Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Exploring Bridges with the Three Billy Goats Gruff

IMG_8484(2)We began with The Three Billy Goats Gruff, illustrated by Janet Stevens.  Check out the eldest of the Gruff brothers, one of the hippest, toughest brothers I’ve seen in a picture book!

IMG_8487We tapped the “trip-trap” sound of the goats hooves on the bridge, getting louder as the brothers grow in size, finally hitting the floor to make the loudest “trip-trap” sounds with the biggest brother. The children enjoyed repeating the sounds when we acted the story out after reading the book.

Next I read part of Ken Robbins Bridges (Dial, 1991), a lovely nonfiction picture book with evocative hand-colored photographs and short and very informative explanations for why bridges are built different ways. The book includes London’s famous Tower Bridge, which features a drawbridge (bascule) that goves up to allow boats to pass underneath.  We watched a simple animation of a drawbridge, and then built our own drawbridges out of cereal boxes. It is a fairly simple project, but cutting cardboard, punching holes, and measuring the yarn required adult assistance.




It was great to see the interactions taking place — lots of scaffolding here, with parents guiding little hands to thread the yarn through, having them help measure the length, etc. And when it’s over, pull the yarn to lift the bridge and put it over your shoulder to carry home. One child used his portable bridge to carry a library book safely home!

Leave a comment »

Would you like to live in a treehouse?

At the Books & Blocks program at Westerville Library, we explored treehouses.

jackjilltreehouseWe read Jack and Jill’s Treehouse by Pamela Duncan Edwards (HarperCollins, 2008), which is written in a cumulative “house that Jack built” style.


Then we read part of Adventure Homes by Gerry Bailey (Crabtree, 2013) which has a great outline of the structure of a treehouse, and includes information and photographs of the Korawai and Kombai people of Papua New Guinea, who are known as “the tree people” because they build their houses high in the forest trees.

Afterwards, the children built with a variety of materials: wooden blocks, legos, magnetic blocks and large cardboard bricks.





They also used ramps and balls, envisioning having slides to descend from the treehouse.



Leave a comment »

The Three Little Pigs Variations

For our Books & Blocks program, we explored building with variations of the Three Little Pigs. I began by retelling the story of the Three Little Pigs with a magnet board, asking children to help me remember the story.  Along the way I asked them what kind of house did they live in — a straw house? no! a wood house? (a few yeses) a brick house? etc. Next I read The Three Little Pigs: an architectural tale by Steven Guarnaccia.

threepigsThen we acted out the story with Laurie Berkner’s “Lots of Little Pigs” song. I had used masking tape to make three squares on the floor to represent the pigs’ houses before storytime. Now I asked for volunteers to be pigs and pick a house, or to be a wolf and join me.

Then there was plenty of time for building their own houses . . . or whatever they wanted to create, with legos, wood blocks, or cardboard bricks.



One child built an apartment building.



There was also a cardboard house for them to re-enact the story, which many children did, taking turns looking out the window or knocking on the door pretending to be the wolf.


I’ve used other variations of the Three Little Pigs as well. For our Family Tales, I shared Claudia Rueda’s delightfully spare Huff & Puff


and Mark Teague’s potato chip and sody-pop version, The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf.


My all time favorite variation is Euguene Trivizas’ The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig with irresistible illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.


Leave a comment »


This past winter in Wonderworks, we decided it would be appropriate to do a theme on Igloos.

After opening with our Energy song, we asked the children what they knew about igloos.  We asked if they thought it would be easy or hard to make an igloo, if it would take a long time, where igloos were made.

We read the book Building an Igloo, by Ulli Stelzer and then showed them a brief YouTube video on the iPad of a man teaching his son how to make an igloo.

building igloo

When we’d finished reading the book and viewing the video, we asked the children the same questions that we had asked earlier to see if they had changed their opinions or learned anything new about the art of igloo building.

We then listened to and acted out the song, Let’s Play in the Snow, by Rachel Buchman. This is a wonderfully fun and imaginative (not to mention, silly) song about dressing up and going out to play in the snow.

Let’s Play in the Snow, by Rachel Buchman

Another good song/activity for this theme that we had in our plans but didn’t have time to do (but perhaps you might) is one that’s sung to the tune of All Around the Mulberry Bush.
Feel free to add as many verses as you’d like.

Song: This is the Way We Build an Igloo

This is the way we pack the snow

pack the snow, pack the snow,

this is the way we pack the snow,

when we build our igloo.

This is the way we cut the snow…

This is the way we lift the blocks…

This is the way we cut the door….


After our song, we read our picture book.  For this theme, we chose Jan Brett’s The Three Snow Bears, a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  The children loved Brett’s retelling of the familiar story of The Three Bears set in a polar igloo.

snow bears

Before moving on to our last activity, and because it’s one of the children’s favorites, we did Dr. Jean’s song, The Cool Bear Hunt.  This version of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt never fails to entertain our eager group.

For our activity, we constructed marshmallow igloos.  For this, we required a few bags of mini marshmallows, some tacky glue, some Styrofoam plates and some paper plates.  We passed out foam bowls (with openings that we had pre-cut) to the children upside down on paper plates with some tacky glue squirted on each child’s plate.  The children could then dip the marshmallows into the glue on their plate and add them to their bowls to make igloos. I am delighted to say each child completed his/her own igloo with little to no assistance whatsoever from accompanying adults.


Leave a comment »

STEM Storytime: Building

This week’s preschool STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Storytime focused on building. First I asked the children what materials they like use to build things. Blocks, legos, sticks, sand, and snow were mentioned. All of these, plus many more, can be found in Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building (Lee & Low, 2012), which pairs illustrations of a child building with different materials with a corresponding work of architecture.dreaming up


Wooden blocks are juxtaposed with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Sand castles are paired with Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. All the children nodded when I asked if they had a set of stacking rings when they were a baby.


After looking and talking about the book, children were given a variety of materials to construct their own edifices. And build they did!


Leave a comment »