Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Open Exploration: Building Structures

Your Turn! 

Before beginning Open Exploration with your students, it's a good idea for you as the teacher to become familiar with the materials at hand. Who knows? Maybe you will be surprised at what you learn. This is a good introduction to how you will begin doing inquiry science with your students. Work with your assistant teacher and perhaps the rest of your Pre-K team and have fun!

Explore the Materials

What do you notice about the materials? Their shape? Size? Color? Are they hard or soft? What happens if you bang them together? 

Get Building!

Think about:

  • How do you want to build?

  • What is the strongest structure?

  • What makes a structure stable? Look at the foundation. Look at the sides. Where do you see the forces of tension, compression, and gravity working? 

Build a Tall Tower

Build the tallest tower you can with your materials.

  • Sketch your structure. What details do you want to include?

  • Were you successful in your challenge to build tall?

  • What did you learn about meeting the challenge?

  • What changes would you make to your tower next time? Why?

  • How did sketching your structure help you reflect?

Build an Enclosure for Animals

 Create a structure that will protect your classroom toy animals from the rain and wind, will let them get in and out, and look outside.

  • Sketch your structure. What details do you want to include?

  • Were you successful in your challenge to build tall or to build a roof?

  • What did you learn about meeting the challenge?

  • What changes would you make to your structure next time? Why?

  • How did sketching your structure help you reflect?

 

Beginning Open Exploration in Your Classroom

Now that you have had a chance to explore the materials, it is time to introduce Building Structures to your students.

  • Introduce buildings and structures during circle time. What do students know about buildings? Show them images of all different kinds of structures.

  • Go on a neighbhorhood walk. Have students share what they notice about buildings. Perhaps they notice different shapes or building materials. Look for windows, doors, walls and roofs.

  • Walk around your school. What do they see? Perhaps there are doors, windows, and walls inside the building. What does the ceiling look like? 

  • Allow students undirected play with the blocks. 

Students start to engage with the blocks in all different ways. Many will begin building in long rows along the floor. This is a great time to measure how long they can build. How many blocks does it take to get across the room?