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Guides for Implementing the Project Approach From Door to Door: A Project about Doors and Gates About
  • Introduction: A Project about Doors and Gates
  • Launching the Investigation of Doors: The Teacher’s Role
    • Considering Children’s Potential Interest
    • Locating Resources for the Project
    • Looking at Doors and Gates before the Project Begins
    • Making the Teacher’s Topic Web
    • Gathering Reference Materials
    • Planning for Documentation throughout the Project
  • Phase 1: Getting Started
    • Collecting Data Outside of School
    • Recalling Prior Experiences Related to Doors and Gates
    • Posing Provocative Questions
    • Making Observations of Doors and Gates at School
    • Creating a Topic Web with the Children
    • Helping Children Ask Questions and Make Predictions
    • Forming Subtopic Groups
    • Involving Families during Phase 1
  • Phase 2: Fieldwork
    • Gathering Data on Doors and Gates
    • Interacting with Visiting Experts
    • Making Site Visits
    • Creating Collections of Artifacts and Specimens
    • Incorporating Science Activities
    • Incorporating Language Arts and Literacy Activities
    • Incorporating Math Activities
    • Incorporating Social Studies Activities
    • Incorporating Fine Arts Activities
    • Incorporating Physical Development and Health Activities
    • Debriefing after Fieldwork
    • Involving Families in “From Door to Door” during Phase 2
  • Phase 3: Bringing the Project to a Close
    • Revisiting the Question Table
    • Facilitating Play
    • Planning for Final Displays of Documentation
    • Planning a Culminating Activity
    • Involving Families during Phase 3
  • A Final Word
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendix A: 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks Addressed During a Project on Doors and Gates
  • Appendix B: Children’s Literature Related to Doors
  • Appendix C: Teacher Resources

Introduction: A Project about Doors and Gates

Projects are the part of the curriculum that involves children in investigating objects and events around them that are worth knowing more about. Project work is a way of uncovering a subject rather than just covering it.

Doors are so much a part of our daily lives that we tend to take them for granted. But once we begin to look, we become aware of the variety of doors around us—car doors, bathroom doors, pet doors, microwave doors, barn doors, garage doors, revolving doors, cabinet doors, storm doors. There are also many gates to be seen, such as toddler gates, tailgates, turnstiles, and many more! Doors and gates are made of a wide range of materials. Important principles of physics and engineering are involved in designing and building them, and they are made to withstand a number of natural forces that might affect them, such as wind, extreme temperatures, and gravity. Doors and gates serve many purposes in the lives of children and their families. Many young children can become interested in them and their diverse features—the opening and closing of elevator doors, the workings of a latch on a pasture gate, the way a front-loading washing machine door keeps water and suds from leaking out.

Figure 1 Figure 1. Young children are likely to be familiar with a wide range of doors and gates.

A project about doors and gates has the potential to engage most preschoolers from the very first conversation about the topic. Many types of doors and gates can be found in any home, school, and community, which makes the topic well suited for programs in which children cannot make site visits far from school. They can do much of their fieldwork at school and at home.

A project on doors invites children to “find the extraordinary within the ordinary.” It is the kind of project that can strengthen children’s motivation to better understand the world around them, even the parts of it that seem most familiar. This slide show by Illinois photographer Durango Mendoza suggests the wide variety of doors and gates that might become part of the project.

Figure 1 Slide Show of “From Door to Door” by Durango Mendoza.

An investigation of doors and gates could also work well as a first project for very young children who have not done project work before. For tips on ways to facilitate a brief “practice” project, see the article “Teaching Project Skills with a Mini-Project”.

This guide includes ways that investigating doors and gates can address Illinois Early Learning Benchmarks in all learning areas (see Appendix A). Any phase of the project can include activities related to physical development and health, social and emotional development, science, social studies, language arts, mathematics, and fine arts.

This Project Guide outlines possible steps to take to engage preschool-age children in a project about doors and gates. Please keep in mind that this guide offers suggestions, not lesson plans or “recipes.” Not every activity suggested has to be included in a project. The way the project develops will depend on several factors—the program’s location, the time and resources available, as well as the children themselves. Their ideas about what directions a study of doors and gates might take are likely to emerge as the project progresses. Many other worthwhile experiences are possible beyond what is suggested here—and often the children themselves come up with related ideas to pursue.

Launching the Investigation of Doors: The Teacher’s Role

Several steps may be involved for the teacher who is thinking about getting the class started on an investigation of doors and gates:

These steps are discussed in detail below.

Considering Children’s Potential Interest

Preschoolers are likely to have a great deal of data about doors and gates! They may have noticed how the school bus door works. Their families may use “toddler gates” to keep younger siblings safe. They may know someone whose finger has been pinched in a cabinet door. Preschoolers can easily be encouraged to look more closely at the doors and gates that are all around them: How do people use doors? What are they made of? Who makes them? What are some different kinds of handles? Are there windows in the doors? Children’s curiosity about and interest in doors might take the project in directions the teacher might not expect!

Picture books and counting rhymes sometimes mention doors and gates in ways that are memorable to children. See Appendix B for a list of children's books that may be useful at the beginning of the project.

Locating Resources for the Project

Before starting the project, it is helpful for the teacher to explore available local resources and potential sites where children could safely study a variety of doors and gates. The school building itself is likely to have several kinds of doors, and more can be found on vehicles parked nearby. Nearby offices, shops, supermarkets, places of worship, health care facilities, farms, museums, and similar places may also be worthwhile sites to visit. Historical sites (especially those with restored older buildings) may also have interesting doors and gates. It’s a good idea to find out if the staff of these places will be receptive to having young children visit.

Local architects, contractors, cabinetmakers, auto-body repairpersons, locksmiths, and others whose work involves doors and gates can be invited to help the children with the project in a number of ways. Draftsmen or architects who are familiar with computer-aided drafting software may be willing to help some of the children use the software to design spaces with doors or gates.

If the classroom budget permits, the teacher might want to check local secondhand stores or flea markets for inexpensive used door and gate hardware that can be cleaned up for the children’s use. Printed materials such as catalogs or sale flyers from local hardware or home improvement stores may also be useful.

Looking at Doors and Gates before the Project Begins

Before launching the project, it helps if the teacher takes a walk to look in and around the building where the classroom is located, taking note of the various doors or gates that children can see there. Walking for a few minutes around the neighborhood may also turn up some additional examples.

It’s a good idea for the teacher to take photographs to show the class. The children may recognize some of the doors or gates and have experiences or ideas to share about them. The teacher might also bring some small doors (such as cabinet doors or doors from building sets) and samples of keys, locks, and other door hardware for the children to examine and discuss to provoke their initial interest in the project topic. Businesses such as a locksmith or hardware store may be willing to lend or donate some items.

Figure 2Figure 2. Door hardware may engage children’s interest.

Making the Teacher’s Topic Web

Teachers usually find it helpful to make a topic web before beginning the first phase of the project with the class. Below is an example of a teacher’s topic web about doors and gates.

Figure 3Figure 3. Making a topic web before the project starts can help the teacher begin to anticipate what children might do and find out during the investigation.

The topic web above includes concepts, ideas, information, and vocabulary related to doors and gates that the teacher believes are worthy of the children learning more about. It is meant to help the teacher anticipate what the children might learn from the project, and to be a reminder of the wide range of possible subtopics that the children can investigate, rather than an outline of lessons or activities. (For more ideas about anticipating what children might learn from a project, see Project Approach: Anticipating What Children Might Learn.)

The teacher’s topic web can include elements such as types of doors and gates found indoors and outdoors, materials used to make different kinds of doors or gates, purposes of doors and gates, safety features of doors and gates, how people design and make doors, and the functions of various types of hardware, including keys and locks. The teacher’s web may also include specialized vocabulary related to doors and gates, as well as possible sites to visit and experts to invite.

Once the project is underway, the teacher might decide to make some changes to the initial web based on what he or she learns about the children’s interests, understandings (as well as mis-understandings), and knowledge of the topic.

Gathering Reference Materials

As the project begins, teachers can collect some good-quality references and other sources of information for their own use as well as to share with the class. A librarian can help with this process. Nonfiction picture books, encyclopedias, cabinetry catalogs, videos, and magazines related to architecture, home building, interior design, home improvement, and automobiles are likely to be useful throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2 of a project about doors and gates. Local historical societies or nearby natural history museums may have resources related to doors and gates from the past that teachers can check out. Blueprints of the school building can show children how architects and contractors represent doors and may even help children locate some of the doors in the building.

Appendix C lists additional resources that may be helpful, including some Web sites focusing on doors in the arts. A librarian can also help the teacher find other reliable Internet resources on topics related to doors. Keep in mind that although Wikipedia may be a source of basic information, it is notoriously inaccurate. (It is not a secure site, and users are sometimes able to insert misinformation.)

Planning for Documentation throughout the Project

The main purpose of documentation is to tell or represent the story of the project so others can see what occurred and so that the children can revisit it too. It’s a good idea for the teacher to decide before the door project begins how to document the children’s work during each phase. Many aspects of documentation during a project on doors and gates will be similar to documentation for any other project. On the other hand, as children find out more about the doors and gates in the classroom and the school, the doors themselves can become the focus of some of their documentation. For example, children may want to attach labels to a door naming its parts for visitors to see.

For resources to help with documentation during any project, see Appendix C.

Phase 1: Getting Started

Phase 1 activities vary depending on the ages of the children and their degrees of experience and interest. During Phase 1, the teacher can help the children begin the investigation of doors and gates in several ways:

Collecting Data Outside of School

One way to start the investigation of doors and gates is for the teacher to have children find out about doors and gates that they see where they live:

Recalling Prior Experiences Related to Doors and Gates

As the children talk about their drawings of doors and gates, it is likely that some of them will recall and bring up related personal experiences. Perhaps when one child shares her drawing from home, a classmate will say, “That drawing looks like my grandma’s refrigerator door! But her fridge has magnet letters, and I can spell my name.”

Some of the children may be reminded of personal stories that are unrelated to the sketches: “We had to get a new pasture gate after the river flooded.” “One time our cat climbed on the screen door, and her claws got stuck.” The teacher can invite the class to continue sharing memories over several days. To include children who are slow to recall their experiences, or who may be reluctant to speak, they can be invited to do so several times. The teacher might tell one of his or her own experiences as well.

Asking children to draw or paint something that they recall about doors or gates is another way to help them share their memories. The teacher can then write down the children’s dictated memory stories. These stories and drawings can give an idea of what sorts of experiences children have had, as well as what misconceptions they may hold and what subtopics may interest them.

Sometimes listening to a book related to doors or gates can remind children about their own experiences. (See Appendix B for lists of children’s picture books related to the topic of doors.) The slide show in the previous section, which shows a wide range of doors and gates, might also spark discussion among the children about the topic.

Posing Provocative Questions

Asking provocative or probing questions about an “everyday” topic such as doors can help children to see ordinary things in new ways. One such question might be, “What might happen if we didn’t have doors?” Another question could be, “If all of the doors in the school disappeared, what do you think might happen?” The teacher can list the children’s responses. The teacher might then follow up by saying something like, “You have thought of a lot of the ways that doors are useful to us. Now I wonder—what are some differences between a gate and a door?”

