Thursday, January 15, 2015

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Nuts & Bolts Sculptures

These nuts and bolts sculptures are a wonderful combination of art, science, math, and engineering!


My favorite way to introduce young children to a new concept is to let them experience it somehow.  They learn about gravity, balance, their first language, and even math concepts through experiences they create and are surrounded with.  This fun project lets them experience math, physics, and engineering while they create a fun work of art!  I'll talk more about these benefits at the end of the post.  Right now, let's looks at our...

Nuts & Bolts Sculptures!

Our first introduction to nuts and bolts and how they work together was in a Nuts & Bolts Sensory Bin.  Today, I pulled out the bin and some low-temperature glue guns and let the kids get creative!

Simple Supplies:

* a variety of nuts and bolts

* hot glue gun & glue

** SAFETY NOTE:  All activities are meant to be done with adult supervision.  Obviously nuts and bolts are small.  If there is any chance your children will put them in their mouths, you may want to wait a few years until they are older.  Also, hot glue guns are obviously hot.  If your children will not be safe with a glue gun, do not let them use one!  You can always place the glue where they point and place whatever piece they choose where they indicate.

Easy How-To:

1- Review safety rules.

2- Make sure your children have easy access to the nuts, bolts, and glue.  Explain that we are making sculptures, and they are free to create whatever kind of art work they like!  They can make it look like something, or it can be abstract!  Then let them get to work!

My younger preschooler found that gluing objects to a paper or cardboard base helped support them as he built.

We soon had quite the production!

There were lots of abstract nuts and bolts sculptures:

We also had two snow men:

I love how this snowman was protectively placed under the guard of a transforming dinosaur whose alter ego is Optimus Prime:

And last, but not least, a turtle:

All of my kiddos were super excited to build and very pleased with their work.  Even my toddler wanted to participate and was excited to tell me where to glue "her pieces" together!

As I mentioned earlier, one thing that I love about this project is how it lets them experience science (especially physics and engineering), math, and art at the same time.  The art element is obvious, but let me tell you a little about physics, engineering, and math.

Let's start with math.  Nuts and bolts fit together in a tight, interlocking spiral.  The size of the nut and bolt must match precisely, or you have a wiggly, wobbly connection.  As preschoolers interact with these pieces, they learn about size and comparison (more than, less than, bigger/greater than, smaller/less than).  If you're sitting there with them, you can give them words and labels to describe what they're seeing.  For example, "Did that bolt fit in that nut?  Why not?  The bolt is bigger than the nut."  Since I had an elementary-aged child in the group too, I talked about their actual measurements (1/4" nuts and bolts, 5/8" nuts and bolts, etc.).

Physics and Engineering:  Everyone of our kiddos encountered a physics/engineering challenge as they built when one side of their sculpture threatened to tip over!  The first time they are almost always upset.  We talk about support and balance and weight, and they usually identify the problem and find a solution.  Most preschoolers can even handle a discussion using words like "gravity," and "force," and "center of balance."  It is also fun to look around the house and neighborhood for objects that are built that look like they may tip over.  We found some lamps that (at first) looked like they had un-supported structures, but as we studied them we were able to figure out how they stood up.  We also looked at some bridges and talked about why they have so many support beams!

This post is also part of the A-Z STEM series, hosted by Little Bins for Little Hands.  Today is N for Nuts & Bolts!! Click here to see the schedule and links to dozens of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) activities!

a to z stem series

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