This year, I skipped the traditional “spring” theme in favor of something that would really hit a home run with my preschool boys, (there are four in my class of six), but would still be very enjoyable for my two girls who are little mathematicians. I opted to teach about bridges this month, and doing so lead us through a study that has been unlike our previous preschool months.
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Instead of doing several activities and crafts relating to bridges, we read lots and lots of books, and spent our time building a testing various bridges from a small set of materials. The students used wooden blocks and different weights of paper to build their bridges, and we tested their strength by the amount of floral pebbles each bridges could hold. I modeled first, with discussion and input from the students, and they worked on their own. Soon my students were tweaking the designs and building bridges of their own.
Picture Books About Bridges
Build and Test in Bridges Theme for Preschoolers
Students used same sized wooden blocks and card stock paper to build a beam bridge. I presented the materials to the students and they guided me through how I might build a beam bridge. I demonstrated how to test the bridge and then handed the materials to the students to try on their own. We used floral pebbles as weights to test the bridge, counting each time to see how many it could hold.
Beam Bridge Version II
The next day students used the same materials as above and experimented with the materials make a second version of a beam bridge. This was the most common design the students generated. They quickly discovered that the more piers the bridge has and the closer together they are, the more the bridge will be able to hold.
Beam Bridge Version III
Next the students experimented with ways to make the bridge stronger while using minimal piers. It was decided that adding more paper would improve a bridge’s strength. I challenged the students to play with the paper to find if it could be folded to make it stronger. After some unsuccessful manipulation, I showed the students how to fold the paper like an accordion. After some more experimentation, the students found that placing the accordion folded paper on top of the yellow card stock limited the amount of slipping, thus allowing the beam bridge to hold even more floral pebbles.
We first tested this bridge with only the orange arch, but found that the floral pebbles slipped off the arch before it was weakened enough to fall, so we added the yellow card stock to the top. The students found that because of the arch there needed to be extra thick piers.
Mostly, and most importantly, I gave students access to materials and allowed them to experiment on their own. It was the most valuable learning time I could have given them.
There a a ton of other ways to study bridges with preschoolers. My son asked that we find bridges on the greenbelt, which we did, and the students also shared ways that bridges could be made for different circumstances. For example, in the forest, a log might make a good bridge, or to cross a ditch a wide plank of wood might work. For more awesome activities, and I mean totally and completely awesome activities, take a look at these two books:Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test (Kaleidoscope Kids) and Bridges and Tunnels: Investigate Feats of Engineering with 25 Projects (Build It Yourself)
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I love teaching by theme because I get to teach an inch wide and a mile deep. This is not to say that I don’t listen what my preschoolers want to learn, but I love providing tons of activities related to a single theme so that my preschoolers can really become familiar with a specific topic.
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I have an entire landing page dedicated to planning for preschool. You’ll find tons of other lesson planning recourses there.
Or, check out my thematic lesson plans.
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction