Found materials + engineering process = toy

Toy on wheels made of found materials.We didn’t have enough wire so we re-used cardboard tubes, empty boxes, egg cartons, and plastic jar lids to create toys called “Galimotos” in the Malawian children’s tradition as recounted in the children’s book, Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Catherine Stock. Galimoto means “car” in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi and many, but not all, of our creations were vehicles. The small group of kindergarten and first grade girls drew their designs and then built their own toy to take home in a one hour library sponsored program.

Cardboard tubes, spools, tape and wire were used to create a toy car.Using wire, tape and found materials to make a toy car.A third grade lesson plan (with additional links) from LEARN NC from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill describes this activity as an “opportunity to engage in creative self-expression by designing and creating wire sculptures.”  It is also an opportunity to understand the iterative practices of engineering—a cycle of ask, imagine, plan, create, improve, ask, imagine….See the Engineering Is Elementary website for more details of this process.

Some of the problems the children had to solve were how to attach wheels, balancing the vehicle to keep it upright, and holding the pieces together. These significant challenges did not discourage the young engineers who tried alternative designs or accepted their work with its limitations.

I’d also like to read Lorato and her Wire Car by Botswanian author Lauri Kubuitsile. It won the Golden Baobab Prize Best Story for ages 8-11 years in 2009. It is published by Vivlia Publishers. Can you think of any other books that tell of children designing and building something out of found materials?

An hour-long program just isn’t enough time to create a toy that works satisfactorily. I hope the children will continue to design and improve, imagine and create, until they are happy with their designs.


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