The teacher might also pose questions based on observations of the children's daily activities; for example, “This morning I saw Pascal and Genevieve pointing to letters on the front door. I wonder—do you suppose that any other doors in the school have letters on them?” Another way to focus children's attention on doors and gates around them is to ask questions such as, “How many doors do you think people walk through to get from this classroom to the playground?”

Making Observations of Doors and Gates at School

The next step might be for the children to walk around the school building (inside and out), where they can closely observe cabinet doors, appliance doors, interior and exterior doors, gates, locks, etc. If possible, the walk can be extended to include the neighborhood. If enough adults are available to help supervise them, small groups of the children (three or four per group) can walk in different directions to find doors. If too few adults are available, one teacher or an assistant can take three or four of the children at a time while the others remain with another teacher in the classroom or on the playground.

During the walk, the teacher or other adults can do several things to help children collect data:

It’s a good idea for the teacher to keep a record of what children pay attention to and wonder about during these first observations. This information can help foster discussions among the children throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2. It can be especially useful during the children’s webbing process and when they are working with the question table. (See discussion of the question table below.)

Upon their return to the classroom, the small groups can report to the class about what they saw and what they included in their photos and drawings. The teacher can encourage children in different groups to compare the doors that they have observed and to ask each other questions about what they noticed:

Creating a Topic Web with the Children

After the children have begun to talk during group meetings about doors and gates at school and elsewhere, it’s a good idea for the teacher to help them create a topic web. The topic web discussion should focus on children’s current understandings and their ideas about how to proceed with the project:

As the children talk about what they know, what they think, or what they wonder about, the teacher can write the words directly on the topic web paper or on a sticky note. Very young children, or children who have little experience with projects, might not say much at first during the webbing process.

From time to time, the teacher may want to remind children of things they said during earlier conversations about their memory stories and drawings.

Figure 4Figure 4. This example of a class topic web for the project “From Door to Door” was made using sticky notes on easel paper.

Making the topic web may take more than one group meeting session, depending on the children’s ages and the range of their experience with the topics and with webbing. When it seems that the children have offered all of their current ideas and questions about doors, the teacher can invite them to help categorize or group the sticky notes. For example, if several sticky notes are related to car doors, the children might group them separately from sticky notes about garage doors or locks and keys.

Helping Children Ask Questions and Make Predictions

The teacher can develop a question table as shown in the examples below, based on the questions that the children ask:

What would you like to find out? (Question) What do you think the answer might be? (Prediction) What did you find out? (Answer?)
Does every door in the school have a lock on it? No, because the restroom door doesn’t lock.


How do car doors stay on the car? Because wires hold them on.

Strong magnets are keeping them there.


How do bus doors open and close? The bus driver pushes a metal stick and that makes the doors open.

People push on the doors.


How come the grain elevator has a door high up off the ground? Because people need to get out of there, and they can use a rope to get down.


Figure 5. A question table may be created by hand or on the computer.

For more information about making and using a question table, see Lilian Katz’s blog entry titled “The Question Table” on the Illinois Projects in Practice Web site.

It’s a good idea to post the question table on the wall where children, with the teacher's help, can refer to it regularly during all phases of the project. Teachers can encourage children to continue asking questions throughout the project in a variety of ways:

Predicting possible answers and sources of information is another important part of project work that can begin during Phase 1 and continue throughout the project. When a child asks a question, the teacher might ask that child, or the whole class, “What do you think the answer might be?” or “What do you think the visiting expert will say when you ask her that?” Occasionally the teacher can ask “What makes you think so?” to encourage children to explain their predictions. Children may also want to make drawings that represent their predictions.

Children’s engagement in making predictions may vary with age and experience. The teacher can also encourage children to make predictions about other things throughout the project:

Forming Subtopic Groups

If several children show interest in the same question about doors or gates, they can form a subtopic group to try to find answers to the question. Another approach to subtopic groups is for the teacher to ask a small group of children to focus on a particular door, gate, or type of hardware. For example, several children might want to find out all they can about baby gates. Three or four others might investigate the tools used to install doors, while a few may be curious about doors to ovens, refrigerators, or other appliances.

The teacher can be involved with subtopic groups in several important ways:

Involving Families during Phase 1

It's a good idea to send notes to families letting them know that the class is studying doors and gates:

Children might take surveys home so they can ask family members and neighbors such questions as, “How many door keys do you have?” or “Do you have a screen door at your work?”

Phase 2: Fieldwork

The main focus of work during Phase 2 is on the fieldwork that includes gathering data to answer the questions listed in the question table. Fieldwork can begin after children have chosen their subtopic groups. Depending on their subtopic and the questions that they want to answer, their fieldwork may include a variety of activities:

These activities are discussed in detail below.

Gathering Data on Doors and Gates

One of the teacher’s key roles during Phase 2 of a project is to facilitate children’s firsthand experiences related to the topic. These activities may vary based on the children’s ages and prior knowledge of the topic. Here are some examples of things that the teacher might do during the project on doors and gates:

Interacting with Visiting Experts

It’s a good idea to help the children generate a list of potential visitors who have relevant expertise and can provide information about doors, gates, and related subtopics. The list might include some of the following people:

Some experts may be willing to correspond with the children via email if they are not able to come to the school.

The teacher may have several roles in inviting these experts to talk with the class:

Making Site Visits

If necessary, a class may be able to conduct their investigations without leaving the school building or grounds. However, visits to sites away from school via bus or car can provide valuable opportunities to study types of doors and gates not available at school.

