Up and down. That’s what makes the world go around – at least these days.
We are surrounded by instances where everything around us goes up one way or down another: slides, swings, charts, streets, trees, rivers, ramps. Our children are constantly experimenting with this concept and don’t really give much thought to it until they find a good challenge to solve like building ramps that work : D
And what a fun challenge this is. They start this process by asking questions that might or might not have answers for. They learn to look for them in their play with plenty of time to explore materials and the conceptual relationships that they are creating in their minds – and what a process that is!
In building these conceptual relationships, they are also experiencing new understanding of how slopes, ramps and slides work. Invite them to make connections with real life applications of these concepts: wheelchair accessibility (i.e. “what would you do to make them better?), escalators, and laundry chutes (yes, our kids came up with that one. Not a new concept, I’m sure, but nonetheless generated through play here).
In this preliminary stage, children are having their first encounter with newtonian first law of motion: an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by force. Pretty cool stuff, really.
A strong part of this experience is to engage in back-and-forth conversations about how and why they are doing what they are doing. We need to resist the temptation to interrupt with our ‘perfect view’ of where they are going or to lead them in the “right” direction. Clarify misconceptions? Sure, but that can be done by using open-ended questions to further their thinking (i.e.: “how did you find that out?”, “what would happen if…?”, “how can we change this?”, “how can we make this work?”, “how can we send the ball to the other side without using our hands? – see video below”, etc).
The secret ingredient for turning this experience into understanding that they don’t forget and build on is time. Time that they can have to explore, revisit and engage. Notice in this video that one of the boys resorted to his previous experience with the moulding to make his paper ramp work: what a powerful discovery. He answered his initial question because he had timeless experiences with materials that generated a lasting new concept.
This ends Part 1. For more about ramps visit our Part 2 in this three-part series.
Set-Up for Episode #13:
- Cove moulding from your local hardware store
- Cardstock paper, or any kind of paper
- Table tennis balls
These cove mouldings are just a sample of what you can find at your local hardware store. Remember that you can always make them out of paper as well : )
The cove moulding typically comes in different sizes that can be trimmed to smaller pieces. I asked the folks at my local hardware store and they gladly helped me out with that. The wooden blocks can also be made with 2X4’s but we bought ours from a block company that sells block sets for classrooms.
Roll different types of balls (or objects): compare them in size, weight, textures. Compare slants: sharp and steep versus forty-five degrees off the ground. Have fun!
As always, I strongly recommend that you find books at your local library and spend time sharing stories about things that go up and down! Check out the BookTip section of this blog for some initial ideas!
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