ELC Inquiry Questions

Q: Which Materials are the Best for Our Outdoor Structure?


A group of the ELC Preschool children took an interest in the outdoor structure in the ELC garden. They began to make changes to "make it beautiful" and started working together to clear leaves from inside the structure and moved inside to use as furniture.

A few children chose to draw designs of how they would like to change the outdoor structure.

Student A: We need to use cardboard [on top] in order to prevent rain and thunder.

Student B: Cardboard is not good, because it is paper.
Student C: Wood is better. It’s not paper, so it’s good.
Student A: Wood is not good for thunder. The lightning will hit the wood (tree). I think cardboard is good...but I’m not sure. Maybe cardboard and wood!
Student C: I think something hard.
Student D: When typhoon comes, it may fall down. We should put heavy rocks around the house.

They discovered that they need to test some materials to see if they will be strong enough to withstand strong rain, strong wind, and hot sun.


Testing cardboard in light rain and heavy rain

Some students thought cardboard may be a good material to use. Other students thought that cardboard would not stay strong if it rained. They decided to test this idea.

First they tested cardboard in light rain using spray bottles.

Much to the surprise of many children, the cardboard did not break after testing it in light rain! A few children hypothesized, "If there is a little rain, it will not break. If there is a lot of rain, it will break."

They decided to test this theory.

The children indicated that in a typhoon, there is lots of water and wind. They stood on the cardboard to agitate it and found that it very quickly and easily came apart.

They reflected on their cardboard test, and everyone agreed that they should not use cardboard for their outdoor structure.


Testing wood, metal, and plastic with heat

Next, they tested whether or not certain materials will stay cool when exposed to heat.

They tested plastic, metal, and wood by putting spoons made of these materials into hot water and then touching the spoon to see what it felt like.

First, they made predictions about which spoon might feel the most hot, and which spoon would feel the least hot.
Then they put the spoons in the hot water and after one minute, they took out the spoons.

After testing each spoon, the scientists determined that the metal spoon was the hottest, and the wood spoon was the least hot after being exposed to heat.

Testing bricks with heat (and butter!)

To test whether bricks are good insulators, they set up another experiment using heat and butter. Preschool scientists made observations before, during, and after the experiment to develop their understanding of this material.





They had a visit from a scientist to check in our experiment! When our high school science teacher stopped by to see what the preschoolers were learning and asked questions about their tests. The children were happy to answer her questions!


After the test was complete, they made observations of what happened to the two butter samples, and what the brick felt like on the side closest to the heat and the side away from the heat.

They determined that brick is able to stay cool even when it is somewhere hot and added their new information to our learning board.


Testing cardboard, wood, and brick in strong wind

Inspired by the story The Three Little Pigs, the final experiment tested cardboard, wood, and brick in strong wind. The children set up the different tests outside and recorded their observations of the outcome.





They observed that cardboard will blow away in strong wind and that brick will stay put. However they noticed something interesting about wood! When they tested a small wood block, the wood blew away. But when they tested a large piece of wood, the wood stayed put. 


Trip to Cainz

After completing all of their tests, they observed that wood and brick are the best materials to use outside.

Using the school van, they went to Cainz home store in small groups to purchase the materials needed to build the house.

They purchased 60 bricks, 5 pieces of wood, and nails. They gave the measurements for wood to the store employees and watched them cut the wood into the correct sizes. Then they helped to pay for the materials.

Building the house

Once they returned to school with the materials, it was time to build the house. The first job was to nail the pieces of wood to the frame. The preschool builders needed to use goggles, hammers, and nails to secure the wood in place. 





It was hard work! The NIS maintenance team stepped in to help us so that the house was built safely.

Next steps...

This project is ongoing! The preschoolers realized that they cannot just stack the bricks - they need something like glue to hold it in place. They are waiting for the weather to be dry enough to build with the bricks.

They are also creating ideas of collaborative art that they might paint on the outside of the walls to make it a beautiful house that was made together.

More photos are available here =>