The teacher might want to keep in mind that site visits should be made by subtopic groups as much as possible. When children in a subtopic group have decided what their questions are, the teacher can help them to decide where they might go to find the answers: A park? A farm? A bank? The local historical society or museum? Occasionally, a whole-class visit to a site (a door factory or museum, for example) can be useful, particularly if each child or small group of children has specific data to collect.

During the site visit, children can use the same data-gathering techniques described in the section “Gathering Data on Doors and Gates” above, such as making observational sketches, taking notes, and collecting artifacts (with permission). They may also have opportunities to ask questions of people who work or live there. (See “Interacting with Visiting Experts” above.)

On their way to a site visit, children can examine the doors on the cars, buses, or trains in which they are traveling. On outdoor site visits, the teacher may want to remind the class to follow the usual safety procedures for outdoor activities (for example, wear sunscreen, avoid poison ivy, dress warmly in winter, do not litter). It is a good idea for the teacher to remind children to ask permission to touch things or to collect artifacts during any visit.

Creating Collections of Artifacts and Specimens

Helping the class build and maintain a collection of artifacts related to doors and gates can be another important role for the teacher during Phase 2 of the project. Here are some ways that the teacher might help:

During a project on doors and gates, the class may be interested collecting some of the following artifacts or specimens:

As children add to the collection, the teacher can help them label each item with its name, the date it was collected, where it was collected, and the name of the person who provided it. Children may be interested to know that the term for such documentation of artifacts is “provenance.” Some teachers use boxes with dividers to organize smaller items with their provenance.

Figure 6Figure 6. Boxes with dividers can hold smaller items in the collection.

Teachers may also want to bring in items to add to the collection, especially if there seem to be “gaps” (for example, no hinges or locks).

Children should have many opportunities to examine items in the collections and to make observational sketches and drawings of them.

Incorporating Science Activities

As children learn more about doors during Phase 2, they may have questions that can best be answered through planned scientific explorations or experiments. Such activities may include closely examining items in the collection, trying out different designs for doors, gates, hatches etc., and setting up experiments.

Examining the Collection: Children can learn a great deal by examining objects in the class collection. Teachers might encourage this activity in several ways:

Designing, Making, and Testing Doors: Some children may want to create scale models of the doors they have studied or design their own doorways, gates, hatches, etc. Others may want to build small houses with doors for insects or pets. As they do so, they will have opportunities to learn the principles of design and engineering used by adults who create such things. The teacher can help with this process in several ways:

Setting up Experiments: As children continue to investigate doors, a number of questions may arise during the project that can be addressed through planned experiments:

For an example of how one teacher facilitated children’s explorations and experiments, see “Magnets and Cars”.

Incorporating Language Arts and Literacy Activities

Introducing New Vocabulary: Learning words to accurately describe various doors and gates and their parts will be valuable to children’s growing understanding of the topic. The ages of the children involved may affect what words and concepts they learn and use. Subtopic groups may also learn some specialized vocabulary. For example, a group studying car doors will probably hear and use words such as shell, relay, molding, and door check.

The following list includes some terms that children might encounter during a project about doors and gates. Some of the terms will be useful and some may not, depending on the questions the children address. The teacher can help the class find and record the definitions.

  • Inlay
  • Louver
  • Arch
  • Overlay
  • Swing
  • Push bar
  • Raised panel
  • Bifold
  • Revolving doors
  • Pocket doors
  • Miter
  • Router
  • Veneer
  • Edging
  • Alarm
  • Seal
  • Weather stripping
  • Wrought iron
  • Grille
  • Retractable
  • Security
  • Closure
  • Hatch
  • Tambour
  • French door
  • Fireproof
  • Insulated
  • Wood
  • Wire gate
  • Turnstile
  • Wicket gate
  • Knob
  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Spring
  • Hinge
  • Mechanism
  • Latch
  • Molding
  • Lock
  • Key
  • Deadbolt
  • Transom
  • Lintel
  • Screen
  • Storm door
  • Airlock
  • Barrier
  • Handleset
  • Door knocker
  • Doorstop
  • Chime
  • Bell
  • Buzzer
  • Entry
  • Sensor
  • Interior
  • Exterior
  • Entrance
  • Exit
  • Frame
  • Jamb
  • Rough opening
  • Panel
  • Pre-hung
  • Energy efficient
  • Sliding
  • Single-leaf
  • Batwing doors

Some older preschoolers may want to explore different uses of the words “door,” “lock”, “gate,” and related terms—for example, indoors, outdoors, doorman, door prize, bar the door, locked up, locked in/out, gatekeeper, starting gate, or down the hatch.

Some children may be interested in print messages found on doors and gates, including room numbers and such words and phrases as “Open,” “Exit,” “Emergency Exit,” “Keep Out,” “Danger,” “Please Use Other Door.” The teacher can encourage them to use these numerals, words, and phrases in their drawings and to find out the purposes of those messages.

