Can You Make Motion?
Beginning a project on movement and motion is easy since children's interest is so innate, but there are specific experiences that may spark a conversation about how things move. A runaway trike on the playground path, a crayon rolling across the classroom floor, leaves swirling in the wind can inspire such questions as: Why do you think that object moved? What made it move? How can we make something move?
Motion of objects is best understood in relation to motion of self. Invite children to make a motion or movement with their hands, then with their feet, then with their heads-eventually ending up with whole body movement. When they are finished, ask: "What made the motions? Where did they start? What kept them going?" Help children partner-up and explain that one child in each twosome will sit relaxed while his partner moves him in different ways. After a few turns, children can change jobs. You might ask: "Can you wave your partner's arms? Can you mold your partner like a piece of play dough? Can you roll your partner across the rug?" After everyone has had the experience of being the object set in motion, take time to talk about what it felt like to move and be moved.
Can You Set Something in Motion?
Bring a collection of large and small, heavy and light objects to group time. First choose a small, light object, such as a feather and ask: "How can you set this object in motion without touching it?" Children may try to blow on it, wave their hands around it, and use a tool, such as a book, to fan it. Talk about which was the most effective way. Now ask children what method they think will work best on a piece of paper. (Interestingly, paper is more difficult because children must find the correct angle of wind to get it to move!) Follow paper with heavier items such as a ball or small toy truck. As children experiment, they will not only be constructing their own knowledge about what makes something move, but they will also begin to understand the attributes of objects and how they affect motion.
How Can You Build an Experiment?
The key to great science investigations is the process of taking similar experiments and changing one variable. The variables for the concept of motion are: 1. The object you are moving (you can change the size or the weight); 2. The surfaces the object moves on (a flat, smooth floor, a nappy rug, a ramp, water dirt); and 3. The tools you use to make the object move (wind, breath, fans, straws, wheels, a ramp).
In this group-time activity, invite children to experiment with motion and different surfaces. Provide a small object, such as a crayon, for children to try to set in motion. Ask: "How can you move the crayon across our group-time rug? What would happen if we tried the same thing on the floor? What would happen if we tried to move the crayon across a pan of water? Which surface do you think would be the easiest to move the crayon on?"
Basing activities on children's interest level, encourage them to think of various tools they could use to set objects in motion or to create tools to move things and to predict which objects will be easiest to move, and which tools will work best. After trying these open-ended experiments, ask children what they know about motion and what they would like to find out. Encourage them to co-design the rest of the project with you.
The key to a good project is the process of taking children's questions and growing understanding out into the everyday world for further investigation. Where is movement and motion visual in your school? Children can make field investigations of motion in the gym, in the bus garage, and on the playground. (See Learning Centers, page 49, for additional activities on the playground.) Other field trips might include a nature center park, or beach to experiment with motion in nature.
Children's field studies may inspire additional classroom experiments. You'll also want to consider inviting visitors to your room. These might include a juggled dance gymnast, or other athletes.
To Celebrate, Make Motion
As children's interest begins to wane, help them to revisit their original questions and understandings and discuss what they have learned. Ask: "How can we demonstrate our new knowledge?" The answer might be an "Olympics" of games using objects that move or a class dance that demonstrates all the ways bodies can move!