Let's Get Physical with Science
by Susan Schoon
Most children, when provided with rich interactive learning experiences that include
the development of science processes and skills, will respond with great enthusiasm.
However, science and science-related activities are often overlooked as crucial
elements of discussion and involvement in the classroom. Young children need to
be able to develop problem solving skills at an early age so that they will be
better prepared for the transition and demands of higher level learning.
Adopting an integrated curriculum approach to learning, a practice of blending one subject or theme into all subject areas, is recommended for assuring that science, as well as other areas, receive the valuable attention they deserve. Through the design of an integrated curriculum, no content area should be neglected for any extended period of time. Compared to the more "traditional" method of teaching science, the integrated curriculum plan is less rigid, more spontaneous and open-ended with permeable boundaries allowing for children's individual differences. Furthermore, this curriculum design provides children with the opportunity to create and display their own understanding of related concepts.
The following is a sample thematic unit for simple machines. The components of the unit build on the fundamental principals and ideas expressed in Macomb Projects' Project ELIPSS (Emergent Literacy Instructional Program and Support Services) publication, Science, Math and Literacy: A Way of Life for Young Children. This integrated thematic unit includes descriptions of integrated activities, suggested software to support the theme, and a list of professional and classroom resources. For every idea offered, each individual class will adapt, respond, and enrich these suggestions to fit their unique classroom life.
Classroom Integration Guide
- Tools for Design. Ask children to describe the different ways tools are used to create art in their world. Make a list of their responses.
- Spiro-graph. Allow children to experiment with a Spirograph game. Ask children
to describe how the machine works.
- Describe Ideal Machines. Ask children to describe what an ideal machine would look like, how it would function, and how it would be built.
- Tools with Descriptive Names. Investigate many titles for simple machines.
For example, can opener, nutcracker and corkscrew. Children will predict what
the machines are used for based on the name.
- Abacus. Use an abacus for math. Build an abacus from found objects. Experiment with how many different structures can serve the same purpose as the abacus.
- Balance Scales. Set up an activity center including a balance scale. (Suggestion:
Set up the activity center next to the computer.) Invite children to use the
scales throughout the day to solve problems.
- Mechanical Melodies. Collect a variety of objects such as clocks, paper airplane propellers, pliers, and wooden hammers, that can be used to make rhythms. In a small group make up musical patterns.
- Instruments with Moving Parts. Graph the different moving parts of several
musical instruments. Make a list of their differences and similarities.
- Pantomime Machines at Work. Ask children to place the name of their favorite machine in a hat. Take turns drawing out a name of a machine and acting it out.
- Playground Machines. Weather permitting, take children outdoors. Select
a group or piece of playground equipment and ask children to categorize it
into one of the following categories: inclined plane, wedge, wheel and axle,
and pulley. Discuss the results of the findings.
- Earthmovers. Plan a field trip to the nearest manufacture of earth moving
equipment. Discuss how earthmovers are used to help our lives.
Giving children access to computers provides them with opportunities to discover, draw conclusions, problem solve, explore and interact supporting similar dimensions found in the science curricula. Furthermore, planning for children to interact with peers and adults as they investigate concepts found in the software will insure the development of a rich learning experience.
- Children's Software. Children's software is often used to develop a thematic unit or to introduce a topic. Selected software titles contain features that will support quality integration by developing both problem-solving and literacy skills.
Creating a specific plan to accompany the software program will also insure that the learning experience will coincide with your educational philosophies and goals for a particular thematic unit. Jimmy Saves the Day and The Incredible Machine are two software programs which contain informtion about tools and simple machines.
Suggested Professional Resources:
Davenport, J. (1996). Simple machines and problem solving in integrated mathematics and science instruction. Western Washington University.
DeWeese, B. (1994). Playground physics: Simple machines. Monterey, CA: Evan-Moor.
ELIPSS, Head Start Emergent Literacy Project. (1997). Module seven: Science, math and literacy... a winning combination for young children. Macomb, IL: Western Illinois University.
ELIPSS, Head Start Emergent Literacy Project. (1997). Module eight: Science, math and literacy: A way of life for young children. Macomb, IL: Western Illinois University.
Head Start/IBM Partnership Project. (1994). Computers in Head Start classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Mobis Corp.
National Research Council. (1998). Every child a scientist: Achieving scientific literacy for all. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Wright, J., & Shade, D. (1994). Young children: Active learners in a technological age. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Suggested Children's Books:
Albert, T. (1994). Simple machines: Studying the inclined plan, wedge, screw, lever, wheel and axle, and pulley. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa.
Delafosse, C. (1993). The camera: Snapshots, movies, videos, and cartoons. New York: Scholastic.
Berger, M. (1995). Simple machines. New York: Newbridge Communications.
Grant, D. (1992). Airplanes and flying machines. New York: Scholastic.
Hawkinson, J., & Faulhaver, M. (1969). Music and instruments for children to make. Niles, IL: Whitman.
Hewitt, S. (1998). Machines we use. New York: Childrenšs Press.
Macauley, D. (1988). The way things work. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Robbins, K. (1983). Tools. New York: Four Winds Press.
Rockwell, A. (1986). Things that go. New York: E.P. Dutton.
Amazing Machines. (1996). Lewisville, NC: Science for Kids.
Big Job. (1995). Bethesad, MD: Discovery Communications, Inc.
How Things Work. (1994). New York: Simon & Schuster Interactive.
I Spy. (1997). New York: Scholastic.
Jimmy Saves the Day. (1996). Lewisville, NC: Science for Kids.
Lego Island. (1997). Navato, CA: Mindscape, Inc.
The Incredible Machine. (1995). Salinas, CA: Sierra On-line, Inc.
Tonka Rescue. (1997) Beverly, MA: Hasbro Interactive.
Tonka Trucks. (1996) Beverly, MA: Hasbro Interactive.
Fred Levine Productions, (1991). Road construction ahead. Montpelier, VT:
Focus Video Productions.