Writing in the Context of the Project: Teachers can suggest a variety of writing activities during Phase 2:

Using Books and Other Reference Materials: It is helpful during Phase 2 for children to have regular access to good informational picture books, magazines, and other resources directly related to doors and gates. Children can look at these resources on their own, or an adult can read them aloud. Key tasks for the teacher during all phases of the project include providing such reference materials. Here are some examples:

Incorporating Math Activities

As the fieldwork progresses, the teacher can suggest a wide range of math-related activities that help children answer questions and express new understandings, depending on their ages and experiences:

Incorporating Social Studies Activities

During Phase 2, some children may want to investigate the ways that people use doors and gates. The teacher can encourage them to try a range of related activities, depending on their ages and experiences:

Incorporating Fine Arts Activities

During Phase 2, the visual arts, creative movement, drama, and music can offer a variety of ways for children to represent what they find out about the doors and gates around them. The fine arts may also provide sources of information. The teacher might try several approaches to engaging the children with the fine arts, depending on their ages and interests:

Incorporating Physical Development and Health Activities

Doors and gates serve many health and safety purposes for people. From time to time during the project, the teacher may want to initiate some discussions about how doors and gates can help keep people safe and healthy:

The teacher might also help the class address such questions as, “What does a person’s body do in order to close a door? Open a door?” Children can take turns opening or closing various doors (heavy ones, lighter ones, automatic doors) so that classmates can observe what is involved in the process.

Debriefing after Fieldwork

It’s a good idea to make time for subtopic groups to report to the class regularly about how their investigations are progressing and what they have found during fieldwork. It can also be an opportunity to ask their classmates for suggestions and questions they might have about the subtopic.

The teacher might facilitate these discussions in several ways, depending on the children’s ages and interests:

Involving Families in “From Door to Door” during Phase 2

Multiple opportunities for family involvement are likely to arise during Phase 2 of a project on doors and gates. Teachers can use their newsletters or special invitations to engage families in a variety of activities:

Phase 3: Bringing the Project to a Close

A project about doors and gates might last from 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on what resources are available and the extent of the children’s interest. The teacher can help the children bring the project to a close in several ways:

It is important to keep in mind that a culminating activity may be very simple or more elaborate. Much will depend on the topic, the children’s ages and experience, and the resources (time, materials) available. There is no single right way to end a project.

Revisiting the Question Table

As the study of doors and gates begins to wind down, the teacher can look at the question table with the class or with individual children:

If the teacher sees that some “answers” actually indicate misunderstandings, it’s a good idea to suggest to the children that they look further. Sometimes the children will catch each others’ errors during a discussion of the question. At other times, the teacher may need to direct the children’s attention to the problem. For example, a teacher might comment, “Some of you are saying that the turnstile you saw in the train station is made of wood. Some of you say it’s made of metal. Can you think of a way to find out for sure what it’s made of?”

The children may also want to contact some of their visiting experts or consult books and other references to answer remaining questions or to clear up misunderstandings.

Facilitating Play

Children’s spontaneous play may reflect new knowledge and understandings of doors and gates throughout the project, but especially during Phase 3 when they can apply what they have found out about using, designing, making, repairing, selling, and buying various doors and gates. Depending on the ages and interests of the children, teachers might take several approaches to encouraging such play:

Planning for Final Displays of Documentation

When the children’s questions about doors have been addressed, or when their interest seems to be moving to some other topic, the teacher can suggest that it is time for the class to plan how they will display their findings from the project. The teacher’s involvement in this process may vary with the children’s ages and levels of experience:

Planning a Culminating Activity

A key decision for the subtopic groups is how best to share their new knowledge, understandings, and skills with others. The children may then decide as a class that they want to take on a complex final activity, such as putting together a performance or hosting an event when others can view displays of their work. They might prefer to plan a less-complex final activity such as making a slide show for the school Web site or a book that can be passed around among families. Some groups may be able to handle these decisions with little teacher input; others will benefit from some adult guidance.

The teacher can meet with the small groups to discuss the children’s decisions:

As the investigation ends, children may feel inspired to imaginatively express what they have been learning about doors and gates as part of the culminating activity. The teacher can foster their creative work during Phase 3 in several ways, depending on the children’s ages and interests:

Figure 7Figure 7. Illinois artisan John Bryan mounts old doorknobs on finished wood to create useful objects.

Involving Families during Phase 3

Family members often enjoy seeing what children have done and learned during a project. As the investigation of doors and gates comes to a close, the class may think of a variety of ways to share their work with their families. Here are some ways that teachers can help:

A Final Word

This Project Guide is meant to suggest possibilities, to support the teacher who wants some ideas for ways to get started with a project like “From Door to Door,” or to help maintain momentum once an investigation is underway.

It is important to remember that the children themselves are likely to find many worthwhile ways to investigate doors and gates. In fact, as children pursue what interests them, any project may end up with a main focus very different from what was originally expected. A study of doors and gates could become just a small part of some other topic that engages the minds of many children in a class.


“From Door to Door” slide show and additional photographs by Durango Mendoza. Permission for photographs from Wolfe Orchard, Monticello, Illinois, given by Ron and Hope Wolfe. Permission for photographs of doorknob art given by John Bryan. Permission for photographs of appliances and hardware given by Lowe’s of Champaign, Illinois. Permission for photographs of emergency vehicle given by Urbana Fire Rescue Services Department. Photographs of locomotives and railroad cars taken at Monticello Railway Museum by Durango Mendoza.

Thanks to Becca Johnson for document review.

Appendix A: 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks Addressed During a Project on Doors and Gates

The following table suggests some of the benchmarks from the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards that might be addressed during a project on doors and gates.

Benchmark Benchmark Is Addressed When…
1.A.ECc Provide comments relevant to the context.

…children participate in making the topic web.

…small groups and individuals report their findings.

…children comment on classmate’s findings.

…children contribute to discussion of what to do for a culminating activity.

1.B.ECa Use language for a variety of purposes.

…children make comments or ask questions during discussions about doors and gates throughout the project.

…children dictate labels or captions for their drawings and other representations.

…children dictate questions that they want to ask guest experts.

