Cars, Ramps and Measurement: An exploration of racing and measurement.

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Today in our Nursery School classroom one child talked about how much he had enjoyed racing the cars down the “big ramp”  and how much he would like to do it again.  We began talking about ramps and deduced that ramps make cars go faster because it is like going “down a hill”, as another student explained.  We decided to create a greater ramp in the lobby by setting up an additional ramp at the top of the ramp that was already there.  The first child began talking about winning races, and we explored the idea of “winning”.  We decided that to win you would have to come in first place, or go the farthest.  We decided that to choose the real winner today it would have to be the car that traveled the farthest.  I urged the children to try to find some materials that he could use to measure his car.

The first exclaimed “we can use the pipes to see how far the cars go!”, picking up some of the PVC pipes that we have in the Studio classroom.  He very quickly changed his mind and said that we would not have enough pipes in the classroom to make the right length.  We then found the basket full of precut ribbon and decided that we would try to use ribbons to measure.  When we raced the cars down the ramp we found that the ribbon curled up and was hard to connect multiple pieces to get the right measurement every time.  He finally decided that if we had one “really really really long string” that it would be able to measure the cars, and that we could “label” them to see where they stopped.

We found a really long piece of yarn, and taped it to the ramp.  We then found sticky labels that the children would write their names on and what place they had come in within the race.  Both color coated their labels as to what cars they had or to what place they came in.  The first child labeled his spots by writing an “A” and the “1” depending on what place he came in.  The system became that if you came in first in a race you would write on your label in red, and if you came in second you would use yellow.

It was very interesting to see how the children manipulated the materials to reach the best outcome.  Later in the day we revisited racing cars on the ramp again and labeling them.  This time the children took turns saying “on your mark, get set, go!” to begin each race, they also took turns changing their starting positions on the ramp to see if certain places on the ramp had a better opportunity to have a winning car.

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