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  • Introduction: A Project on Wheels
  • Launching an Investigation of Wheels: The Teacher’s Role
    • Anticipating Children’s Potential Interest
    • Locating Resources for the Project
    • Looking at Wheels 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 Wheels
    • Posing Provocative Questions
    • Making Preliminary Observations of Wheels with Children
    • 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
    • Making Site Visits
    • Gathering Data Related to Wheels
    • Interacting with Visiting Experts
    • Creating Collections of Artifacts and Specimens
    • Incorporating Science Activities
    • Incorporating Language Arts and Literacy Activities
    • Incorporating Math Activities
    • Incorporating Social Studies Activities
    • Incorporating Physical Development and Health Activities
    • Incorporating Fine Arts Activities
    • Debriefing after Fieldwork
    • Involving Families in the Wheel Project 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 Wheels
  • Appendix B: Children’s Literature and Web Resources Related to Wheels
  • Appendix C: Teacher Resources Related to Wheels

Introduction: A Project on Wheels

A project is a 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.

A project on wheels has the potential to involve the entire class, the children’s families, and community members. All phases of the project can offer opportunities for activities related to the physical sciences, engineering, social studies, language arts, mathematics, fine arts, and physical development and health. The topic of wheels could work well with young children who have done projects and those without project work experience.

This Project Guide outlines some of the possible steps that teachers might take to engage preschool-age children in projects about wheels. In addition, the guide indicates ways that investigating wheels can address a wide range of Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks (see Appendix A). A list of related children’s books (see Appendix B) is provided as well as a list of selected relevant resources for teachers (see Appendix C.)

This guide offers a variety of ideas for investigation activities, but these are only suggestions, not “recipes.” Not all of the suggested activities are necessary for the project to be interesting and enriching. Much depends on the time available as well as the children themselves. Many other worthwhile experiences are possible—and children are likely to come up with ideas about what directions their study might take as the project progresses.

The following slide show, Wheels Are All Around, illustrates many features of wheels that children might investigate during a project on wheels. The teacher might want to share it with the class as the children begin their investigation. The photographs were taken by Illinois residents, including several children. (See the Acknowledgments for names of contributors to the slide show.)

Slide Show Slide Show of “Wheels Are All Around” by Durango Mendoza

Launching an Investigation of Wheels: The Teacher’s Role

Several steps are involved for the teacher in getting started on an investigation of wheels:  

These steps are discussed in detail below.

Anticipating Children’s Potential Interests

It’s difficult to imagine our world without wheels! Young children are likely to be familiar with several kinds of wheels. Most children arrive at school by bus, car, or other form of transportation that uses wheels. Most children have played with toys that have wheels or have ridden on a tricycle or scooter. Many children have ridden in a wagon or shopping cart. Children may also have knowledge of wheels based on books or videos that people have shared with them. (See Appendix B for a list of related children’s books and media.)

Just like doors or the things that we sit on, wheels are such a basic feature of life that most people, including children, may take them for granted. A project on wheels can help them form new perspectives on familiar items.

Figure 1Figure 1. Wheels are a basic feature of daily life.

A study of wheels has the potential to go in a number of directions, depending on the ages and interests of the children. Some children may want to find out more about wheels on vehicles. Others may become especially interested in the tools and machines used to create and maintain wheels. Others may want to know more about jobs that involve wheels. The value of the project to the children can be greatly enhanced if the teacher remains open to these possibilities and is prepared to help them follow up on their interests.

Locating Resources for the Project

Before starting a project on any topic, it is helpful for teachers to explore available local resources and potential sites where children could safely make direct observations of relevant phenomena, ideally on a regular basis. A key question for the teacher who is considering a project on wheels is, “Where can the children study wheels?”

A number of wheels (on furniture, on bikes and toys, in analog clocks, inside machines, on vehicles) can probably be found in or near the preschool or center. Much of the children’s fieldwork can be done there if the group is not able to travel for site visits. Parents of children in the class, and other people who live near the school, may have items at home that could be investigated (kick scooters, model railroads, grinding wheels, etc.).

Children might also collect data about wheels at farms, artists’ studios, offices, transit stations, the school district “bus barn,” amusement parks, and businesses such as car dealerships, supermarkets, or hardware stores. Museums that focus on science and technology or on local history may have a wide variety of wheels, such as pulleys, spinning wheels, mill wheels, and rotary-dial telephones, for children to investigate.

Teachers sometimes hesitate to ask the people who own or work in such places if they are open to having young children visit. But our experience with project work indicates that when a teacher approaches them before beginning the project and explains the hopes and plans for the children’s investigation, the adults in charge of potential field sites are usually pleased to have a chance to talk about what they do and show what they know to children, parents, and teachers.

People who make or repair bicycles, vehicles, furniture, small machines, and clocks and watches can be invited to assist the children with the project in a number of ways. It’s a good idea to find out if any of the children’s parents have knowledge they can share about wheels. The teacher might also check the Yellow Pages or the Internet to find local business or professional people who can help. Depending on the questions that the children ultimately ask, mechanical engineers and people who teach physics or geometry at a community college or university may be helpful during the investigation. Area businesses might be willing to lend the class small or lightweight wheels, gears, axles, parts of wheels, or related tools.

Before starting a project on wheels, the teacher will need to consider how much space is available for some of the activities that children may want to try. For example, if they collect wheels and related items, they may want some shelves to display the collection. A small group that studies the behavior of wheels on various surfaces (gravel, sand, wood) may need a great deal of floor or playground space for ramps and pathways. Children may also need a special space to store models they create. The teacher may need to make changes, such as rearranging classroom furniture, for the duration of the project.

Looking at Wheels before the Project Begins

Before launching the project, it usually helps for the teacher to start by taking a walk without the children, looking for wheels in and around the school building. Walking for a few minutes around the neighborhood might turn up some additional places where wheels can be found: a railroad station, a fitness center, an artist’s studio, etc. The teacher may also visit a variety of nearby businesses and offices to look at wheels on the items used or sold there.

It’s a good idea to take a few photographs of the wheels to show the class. The teacher might also collect some specimens or artifacts to take back and show the children to provoke some initial conversations about the topic. Figure 2Figure 2. Sharing wheels that the teacher has collected may provoke children’s interest in the topic.

Making the Teacher’s Topic Web

Teachers usually find it helpful to make a topic web before launching Phase 1 with the class. This web is sometimes called an “anticipatory planning web.”

The web can help the teacher think about what he or she hopes the children might come to know and understand as they investigate the topic. The teacher’s topic web is also intended to be a reminder of the wide range of potential subtopics the children can investigate rather than an outline of lessons or activities. It includes relevant concepts, ideas, information, and vocabulary that the teacher believes are worthy of the children learning more about. 

For example, perhaps the teacher anticipates that the children will gain some general understandings about wheels: What is a wheel? What are some things that have wheel-like traits (a ball, for example) but are not wheels? Is a windmill a wheel? What about a wreath? A gear? What is rotation? What is rolling? Does the ability to roll determine whether something is a wheel? What are some ways that wheels are useful to people?

The teacher might also anticipate the children will gain knowledge about specific aspects of wheels. For example, a teacher might expect children to encounter variations among wheels—size, diameter, thickness, structure (e.g., spokes, rims, cogs), materials used, number used on or in an object (bicycle, moving van, chair). Where can wheels be found? What parts and hardware may be associated with wheels (axles, cranks, bolts, lug nuts, etc.)?

Depending on the children’s ages, interests, and experiences, the teacher’s topic web may include potential opportunities to meet early learning and development benchmarks in a wide range of curricular areas. For example, children may meet science benchmarks as they find out about the physical properties of wheels, the materials used to make various wheels, and the kinds of work wheels do. They might meet benchmarks related to activities such as measuring, comparing, sorting, counting, and making predictions. The project might also offer children opportunities to become familiar with jobs that are related to wheels. When making the topic web, the teacher may also anticipate that children will meet social-emotional benchmarks such as expressing curiosity, taking initiative, and solving problems cooperatively.

The teacher’s web can include resources such as potential sites to visit and experts to invite. The teacher may also want to include potential ways for families to participate in a project. (See the discussions of family involvement during each phase of the project for some suggestions.)

Once the project is under way, some changes can be made to the initial web based on what the teacher learns about the children’s interests, understandings, and knowledge of the topic.

Gathering Reference Materials

Before beginning the wheel project, the teacher may find it helpful to collect some good reference books, magazines, and other resources related to wheels for his or her own use and to share with the class. (See Appendix C for selected teacher resources related to wheels and project work.) A librarian can help with this process.

A librarian can also help the teacher locate reliable Web resources on topics such as the uses and physical properties of wheels. It’s important to keep in mind that Wikipedia may be a source of basic information, but it is not a secure site and users are sometimes able to insert misinformation.

Sharing nonfiction picture books with the children is likely to be useful during Phase 1 and Phase 2. (See Appendix B for some selected children’s books, Web sites, and other resources for children related to wheels.) Throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2, the children may be able to make use of encyclopedias, furniture or toy catalogs, and sale flyers from tire dealers, car dealers, hardware stores, or stores that sell inline skates and kick scooters. Slides or videos related to various kinds of wheels can also serve as reference resources during the first two phases of the project.

Planning for Documentation throughout the Project

Before the investigation begins, it’s a good idea for the teacher to decide how to document the project work during each phase. The overall documentation should “tell the story” of the project, so the teacher may want to set aside enough space on the wall or on shelves for displays that show how the children’s work progressed.

Many aspects of documentation during a project on wheels will be similar to documentation for any other project. For example, children may record information through sketches and other drawings, note taking, photography, and audio or video recording of fieldwork and discussions. They may represent their data in a variety of ways to share with others. (For suggestions, see sections on Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 below.) As with any other project, the teacher can also plan to do his or her own documentation of the children’s work via note taking, photography, or videography.

