In this introductory lesson, children become acquainted with Mech-a-blocks, try to make things from them, and develop their thinking about how to use these materials.
- Classroom set of pegboard Mech-a-Blocks
1. Introduce the Mech-a-blocks during a class meeting. The video above shows Travis introducing the unit to an after-school group.
We have some new materials in the science area. We call them Mech-a-blocks. Can you describe this piece (holding up a green triangle)?
- Do we have other shapes like this?
- How is this new one different from the _____?
Focus their attention on the holes and the fasteners:
- Does anyone have an idea what we can do with the holes?
- Here’s a clue. There is one other thing in the area: this small container with fasteners. Does anyone know how these work? What can you do with them? How do you use them?
- Do you know how to attach two things with a fastener, so they can’t come apart?
2. Distribute the Mech-a-Blocks. In this video Travis conducts the initial distribution in a way that prepares for clean-up.
3. Encourage children to make something:
- When you make something special you want to share, you can keep it until you have had a chance to share it, but after that, we will take the pieces apart so we can use them again.
Provide plenty of room and time to experiment. Children have made spaceships, cameras, houses, birds, camels, faces, tables, as well as abstract designs. Here are samples of some first constructions.
4. Class meeting: The children will make a variety of things . In this video Travis has children tell about what they have made. Look closely at the processes and products of the work. Select some constructions that are very different from one another, and ask the children who made them to show them to the rest of the class. Before each child presents his or her work, ask:
- What does it represent?
- What do you have to do to make things move?
- How will it move?
After the rest of the class has guessed, allow the child who made it to demonstrate it and discuss what it represents. Then guide the class in thinking and talking about each construction:
- How is yours similar to what ____ made?
- How is it different?
- What problems did you have in making it? Did anyone else have a similar problem? What did you do to fix it?
Clean-up, letting each student save one construction for the next lesson. This video shows Travis conducting a clean-up.
Note: This “lesson” might last for several periods or more. It should continue as long as children are coming up with new ideas, and following them through.
- Students should be able to construct with Mech-a-Blocks, explain how they did it, and demonstrate or describe any moving parts.