Junk Modelling – developing imagination and problem solving skills

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein

The opportunity for the children to use their imagination to develop and create their own junk modelling creations is something we place great value upon within the setting. This has many benefits and the learning opportunities are limitless.

Throughout the summer term, the children had a particular interest in travel and transport; we felt it was important to bring this interest to life and to challenge and extend the children’s use of imagination, problem solving skills and awareness around the importance of recycling and reusing materials as much as possible. For this reason, the children were posed with the task of designing and creating their own boats out of our junk modelling materials.

This required them to think about how they wanted their boats to look, drawing and designing these first whilst discussing what junk modelling materials they may choose to use and why, enabling them to portray their ideas on paper and really use their imaginations to develop their own individual and unique boats. This opportunity ignited the children’s sense of adventure, encouraging them to share their own experiences of travelling on different forms of transport and also creating their own stories about where their boats were going to travel and what they would see along the way.

Children's drawing of a boat

Colourful boat designs

Young girl drawing a boat

Putting ideas to paper

Young girl drawing a boat

Top notch designing in progress!

The process of building the boats created lots of meaningful conversation around the importance of looking after our planet and the purpose of recycling and reusing materials, leading to thoughts around what daily packaging found within the home can be recycled and what it could become next. This also initiated an investigation around what materials would float or sink and why this might be, leading to an experiment where we tested a range of materials and objects to see which would float and sink, encouraging the children to make predictions around this.

The process of building the boats, also required perseverance and trial and error, the children had to overcome obstacles using their problem solving skills, for example if sticky tape didn’t hold their sail in place – what else could they use to hold the sail? Could they position it in a different way? Or use a different material?

Once this building process was complete, the children used their boats in their role play, and we also went down to the woods to bring their boats to life and race them down the stream. The delight on the children’s faces as their boats sailed down the stream completed this activity, bringing a sense of achievement to both the children and practitioners!

Swipe through the slideshow below

  • Sorting through materials
  • Boat drawing
  • Getting the boats ready to launch
  • Boats in the river!
  • Sorting through materials
  • Boat drawing
  • Getting the boats ready to launch
  • Boats in the river!

How does this develop and strengthen learning experiences?

  • The children were able to discuss the importance of recycling and reusing materials and the beneficial impact this has upon our environment.

  • The children were able to lead their own learning, to think about, plan, design, build and test their boats, using their problem solving skills along the way to make minor changes and overcome any obstacles faced as and when needed.

  • This activity provided a blank canvas for developing imagination, the children created their own stories around where their boats would travel to and what they would see and do along the way on their adventures. Whilst also imagining what they would like the boats to look like before building these.

  • Capturing the children’s interest in this way also enabled the children to share their own experiences of travel and transport, holidays and adventures, encouraging conversations which promote essential communication skills whilst developing and extending relationships amongst the children.

  • This opportunity created cross curricular links, leading to many other learning opportunities, such as exploring floating and sinking, the importance of recycling and reusing materials, further opportunities to explore travel and transport and opportunities to build upon early maths and literacy skills.

  • It has enabled the children to build upon the Characteristics of Effective Learning:

    Playing and exploring – finding out and exploring the properties of materials, how these can be reused to create something new whilst developing curiosity about the world around them. The children accepted this challenge, presenting their ‘can do’ attitude through their perseverance to complete this process to reach the outcome of creating their own unique boat.

    Active learning – The children remained involved and focused throughout, showing high levels of fascination and paying attention to details, they all presented satisfaction in meeting their own goals and immersed themselves within this learning experience.

    Creating and thinking critically – The children used their own ideas to design and create their boats, finding ways to solve any problems or challenges faced, adjusting strategies where needed. They made predictions about what objects / materials would float or sink, before testing these ideas. After experimenting with racing their boats down the stream, the children had the opportunity to reflect upon this process, to decide what worked well, what they could do differently next time and what they enjoyed about this activity.

Children watching their boats in a river

“Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve”

Roger Lewin

What can you do at home to further support your child’s learning?

  • Experiment with junk modelling – encourage your child to use their imagination to design and create something of interest to them.
  • Recycle and reuse materials and objects together, discussing the properties of materials and categorising these.
  • Go on imaginary adventures together, encouraging your child to think about where they are going, how they will get there, what they will see, what they need to pack e.g. a pretend picnic (or real one!) and discuss the process of going on a journey.
  • Design and make transport vehicles out of a range of construction toys – encourage discussion around what they are making / choosing to use and why to extend and developing thinking and vocabulary.
  • Go for a walk and count how many forms of transport you can find along the way.
  • Look through photos of previous adventures and holidays and share memories of this.
  • Continue to experiment with floating and sinking with everyday objects found around the home, make and record predictions together before testing these.

You can relax when you bring your child to Fit 'N' Fun Nurseries, comfortable in the knowledge that they will be safe, stimulated, nurtured, educated, supported and encouraged.

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