The Bicycle Project

A Project in a Multiage Five- and Six-Year Old Class at Valeska Hinton early Childhood Center, Peoria, Illinois

Length of project: 7 weeks
Teachers:  Jolyn Blank, Suzi Boos

Phase One—Beginning the Project

Some children in the class began writing about bikes in their journals. This experience led to an initial discussion about bikes. Stories were shared about bikes and individual parts of a bicycle were examined. The children wrote their stories. Some children examined and sketched the bike art . The teacher suggested possible activities: polling the class and graphing results, sketching and painting a wheel, making maps of the school's bike paths, surveying parents about bikes, writing a class book about bike experiences, and sketching a bike. As children discussed the ideas and their knowledge of bikes, a topic web was developed. Children critiqued each other's work and reflected on their own work. They began to develop a list of questions and contribute suggestions about what they wanted to investigate and do next.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

The children had questions about how bikes were put together and how bicycles were fixed when they were broken. They began pulling non-fiction books from the collection to find out names of bike parts so they could refer to them easily. An owner of a local bike shop was invited to visit. To prepare for his visit, the children developed a list of questions. They discussed their own theories about the answers. The bike expert responded to the children's questions while demonstrating on a bike in the classroom. He also discussed bicycle safety. From this discussion, a group decided to develop a list of bicycle safety rules and post them. Others created a list of bike words and then created diagrams of bikes. The class began plans for creating a model of the school's bike paths. A group of children worked on this model for several weeks. They also worked with clay to create models of the bikes. In preparation for the field work, the children again created a list of questions. They continued to be fascinated with fixing bikes but also began to develop questions about the cost, parts, and types of bikes. The class visited a local bike shop where the children made field notes which included observational drawings, floor plans of the store, lists of items displayed, and a record of answers to questions.

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

Using their field notes as a guide, the children created a large floor plan of the store. They decided to construct the show room. An area of the classroom was set aside for this purpose. They referred to their notes to list items they would need to construct the store. Some children worked on constructing air pumps, locks and keys, and a cash register. They created a display case and put price tags on the items for sale. We had meetings to discuss progress and children gave suggestions about what to do next. The children decided to construct the service area of the shop. They began to engage in dramatic play as bike mechanics, salespeople, cashiers, and customers.

Comments

During this first project for these teachers and this class, the children gradually moved from following the teachers' leads to becoming directors of their own learning. They were critiquing each other's work, reflecting on their own work, and going back and doing things over to make them better. Notice the model of the bike paths. The children involved in this part of the project made their own plans, encountered problems, put them to the class for suggestions, and with this input returned to their work. Also note the growth in vocabulary from the questions generated before the visit to the class by the expert and the list generated by the class later 'in the project before they visited the bicycle shop.

Project Summaries

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