One of my favorite things about having recently moved to a new town is finding local treasures. In my world of preschool engineering, we are always on the lookout for machines. Roadwork, construction sites, and sculpture all open conversations about STEM. The coolest new preschool engineering discovery is undoubtably the book sorter at the public library.
It is always an important part of our trip to the library - returning the books. I give each child the opportunity/responsibility to fit books into the slot. They take turns, figure out the orientation of the book that works, and (sometimes with heavy hearts) say "good bye" to their books. We used to talk about the "scan robots" that check the books back into the library. We discussed one of the librarians' tasks to return the books to their proper place. And we talk about the other children who would get to take the books home next. Then, with all the excitement of finding something new, we would "race" to find the next set of books to check out. That whole process provide ample learning - pre-math (shapes), pre-science (classifying/sorting), and citizenry.
Now returning books to the library is even more exciting. The process is still the same but the experience is different, as are the conversations that stem from the experience. At our old library, all books (adult and child alike) were returned through the same slot where they fell into a giant wheeled canvas cart. DVDs and CDs went through a second slot to fall into their own cart. We had no chance to observe the rest of the sorting process. At our new library, there is an observation window! We get to watch a machine do the first round of sorting. All the books and movies are inserted into a slot but they do not fall. Instead, a conveyor belt (first cool factor) moves each book or DVD or CD from our space in the public entrance to the private librarian space. The conveyor belt stops for a scanner to read a bar code, check the book in and determine which of four canvas carts in belongs in. The conveyor then moves the media forward and stops it next to the appropriate cart. Next, some sort of paddle swings around (second cool factor), knocking the book, DVD, or CD into a canvas cart. This is where the machine's work ends and human works begins - pushing the cart somewhere else presumably sorting things by genre and author before shelving.
My children and I love to find clever uses of machines in our lives. Seeing innovative solutions inspire new kinds of play at home. It spurs new conversations about problem solving. We can talk about what jobs are best left for humans, what challenges arise when machines replace the work humans do, etc. There seems to be no end to the learning that can happen if we simply start with making an observation! So keep your eyes peeled and your minds open to the technology that effects your daily lives and consider using it as a place to connect with your child.
Read here for a review of a toy conveyor belt! http://preschoolengineer.blogspot.com/2014/02/toy-review-bruder-conveyor-belt.html
[Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I receive a small referral fee at no cost to you. To see how I spend the money see my "Philanthropy" page. ]