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Ramps And Pathways

Early STEM Award 2022 – WA Winner

Hensman Street Elementary 

Our project was inspired by the children playing with loose parts as part of their usual outside playtime. The children love to create incredible contraptions, often choosing large planks of wood and balls, using our grassy hill as their construction site. This provided the opportunity to deepen children’s thinking around ramps, pathways, gradients, speed, weight, trajectory, and many more STEM concepts. Thus, our “Ramps and Pathways” project came to life. 

After a visit to Perth Zoo, the children became fascinated by the wobbly bridge and so began our project journey to replicate the bridge using blocks and other building materials. 

The children worked together to plan, build, wonder, question and discuss. Some of their hypotheses:  

“Square blocks make the best support.”  

“The more speed, the better it will roll.”  

“It does not go fast because it is made of metal and it is too heavy.” 

“If we lift the ramp up, it will go even faster.” 

Map inquiry

Towards the end of Term 3, the project headed in another direction after another visit to the Perth Zoo, where the children became engrossed with maps. Invited to use ramp materials, blocks, loose parts, and zoo images, they created a three-dimensional map of the zoo. The ramps became pathways to move between enclosures and access routes for the animals. 

We’ve Got Mail… a letter from Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton 

The next stage involved designing marble runs inspired by receiving a letter from the creators of the Treehouse series: Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. The letter invited the children to help design another storey for the Treehouse, one full of marble runs.  

The challenge required children to devise a system that enables a marble to travel over a long distance without being pushed. After much play, collaboration, trial and error, the children wrote back to Andy and Terry with a description of their explorations. The children were delighted to receive yet another letter response from Andy and Terry and as a result felt like their ideas were valued and important. This feeling of accomplishment provided a natural end to this particular aspect of the project. 

Concluding the project 

The final stage of the project aimed to bridge the children’s learning with the real world through purposeful reflection. To achieve this, we headed to the South Perth foreshore to spot ramps, pathways, and talk about their possible functions. 

Educator reflections 

Witnessing the children employ the Little Scientists Inquiry Cycle to monitor and communicate their learning progress was genuinely inspiring. Knowing that children are capable leaders of their own learning and seeing it in action was an incredible experience. Watching and recording children turn their “wonders” into designs and selecting appropriate materials to trial their ideas was quite phenomenal. Such a joy and privilege to play alongside children as they engage in inquiry-based learning! 

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