…children explain their findings to others.

…children write/dictate invitations or thank-you notes to guest experts and other adults.

…children negotiate roles during dramatic play that is related to what they are learning about doors and gates.

1.B.ECb With teacher assistance, participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners (e.g., peers and adults in both small and large groups) about age-appropriate topics and texts.

…children help to create a topic web as a class.

…in small groups, children decide what they want to find out about their subtopic and where to get information.

…children talk or correspond with experts on the topic of doors and gates.

…children discuss books and other resources about doors and gates with classmates and teachers.

…children help to plan a culminating activity.

1.C.ECa Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail. View sample lesson plan …children report to the class about what they have done during field work, answering questions from classmates and teachers to clarify what they have said.
1.D.ECc Understand and use question words in speaking.

…children develop a list of their questions about doors and gates.

…children plan questions they will ask guest experts.

…children create surveys of classmates, family members, and others.

…children question each other about their findings.

1.E.ECb Exhibit curiosity and interest in learning new words heard in conversations and books. …children ask about and begin to use specialized vocabulary related to doors and gates that they hear during field work.
1.E.ECc With teacher assistance, use new words acquired through conversations and book‐sharing experiences. …children accurately use new vocabulary related to doors and gates into their conversations, questioning, labeling, dictations, dramatic play, and representations of what they have learned.
2.A.ECa Engage in book-sharing experiences with purpose and understanding.

…children use books to find information about doors and gates.

…children create books to report what they have learned about doors and gates and share the books with classmates and others.

…children create books that include their original stories or poems related to doors and gates and share the books with classmates and others.

2.C.ECa Interact with a variety of types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems, rhymes, songs).

…children use reference works, magazines, informational books, advertisements, and the Internet to find answers to questions.

…children listen to and tell stories that involve doors and gates.

…children look at diagrams, instruction sheets, and schematic drawings related to doors and gates.

……children find printed words, numerals, etc., on the objects they are studying, such as manufacturer’s labels.

…children make their own books, diagrams, etc.

…children sing songs related to doors and gates.

…children learn and tell “knock-knock” jokes.

2.D.ECa With teacher assistance, discuss illustrations in books and make personal connections to the pictures and story.

…children discuss the various ways that artists depict doors and gates in books, paintings, drawings, sculpture, etc.

…children illustrate their own books involving doors and gates.

…children listen to and act out stories that involve doors or gates, such as “The Three Little Pigs.”

3.A.ECa With teacher assistance, ask and answer questions about details in a nonfiction book. …children use nonfiction books as sources of information about doors and gates.
5.B.ECb With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic. View sample lesson plan

…children dictate labels or captions for field drawings and photographs.

…children write or dictate what they have found out during field work.

…small groups report to the class about what they have observed or found out, using their drawings as visual aids.

5.B.ECc With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to narrate a single event and provide a reaction to what happened. …children tell what happened during a site visit, interview, or experiment by drawing, writing, and/or dictating to an adult.
5.C.ECa Participate in group projects or units of study designed to learn about a topic of interest.

…in large or small groups, children discuss what they want to find out about doors and gates.

…children follow up on their own questions during field work.

…children actively investigate many aspects of doors and gates.

…children share information with classmates and others in a variety of ways.

5.C.ECb With teacher assistance, recall factual information and share that information through drawing, dictation, or writing.

…children use newly acquired knowledge when they illustrate, dictate, or write their findings and ideas related to doors and gates throughout the project.

…children help create displays of their work for parents and others to see.

6.A.ECa Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in small sets up to 5.

…children count items they observe (knobs on a door, doors in the school, etc.).

…children count items they will need for their representations, such as pieces of wood to make a model of a gate.

…children count out items (photographs, drawings, artifacts) to be used in displays.

6.A.ECd Connect numbers to quantities they represent using physical models and informal representations. …children create models or other representations that include correct numbers of parts such as panels, hinges, latches.
7.A.ECc Use vocabulary that describes and compares length, height, weight, capacity, and size.View sample lesson plan

…children describe or discuss differences and similarities in length, height, and weight of various doors and gates they have seen during field work.

…children discuss differences in size and weight of various types of door and gate hardware (hinges, bolts, etc.).

7.A.ECd Begin to construct a sense of time through participation in daily activities.

…children investigate how long it takes to build or install a door or gate.

…children keep to a schedule for completing their representations of what they have found out.

…children help to plan, prepare, and host a culminating activity.

8.A.ECa Sort, order, compare, and describe objects according to characteristics or attribute(s).View sample lesson plan

…children discuss or make drawings that show the ways various doors and gates are similar to or different from each other.

…children sort collected items such as bolts, screws, keys, and locks when making real graphs, Venn diagrams, etc.

…children use drawings to illustrate differences among various doors and gates.

…children use words such as high/low, large/small when discussing doors and gates they have observed.

9.A.ECa Recognize and name common two- and three-dimensional shapes and describe some of their attributes (e.g., number of sides, straight or curved lines). …children discuss and describe examples of collected tools and hardware (hex wrenches, wedge doorstops, rectangular or triangular hinges, etc.) for doors and gates.
10.A.ECa With teacher assistance, come up with meaningful questions that can be answered through gathering information.

…children say what they would like to find out about doors and gates.

…children talk about potential ways to find the information they need.

10.A.ECb Gather data about themselves and their surroundings to answer meaningful questions.

…children closely study various doors and gates, noticing aspects such as textures, odors, sounds, and visible properties (size, patterns, colors, etc.).

…children use a variety of methods to collect information, including observation, counting, measurement, and experimenting.

…children collect and study artifacts and specimens related to doors and gates.

