The Machine Project
Children are naturally curious about how things work. In addition, one child was VERY interested in vacuum cleaners. We decided to initiate an investigation of machines, knowing it would motivate the children to explore and learn through many hands-on experiences.
Parents were asked to take their children on a tour of their homes and show them the variety of machines that can be found in the different rooms. Each child picked one machine to bring in to show. We were able to cook, clean, build, etc. depending on the machine. Machines were sorted into categories: hand operated, battery
A collection of broken machines were made available for the children to take apart. The dismantling of donated appliances stimulated the children’s curiosity and ignited their imaginations.
The workbench and tools promoted learning and growth by:
- Extending attention span
- Strengthening large and small muscles
- Developing eye-hand coordination
- Encouraging problem solving and decision making
- Fostering use of new vocabulary
- Encouraging the imagination
- Providing opportunity to learn the use and care of real equipment in a safe environment
- Promoting the acquisition of new skills and the growth of self esteem.
In addition to taking apart several vacuum cleaners, children explored the difference between using a broom, a sweeper and a vacuum.
Children explored the differences and similarities between vacuums and blow dryers.
Using straws, children experienced being a blow dryer by moving small blocks and being a vacuum cleaner by sucking up paper.
BUILDING A REAL MACHINE
Using a small science-fair battery powered motor, we built a marker machine that demonstrated an electric circuit. It took a bit of trial and error to get it working just right, but that was part of the learning process.
The box from our new dishwasher was transformed into a rocket ship. A keyboard became a computer. A former stereo receiver was turned into an air controller so they can breath. An old vacuum hose got a new life as a space phone or a food tube. Other parts morphed into the engine, where the gas goes and the thing that shoots the power off. The creation of the rocket ship engaged many children for an extended period of time as the project continually evolved.
Inspired by a piece removed from a broken vacuum cleaner, children invented a tomato cutting machine. They drew pictures and gave directions for operating the machine:
- Plug it in.
- Put a tomato in it.
- It will get out by the cutter.
- Then it will come out.
MACHINE or NOT A MACHINE
From the start we tried to decide what determined whether something was a machine or not. We classified objects into categories “machine” or “not a machine” with some controversial outcomes (even from adult perspectives!). Do YOU know if a pulley is a machine? A flashlight? A knife?
Our culminating event was the Machine Exhibit. Families were invited to
- view the displays
- get a demonstration from their child on how to use a hammer and a screwdriver
- use the rocket ship
- create art with our marker machine
- have their car serviced (windshield wiper fluid topped off) and vacuumed
- enjoy machine-made refreshments.
AFTER CLOSELY EXAMINING MACHINES, FROM CAR ENGINES TO ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSHES TO CARPET SWEEPERS, THE CHILDREN DECIDED THAT MACHINES MOSTLY HAVE PARTS THAT MOVE AND CAN DO WORK; AND SOMETIMES THEY HAVE A PLUG AND A SWITCH, AND SOMETIMES THEY DON’T!