Research suggests that young children do not learn as creatively or critically when adults tell them what to do. Simple directives such as, “Do it this way.” or “It works like this…” appears to deter children from investigating and testing out ideas and theories of their own. As adults, it is important for us to give children opportunities to experiment; to
foster scientific exploration so that children can generate thoughts, ideas and questions in order to make their own discoveries about how the world operates. Since our classroom is designed to foster the interests of the children and create learning opportunities and experiences that are meaningful (and to go along with our most recent egg/chick exploration), we decided to conduct an “egg drop challenge.”
An “egg drop challenge” is an exciting way to incorporate the scientific method as well as higher level thinking skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, into our classroom in a way that is not only challenging, but FUN! The objective of the challenge was to create a container (or “contraption” as we preferred to call it) that would protect an egg from cracking or breaking when dropped from a high elevation. Working with our fourth and fifth grade buddies over the course of two days, we began by gathering a variety of recycled materials (including boxes, tubes, paper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap and lots and lots of tape) and then collaborated to plan/design and construct vessels which would not compromise the integrity of the eggs when dropped.
Before children can test out their theories however, time and space must be given in order for them to develop their own ideas about materials; the how’s(?) and the why’s(?). On the first day of our collaboration, we asked the students to think about the materials that were available to them and sketch out their plans. Once their plans were drawn, the children were then given the opportunity to choose any of the materials available to them to work with. As the children would work with their buddies, they would test out their efforts and problem-solve ways to make corrections and adjustments to their contraptions. Once the buddies were satisfied with their work, it was set aside for the following day’s big challenge! On Thursday, March 31st, under a cloudless sky, we assembled all of the pre-k children along with their fourth and fifth grade buddies on the school playground.
Working in groups of two and three, the children would walk the stairs of the schools second story egress and position themselves along the balcony, (with Ms. O’ Dea’s support, of course!) with their contraptions suspended over the sandbox below. After counting down from three, the buddies would drop their contraption with baited breath and descend from the second story egress to assess how their hard work held up after
the fall. Of the 31 contraptions that were dropped in our first annual egg drop challenge, only one was unable to protect the egg that was contained inside!