It was wonderful to see many of you at First Friday in MIddleburgh. We'll be there for July and August promoting Country Classroom and enjoying our yummy potluck food.
What Is a Machine?
We started to talk about machines this week, and our first challenge was trying to figure out, "What is a machine?" Like many of our class discussions, this question produced some interesting answers. "A machine let's you do things you couldn't do." "It's something that makes it easier to do a job." "Machines have engines, like trucks and diggers." I didn't say, "Yes, that's the perfect definition of a machine." I used my teacher "Hmm" and repeated what the children said to make sure that we all understood. When I answer this way, the discussion really gets going, and let's be honest, the idea of a machine is a bit complicated.
Then I asked the children to start looking around the room for machines. They look confused for a few seconds, but then somebody shouted, "The paper cutter!" And they're off. "The pencil sharpener!" "The light switch!" "A ruler!" "The sink handles!" "The toilet!" That one got some good laughter, and I am not reminding everyone to use an "inside voice" because they are all just really excited to discover so many machines all around us. "Our recorders!" "The fire extinguisher!" "A pencil."
Someone says, "Water!"
"Water! That's interesting. Why do you think that's a machine?"
"It's really strong, and it can change things. It washes away dirt and rocks. The water in the stream makes the stream change. And people use it to run mills."
I love this connection to our past discussions about weather and erosion, the connection to this week's field trip to Hanford Mills, and the connection to our stream that got swollen with the weekends rains. I have similar short individual conversations with students as I try to understand their thinking and gently offer some more information to add to their understanding.
Machines: Field Trip to Hanford Mills
When I am on top of my game, I will pass off my camera to a responsible parent on a field trip, so that I can just fully focus on the learning that's happening. But I want parents to have the fun of being in the moment with their children too, and I held onto my camera at Hanford Mills. I didn't get any pictures of the water wheel or the children's faces as they watched it start to fill. There was a collective gasp as it started to turn, and then the pulleys started to engage. It felt as if the whole room was thrumming around us. We could feel the vibrations in our feet. When we were upstairs, we could see how all of those pulleys helped to make the machines run that cut boards, make shingles, and create lids for wooden barrels. The educators also led the children in a series of explorations of levers, inclined planes, and screws.
Machines: Building in the Classroom
The children started building "roller coasters for marbles" on Friday. They are using a combination of paper towel rolls, blocks, construction paper, cardboard, and lots of tape. Collaboration took some obvious forms, like two students combining their creations to make something even bigger. But there was also a whole lot of expertise sharing going on about how to best keep the marbles from slipping off the sides of a block. There was quite a bit of "copying" but luckily that isn't considered a bad thing in this group of children. They just look at it all as part of the process of creation.
So please keep sending in those paper towel rolls and anything else that might make for some fun marble "roller coasters." We promise to turn them into something really amazing.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you on Monday.