I'm thinking that the increased number of burns over last time had to do with the smaller materials (craft sticks, skewers, corks) they were using for their constructions. Before, we used larger pieces of wood and there was only one reported burn. Having to concentrate on fine motor skills and the proper management of the glue gun, I think I've learned, is perhaps a little more than the littlest kids can manage. Or rather, they can clearly manage it, but at the higher cost of putting their skin into contact with the hot glue.

At the same time we also continue to learn about the incredible power of building with glue guns. These tools allow young children to bring their ideas into reality in a matter of minutes unlike any other building technique I've come across as a teacher. We can quickly create things, like seaworthy vessels, that would simply be impossible with the standard fare of white glue, tape or staples. The trade-off is that potential for a burn, a minor injury, it seems to me, on par with splinters and stubbed toes. 

As has been the case when working with older children during the school year, not a single tear was shed in spite of the burns. I take that to mean that the children also feel the trade-off is worth it.

(Note: I should mention here that as a cooperative preschool, we have the luxury of assigning two adults to manage the 3 glue guns we had in operation. In fact, I could have easily put a third adult on the task, but two seemed to be sufficient. I love teaching in a co-op.)

Bookmark and Share


Jenny said...

Did the kids immediately start building boats or did anyone test some of the materials in the water first? I'm curious about their thought process as they built. This looks so fun!

Unknown said...

Water play always makes my day.
Love that you love your co-op so much!

Teacher Tom said...

@Jenny . . . That's a good question! I should have answered it in the post. Some of the kids tossed bits in the water first, and many of the youngest children at first stood around the sensory table stirring the water with craft sticks. Most of the kids, however, are pretty excited by the glue guns and so that's where they started off -- building their boat, then putting them in the water. A few went back and added more bits after the water test. There was a lot of imitating one another among the older kids, but the 2's freelanced! Only one boy didn't want to test his boat. He was confident it would float and wanted to make sure it stayed dry so he could "take it home today." Later, one of his classmates unceremoniously gave it it's maiden voyage and he was shocked to learn he could still take it home, even it if was wet.

Gwynneth Beasley said...

I think I am inspired to let my son at the glue gun. He would definately get more joy out of it than I do! Love your photos - always!

Scott said...

The boats made me smile.

And this was my favorite line in your post: "I had an idea of what boats made from these materials would look like, but apparently I was wrong because no one shared my idea."

(I always enjoy being wrong about these things - the kids' ideas are so much better than mine!)

Gwynneth Beasley said...

Hi again. Your comment about how fast the glue dries, so kids can construct things quickyl without waiting for the glue to dry, inspired me to try thiw with my kids today. They loved it! In our craft shops we have "low heat" glue guns. I heated it up and squirted the glue right onto my thumb. Not THAT bad, certianly not a burn. But we made boats too and they completely fell apart in the bath. I was wondering if your boats fell apart. I am thinking our glue isnt waterproof!

Teacher Tom said...

@Gwynneth . . . Ours did not fall apart, but then again we use "high heat" glue guns, which WILL burn, but make for more sturdy constructions. I'm also wondering, if warm bath water made a difference -- our water was cold.

Jodi said...

We just did boat building today and the kids had a blast. We used tin foil to create our boats and then also used rain gutters under the water for the stream. They had a blast doing everything from forming their boats to floating them to jumping in the mud puddles the water made! :)