Q1. What materials do I need to get started? How many per child?
The basic materials you need in the classroom of 20 children are: Three sets of 24 cove moldings (Six (6) times 1', 2', 3' and 4'), and marbles of different sizes. You don’t give the whole set to the children at once, but start small, introducing them little by little. Therefore, you might need only a foot of cove molding and a marble to introduce children to Ramps and Pathways during group time, then you may want to gather a small group of children to start with just a set of 1-foot cove molding and a few marbles.
Q2. Where do I get my hands on these materials?
Contact your local home improvement stores such as Home Depot, Lowe's or building supply stores. If you do not have a home improvement store in your area, you may purchase the cove moldings at Constructivist Childhood Materials (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Q3. What will it cost?
Contact the local home improvement stores.
Q4. What is the educational value of Ramps and Pathways?
Ramps and Pathways is a physical science curriculum for children PreK-2nd grade. There is a huge educational value, because children actually engage in science concepts, and have experiences with force and motion - something that many educators think they will only learn in high school. We start early, because we know the importance of children understanding how the world works. This knowledge will eventually connect to children’s future as scientists, technology specialists, engineers and mathematicians.
Q5. With the current demands on my class time, how have other teachers fit R&P into their day?
Every teacher has challenges to overcome in the classroom. There may be financial challenges, challenges with co-workers or administrators, challenges in the daily schedule, classroom space challenges, and many more that could be named. If the teacher understands the benefits of Ramps & Pathways as a rich activity that will benefit students across the curriculum and knows how to implement R&P into the daily schedule, the challenges can be overcome. When R&P is fully implemented into the daily schedule the benefits will be obvious to teachers, parents, curriculum coordinators, and administrators.
Q6. How do I convince my administrator/parents of the value of R&P?
We think that the best way for administrators and parents to understand the value of R&P is to let them PLAY! Experiencing Ramps and Pathways on their own will allow them to experience what the children do, and think from their perspectives. Also, R&P is not an easy activity for adults! The challenge they will face will intrigue and excite them how much science is involved in this activity. We are positive they will certainly understand the value of R&P.
Q7. Is this something I could encourage parents to do with their children at home?
Absolutely! We also encourage the entire family to participate and play with the children.
Q8. What is the best way to introduce R&P into my class?
Please see Question 1.
Q10. What kind of rules do you have the students follow?
Some teachers prefer to dictate rules from the very beginning. We believe that rules should be made WITH the children. Let the children come up with rules, and you will be surprised how much they will stick to those rules. We do not advise teachers to give them ideas, such as “Do NOT use Ramps as swords or weapons!” Well, the teacher is actually giving them ideas to USE as weapons. Successful teachers who invite children in making rules are also successful in being great leaders and facilitators.
Q11. Do the Ramps ever turn into... Weapons?
Only if you want to…please see Question 10.
Q12. What do I do about clean up and storage?
We think this can be discussed with children during rule making. However, cleaning up a 4 feet cove molding for a 3 year old is not an easy task. We have many teachers who brought great ideas on how to store in a children-friendly way. A metal wastebasket is sturdy to support cove moldings of various lengths. We also recommend using plastic laundry hampers with wheels for easier transportation in the classroom. One way for the little ones to reach the bottom of the hamper is to place the hampers horizontally on the floor. It will prevent from tipping and will be easier for them to reach.
Q13. How long will it take (or, do I allow) for my students to build a ramp?
If you have a good portion of a time during your day, such as a enter time, we suggest you to use that time to let the children play with R&P. Finding ways to leave the structures untouched until the child completes is another way to “preserve” their ongoing work. There is no time limit to construct Ramps, but we would like teachers to allow sufficient time for the children to think, create, make mistakes, and construct again. Making rules will play an important role for children who don’t want to leave the Ramps area, or for those who have a hard time sharing with other children. Also, know that the teacher does not have to clean up the structures every time there is a transition. Ramps can be out in the classroom for the entire year, as it is not an activity that has a timeline. R&P has endless possibilities and it is an open-ended curriculum.
Q14. What if I don’t have a space in my room, can I still make this work?
Yes. A lot of teachers think they need an open space to do Ramps. However, the problem of space is actually a huge opportunity for teachers and children to think dimensionally. We recommend building structures on a table, chair, between shelves, even outside on a hallway, if you want! Some teachers ask for permission to play outside or at the cafeteria, or some just challenge children to make within a contained space. One advantage of building in a small space is that children begin thinking about building up, just like a tall building. You will see how this can be an intellectual challenge for children to think about the base structure, selection of materials to support, etc. There is always a way to be creative!
Q15. How do I keep my students interested/challenged?
First, teachers need to carefully observe the children. Find their struggles, their challenges, their plans, and ask them good productive questions that will make them think. Never give them answers how to fix their problems, because that will defeat the purpose of inquiry-based curriculum, which is very important in today’s science. Scaffold children’s thinking, and you will see how much you can keep them interested, challenged and engaged!
Q16. What type of vocabulary is appropriate for 3-5 year olds? 6-8 year olds, etc.?
There are science vocabularies that may be challenging for the 3-year olds to learn, such as acceleration, velocity, and speed. There are technical definitions that we don’t want to confuse children (nor adults) when they are young. Scientists warn how we use vocabularies we don’t even understand as adults, and we certainly do not want to do the same with little children. The following will give you an idea of how we can categorize the vocabularies to teach children:
Higher, lower, next to, between, on top of, under or underneath, beside, behind, in front of, below, above
Down, up, forward, backward, sideways, through, over
Incline, ramp, pathway, track, sphere, fast, slow, object, speed
Q17. What type of explicit instruction do you suggest?
One thing we strongly suggest is the way the teacher “teaches” the activity. As mentioned before, R&P is not something you teach and test, like many science activities. R&P is an open-ended activity, which provides opportunities for both the instructor and the children to think, create, make mistakes, fix mistakes, and create again. The key to the instruction is “facilitate.” Be a good facilitator.
Q18. Do you have a sample lesson plan?
We can suggest a sample lesson plan, which will be on the website. It should give you an idea of how to implement Ramps and Pathways successfully into your lesson plan. However, remember to be creative and think of R&P NOT just as a science activity, but also as math, literacy, social studies, etc.