…children interview experts about doors and gates.

…children take surveys of peers and family members on topics related to doors and gates.

10.B.ECa Organize, represent, and analyze information using concrete objects, pictures, and graphs, with teacher support. View sample lesson plan   View module for activities

…children use objects they have collected as examples when they report findings.

…children collaborate to make graphs, charts, or Venn diagrams using information related to doors and gates.

…children make accurate and detailed pictures or models of doors and gates.

…children organize drawings, photos, and other documentation to tell the story of their investigation of doors and gates.

10.B.ECb Make predictions about the outcome prior to collecting information, with teacher support and multiple experiences over time. View module for activities

…children predict possible answers to their questions about doors and gates.

…children speculate about possible outcomes of an exploration, experiment, or survey.

…children check their findings against their predictions.

11.A.ECa Express wonder and curiosity about their world by asking questions, solving problems, and designing things.

…children ask “what, how, when, or why” questions or state what they want to find out.

…children find solutions to challenges throughout the project, individually or with others.

…children design experiments to answer specific questions related to doors and gates.

11.A.ECb Develop and use models to represent their ideas, observations, and explanations through approaches such as drawing, building, or modeling with clay.

…children use a variety of media to create representations of what they have seen or learned during the project.

…children create items related to doors and gates (a door for a block structure, pretend tools, etc.) for their dramatic play.

11.A.ECc Plan and carry out simple investigations.

…children plan explorations or experiments that address specific questions, such as “How do these deadbolt locks work?” or “Is cardboard a good material for a door?”

…children carry out the explorations and experiments and share their findings with classmates.

11.A.ECd Collect, describe, compare, and record information from observations and investigations.

…children take notes and make sketches during field work and use them to report findings to classmates.

…children notice and discuss differences in their findings (e.g., “The door I sketched has 4 panels. You drew a door that has no panels.”).

…children help to create displays showing what they have found out about doors and gates.

11.A.ECf Make meaning from experience and information by describing, talking, and thinking about what happened during an investigation.View sample lesson plan

…children revisit their initial questions and predictions to discuss how their understandings about doors and gates have changed.

…children discuss and think about what they especially want others, such as parents or another class, to know about their investigation of doors and gates.

…children bring ideas and information about doors and gates into their dramatic play.

11.A.ECg Generate explanations and communicate ideas and/or conclusions about their investigations.

…children decide on formats (mural, booklet, video, open house) to use for sharing what they have found out with others.

…children summarize their knowledge and understandings about doors and gates in ways that are accessible to others (for example, a list, a display of models with explanatory notes, a guided tour of doors in the school building).

12.C.ECa Identify, describe, and compare the physical properties of objects.

…children talk with each other about the structure of various doors and gates.

…children explore and discuss properties of a variety of materials (metal, wood, glass, etc.) used to make doors and gates.

…children discuss what makes certain materials better than others when making doors and gates.

12.D.ECb Explore the effect of force on objects in and outside the early childhood environment.

…children test the strength and durability of different materials (cardboard, wood, etc.) when making models of doors and gates.

…children test the holding power of glue or fasteners they use when making models of doors and gates.

…children investigate what is involved in opening and closing doors and gates, including revolving doors, bus doors, and security gates.

…children investigate sounds (creak, slam, click, etc.) associated with doors and gates.

13.B.ECa Use nonstandard and standard scientific tools for investigation.

…children use magnifiers, binoculars, levels, plumb lines, and other tools to examine various doors and gates.

…children use string, tape measures, unit cubes, etc., to measure various doors and gates.

…children use protractors to help them draw objects or measure angles.

…children weigh hardware and other items used in construction of doors and gates by using balance scales, spring scales, etc.

…children investigate drills, screwdrivers, and other tools used in making and installing doors and gates.

13.B.ECb Become familiar with technological tools that can aid in scientific inquiry.

…children use digital cameras to record data about doors and gates.

…with adult help or independently, children use the computer to find and record information about doors and gates.

15.A.ECa Describe some common jobs and what is needed to perform those jobs.

…children interview people whose work involves doors and gates (architects, builders, bus drivers, farmers, locksmiths, etc.).

…children examine the tools used by people who make or repair doors and gates.

…children report what they have learned from people whose work involves doors and gates.

…during dramatic play, children take roles of workers who are involved with doors and gates.

15.D.ECa Begin to understand the use of trade or money to obtain goods and services.View sample lesson plan

…children investigate prices of various doors, gates, hardware, and tools.

…children investigate costs of installing doors and gates.

16.A.ECa Recall information about the immediate past.View sample lesson plan

…children report to others about what they have learned during fieldwork.

…children create a time line (with adult help) to show the steps involved in their field work.

…children bring ideas from their field work into their dramatic play.

17.A.ECa Locate objects and places in familiar environments.

…children can identify doors, gates, and related items in the classroom, on the playground, or at home.

…children use terms such as beside, across, around, at the top, etc., to describe the location of a particular door or gate.

17.A.ECb Express beginning geographic thinking.

…children describe some aspects of where doors and gates are located, such as “the metal gate on the playground” or “the door to the broom closet.”

…children help make a map of the classroom or other settings, showing where certain doors and gates are located.

18.A.ECa Recognize similarities and differences in people.

…children interact with a variety of people whose work involves doors or gates.

…children take surveys of classmates, family members, and neighbors about experiences and habits related to doors and gates (such as “Did you ever pinch your finger in a gate?” or “How many door keys do you have?”).

…children take a variety of roles in dramatic play related to doors and gates.

19.A.ECe Use writing and drawing tools with some control.

