The Envelope Project

Sunday, 15 January 2017

     We recently did an engineering and design project that was inspired by a child who came to school with a homemade envelope containing his Scholastic book order.

     I invited him to share it with the class and he told us how he came to make the envelope because he couldn’t find one in his house.  I used this opportunity to share that engineers often design and build things because of a problem they want to solve. I then asked him to talk about the materials he used and we explored how well his envelope worked. I asked, "Was the envelope big enough to hold the book order? (yes!) Did it get the book order to school safely?" (yes!) 
     Later that month, we wrote letters to Santa and designed and built our own envelopes.  To begin, I brought in a variety of envelopes for the children to observe. 

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

Here's what they noticed about the envelopes:

They come in different sizes.
Most are rectangle shape.
They come in different colors.
Some have bubble wrap (padding).
Some have see-through windows.
Some close differently (clasps, stickers, gum seal). 
Some let you see what's inside and some don't

     We talked about the structure and function of these envelopes and how they had to be the right size for whatever they were meant to hold and how they must be able to close in some way in order for them to work.
     Next, the children drew a design for their own envelope.

The Envelope Project -  Kindergarten
     They then worked in small groups to make their envelopes.  The only guidelines were that the envelope had to be big enough to hold their letter (folded or unfolded) and that the letter must not fall out when I shake it upside down and all around!
     Some children willingly accepted this challenge. They enthusiastically got right to work and enjoyed the creative endeavor.  Others were less comfortable and would rather have been shown how to make the envelope step-by-step (I married this type!).    

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

     There was lots of trial and error, experimenting, redos and remakes and tape, tape, and more tape involved in the process! In the end, they all passed the "shake test," and were free to decorate them.  While the sequins didn't add to the functionality, they sure made them look pretty!

The Envelope Project - Kindergarten

     We ran out of time and not all envelopes made it home before Christmas (such is the Kindergarten life!), but we continued the work when we returned in January.  We also took some time to talk about addresses and what happens to an envelope once it goes into the mailbox.
     While we started this project in December, it's also possible to begin in January with thank you letters to Santa (see My Pen Pal Santa for a great literature tie-in) or in February for Valentine's Day.

     What projects might you do in the new year that could be inspired by children's ideas and interests?

Thanks for stopping by!

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