We started talking about what a tool is - is a tool simply something that carpenters use to build houses and other things? Or could a tool be something else? Do we use tools at school to help us learn and play? Do animals use tools, or just humans? Lots to think about and talk about.
Did you know that until the last century, it was widely believed that humans were the only living beings that used tools? We watched a short video clip of Jane Goodall's research as she talks specifically about chimps and the tools she observed them using. Now, of course, we all can site many examples of chimps and other animals and birds using all different types of tools.
I challenged the children to list as many tools as possible - the ones they use nearly every day at school. Pencils, scissors, tape, pencil sharpeners, chalk were on everyone's lists. Then children started thinking more deeply - what about the tools we use at lunchtime? At art, science and music classes? On the playground? Spoons, forks, straws, mallets, paint brushes, rocks ... we could go on and on! I think we had over 50 tools listed on the blackboard after everyone shared their ideas.
One of the tools we had on the board was "hands". I had the children think for a minute - what did chimps' hands and human hands have in common? Why did they make such good tools? Elliot had the answer - opposable thumbs! How difficult would certain tasks be if our hands didn't have thumbs? We soon found out! We taped our thumbs to the sides of our hands, and each child had a specific job to carry out - unbuttoning buttons, drawing, etc.
|Oliver is trying to cut a picture out without the use of his thumbs.|
|Using the "two-pawed" approach, Ella erases the board.|
|Clementine tries to open her clementine!|
After snack and recess, I introduced several other challenges (this time, using our thumbs). I showed the students a tray filled with all sorts of things - tape, straws, sticks, feathers, buttons, thread spools, pieces of sponge, a ballpoint pen, a lidded box of chewing gum, and clay.
The first team's challenge was to carry water from one bowl to another bowl without moving either bowl. Heads together, they talked about the different ways to do it. This task was accomplished in two different ways - using the sponge pieces and the straws. A third way was thought of by one of students on the other team. She told them they could have used the lid of the gum box to transfer water.
|Elliot and Samantha decided to use the pieces of sponge.|
Other team members used the straw.
The challenge for team two was slightly more difficult. They had to pick up a penny from the floor without bending at all. Hmmm....
Using the same tray of tools, they fashioned a long straw by taping all three shorter straws together. Then the put a piece of clay on the end and, voila!
|The super duper penny picker-upper!|
|Leo, Ariana, Maddy, Ben, Juna and Ella in teamwork mode.|