…children use pencils, pens, markers, or crayons to make observational sketches and drawings.

…children explore the use of protractors and other drawing aids when drawing doors and gates.

…children make signs, etc., for dramatic play related to doors and gates.

19.B.ECb Demonstrate body awareness when moving in different spaces.View sample lesson plan

…children explore how their bodies move when opening or closing doors or gates.

…children pretend to use doors or gates during creative movement activities.

23.A.ECa Identify body parts and their functions. …children discuss which parts of the body are involved in locking, unlocking, opening, and closing a variety of doors and gates.
25.A.ECd Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials. …children use a variety of visual media (painting, photography, videography, sculpture, etc.) to represent what they have learned about doors and gates.
25.B.ECa Describe or respond to their creative work or the creative work of others.View sample lesson plan

…children discuss the creative processes (making models, painting, dramatics, etc.) involved in representing what they have learned.

…children talk about the ways that various artists depict or use doors and gates in their work.

26.B.ECa Use creative arts as an avenue for self-expression.View sample lesson plan

…children use a variety of visual materials to express their ideas, feelings, and new understandings about doors and gates.

…children use creative movement, drama, and music to express ideas, feelings, and understandings about doors and gates.

30.C.ECa Exhibit eagerness and curiosity as a learner.

…children participate willingly in a variety of activities related to the project.

…children involve their families in some activities related to doors and gates.

30.C.ECb Demonstrate persistence and creativity in seeking solutions to problems.

…children persevere when faced with challenges when creating models and other representations.

…, as needed, children try multiple approaches to tasks such as explaining ideas, making graphs, or carrying out experiments.

30.C.ECc Show some initiative, self-direction, and independence in actions.

…children involve their families in some activities related to doors and gates.

…children develop surveys and ask classmates, teachers, and family members to participate.

31.B.ECa Interact verbally and nonverbally with other children.

…children ask classmates questions or respond to questions from classmates during group discussion.

…, in small groups, children plan ways to investigate doors and gates.

…children collaborate with peers to make models, create displays, write books, etc.

…, with peers, children play games or engage in dramatic play related to doors and gates.

31.B.ECb Engage in cooperative group play.

…children play games with classmates related to doors or gates.

…children’s dramatic play involves doors or gates.

Appendix B: Children’s Literature Related to Doors

Often, a teacher can provoke children’s interest in finding out more about a topic by sharing a picture book with the class. Children’s book illustrators often depict doors or gates as part of the background on a page, and doors or gates sometimes play an important role in a story.

Some teachers like to start a project by sharing well-written, accurate informational books or articles from children’s magazines. Having reliable factual information—whether from the text or the illustrations—is especially important for children during Phase 1 and Phase 2. Realistic fiction (stories that do not involve magic) may be appropriate during all phases of project work.

Children’s direct experiences with doors and gates can help them respond to the descriptive language of poetry during Phase 3. Magical elements in folktales and fantasy stories related to doors or gates may engage the imaginations of some children during Phase 3. Children may also enjoy looking at the different ways that illustrators of picture books represent doors and gates.

The following lists of books and other items may be useful during a project on doors and gates. The lists are not comprehensive; teachers may know of additional books.

Informational Picture Books

Below is a sample of books that can provide factual information about various aspects of doors and gates—how they are made, how people use them, various parts of them, and so on. The books listed contain some text and illustrations that preschoolers might find helpful, but many were written with older children in mind. The teacher might talk about specific pages with subtopic groups or during class meetings, or she might make the books available for children to browse through.

Realistic Fiction Picture Books

The following picture books are fiction with no magical elements. Some contain several illustrations that depict doors or gates, and others include doors or gates as part of the plot or involve people going in and out of doors or using gates, etc.

Picture Books of Poetry

The following picture books feature poems and rhymes related to doors or gates.

Picture Books of Folktales and Fantasy

Doors and gates are important to the plot in a number of traditional stories (folktales and fairy tales), including Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Gingerbread Man, and Little Red Riding Hood. The following list of picture books also includes folktales and fantasy writing involving doors and gates.

A number of books have doors or doorlike flaps as part of their illustrations, including the following.

Music for Children

Other Sources of Music

Appendix C: Teacher Resources

The following resources—encyclopedias and other reference books, magazines, articles, Web sites, and so on—may be useful to the teacher during the project “From Door to Door.” The lists below are not meant to be comprehensive. Teachers may know of additional resources related to doors and gates, and a librarian may be helpful in locating others.

Books, Magazines, Encyclopedias, and Related Resources

These books may offer the teacher background information, as well as some ideas to use in the classroom during a project on doors and gates.

Articles in magazines such as Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, Architectural Digest, and others may include interesting photographs and information about doors and gates.

Teachers may also want to locate and use entries related to doors, gates, and other entryways in the World Book Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc.

Resources about Projects on Similar Topics

The teacher may find it helpful to look at articles by teachers who have implemented projects that involved investigating structures and spaces that have doors, gates, and other entryways. For example, see the following.

Web resources that are not directly related to doors and gates may also provide ideas for the teacher during the door project. Concepts and suggestions from the following Web sites may be adapted for preschool.

Web Resources Related to Doors and Gates

Several major door, gate, and turnstile manufacturers have Web sites that feature drawings, photographs, or descriptions of their products. Some include a glossary for visitors to their sites. Some home improvement and hardware stores have sale flyers online, which children can use to check prices of doors and related items.

Sesame Street’s video archive includes some short clips related to doors.

Other Resources Relevant to Project Work

The teacher may find helpful information and suggestions in the following books, videos, and Web resources during any project, including a project about doors and gates.

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