Monday, May 13, 2013

Toilet Paper

Photo from
We all know that toddlers are interested in toilet paper. Their interest most likely stems from their perpetual interest in figuring out our daily routines. However, when a preschool engineer looks more closely at the toilet paper roll they discover interesting changes in shape, material behavior, and density.

There are a lot of uses for the toilet paper roll once the paper has been used - an internet search for "toilet paper craft" will spring up more pages than you will ever need. Preschoolers make butterflies, race cars, egg holders, napkin rings, and so many more that they've been alphabetized at DLTK. It is a rare occasion that someone will allow their preschooler to experiment with the toilet paper itself. But at Marvelously Made Preschool they had an event worthy of the creativity and inquisitive nature of preschool engineers. They called it "Toilet Paper Palooza" and the children used the toilet paper in all its forms to wrap, paint on, squish, and cook.

As a mom who likes to get my hands dirty and make a mess, I think Toilet Paper Palooza was a brilliant way to play with an everyday household item. When I consider it through a STEM Education lens I chuckle at how amazingly STEM-literate preschoolers can be. For instance, the American Association for the Advancement of Science have outlined goals for children learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in their Benchmarks as part of "Project 2061 - A longterm initiative to advance literacy in STEM." When it comes to toilet paper education let's consider what our preschool engineers know without knowing they know it.:

"People can often learn about things around them by just observing those things carefully, but sometimes they can learn more by doing something to the things and noting what happens." From The Nature of Science - Scientific Inquiry

"Students should examine and use a wide variety of objects, categorizing them according to their various observable properties. They should subject materials to such treatments as mixing, heating, freezing, cutting, wetting, dissolving, bending, and exposing to light to see how they change. Even though it is too early to expect precise reports or even consistent results from the students, they should be encouraged to describe what they did and how materials responded." From The Physical Setting - The Structure of Matter 

These are goals for K-2 but when I look at pictures from Marvelously Made Preschool's Toilet Paper Palooza I think that those kids had a fabulous time becoming scientifically literate. Plus, parents and educators might take comfort knowing that allowing their preschooler to play with toilet paper (at a convenient time) might be letting them build a foundation for success in STEM learning. So go ahead and unrolllllll...

p.s. Mikey inspired this post when he unrolled toilet paper and said, "Look! I poured cement to make a road." Of course, this sparked the creation of a mass transit system made entirely of toilet paper.

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