Regardless of a child's age, exploring inclines and how objects move down them is fascinating! Younger children are simply intrigued with the various ways objects move. They are exploring structure and function as well as cause and effect as they compare the different shaped objects and their movement. Older children will become more intentional as they plan out ramp systems and strategically choose their materials.
In one preschool classroom, Ms. Abby, their teacher put a great deal of thought into how to scaffold children's experience with balls and ramps. It all began with an open exploration into balls. First, Ms. Abby provided children with a wide variety of balls to explore; big, small, squishy, tinfoil, sports balls, and more. Children observed and described the balls and then explored what they could do with the different balls such as roll, bounce, kick and throw them. Next, she added some ramps to the block area. Children began to explore them, creating ramps that their balls could roll down.
Now that children were more familiar with the materials, Ms Abby began to challenge their thinking in new ways.
She first set up 3 ramps raised on one side with the same number of blocks, controlling for variables. She then invited children to choose one of the balls that they predicted would roll down the ramps the fastest. To their surprise, they all rolled down at the same speed!
They were further challenged to find a solution as to what they could do to cause the balls to roll faster. After a bit of investigating, one girl decided to add more blocks to her ramp, increasing the incline. This resulted in the ball
gaining greater force this going faster!
Finally, this same girl later began to draw out a plan to create a new ramp system. She then built her ramp system with great success! This was quite advanced and might not have occurred without the experiences she
had with ramps and balls prior.
A wonderful observation by Ms. Abby was “The more they tested, the more accurate their predictions and explanations became.”