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

Phase 1: Getting Started

It usually helps for the teacher to make sure that all the children have some idea of what wheels are before proceeding with any other activities during Phase 1. Sharing a few photographs of wheels that children are likely to see every day (such as vehicle wheels), a picture book about wheels, and some real wheels (for example, a set of gears or some toys with wheels) will help to provide the children with a common understanding of the topic. The teacher can then help the children begin their study of wheels in several ways:  

Collecting Data Outside of School

One way the teacher can start the investigation is to invite children to find out about wheels they see near where they live:  

Recalling Prior Experiences Related to Wheels

As the children talk about their drawings of wheels, it is likely that some of them will bring up related personal experiences. Seeing Max’s sketch of a bicycle wheel may remind Komal about the wheels on her cousin’s wheelchair. When Amaya hears Komal talk about the wheelchair, she may remember sitting on an office chair with wheels at the clinic. And so on!

To further support children’s conversations, the teacher might recount a personal experience with wheels. Singing a song such as “The Wheels on the Bus” or reading aloud from a related storybook can also spark children’s interest in talking about their experiences. (See Appendix B for a list of selected children’s picture books related to wheels.) The teacher can invite the children to talk about things that they remember about wheels, preferably over a period of several days. Continuing to encourage memory sharing may help children who are slow to recall their experiences as well as those who may be reluctant to speak.

Letting children draw or paint something that they recall about wheels is another way they can share their memories. The teacher can help the children label their work. These stories and drawings can give teachers a sense of what sorts of experiences the children have had as well as what misconceptions they may hold and what subtopics may interest them.

Posing Provocative Questions

During Phase 1, asking provocative or probing questions can help children think about wheels in new ways. Such questions might include: How can you tell that something is a wheel? What's the difference between a wheel and a tube? What are some things you can think of that have wheels? What are some things that wheels help people do?

Other questions might also provoke children’s thinking and problem solving, such as “Where do you think we might find some wheels in our school (or neighborhood)?” or “Do you think that any stores in our neighborhood sell wheels?” A good follow-up question might be “What could we do to find out?”

Making Preliminary Observations of Wheels with Children

The next step might be for the teacher and children to take a walk—indoors or outdoors—where they can closely observe some wheels. The class can take these walks in small groups if enough adults are available to supervise several groups. As an alternative, the teacher might take only three or four children at a time on a walk while someone else supervises the rest of the class. Each child can carry a clipboard, a pencil, and drawing paper for observational sketches. The adult can encourage each small group to pause and talk about what they observe. Children should have time to sketch wheels of their choice, take pictures, measure the height of wheels, notice what kinds of materials were used to make the wheels, and so forth.

It’s a good idea for the teacher to keep a record of what children pay attention to, talk about, and wonder about during these initial observations of wheels. This information can help the teacher facilitate discussions among the children later. It can also be useful during the children’s webbing process and when they work with the question table (see below).

When the children return, they can report to the class about the wheels they saw and what they included in their photos and drawings. The teacher can encourage members of different groups to compare what they have observed and to ask each other questions about what they encountered. The teacher can also help the children label their drawings with information about the wheels they drew. For example, Juan’s label might read: “This wheel was on a car. I counted four wheels on the car.”

Creating a Topic Web with the Children

Creating a topic web with the children is an important part of starting any project. The teacher may want to start the web about wheels after the children have shared several experiences, such as making memory drawings, hearing or telling stories related to wheels, or examining some relevant objects. Typically, the children’s topic web is created during group time.

The teacher can start the topic web discussion by asking the children some questions:  

The children’s responses and questions can become part of their topic web. As the children say 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 sticky notes. The teacher can also use his or her notes from the children’s first observations of wheels to remind them of what they noticed or wondered about.

Many teachers find that making a web can take more than one group meeting, depending on the children’s ages and their level of experience with the process. Children can also help the teacher organize their initial questions, comments, and ideas into categories. For example, if the children made several comments related to car and truck tires, those could be grouped separately from questions and comments about skateboards and inline skates.

For more information about the children’s topic web, see the following resources:  

Helping Children Ask Questions and Make Predictions

In addition to the children’s topic web, the teacher may want to generate a question table based on what the children ask. Some teachers post a large hand-printed question table on a classroom wall. Others prefer to create the question table as a computer document (Figure 3).  

What would you like to find out? (Question) What do you think the answer might be? (Prediction) What did you find out? (Answer)
How do wheels stick on a car? Workers pound nails in to keep the wheels there.
Is a wreath a wheel? Yes, because it looks like a wheel.

No, because it can’t go around and around. It will break if you use it on a bike or even a toy.
Do computers have wheels inside them? No, computers just have wires.

Yes, because I can hear a wheel go around inside my dad’s laptop.
Figure 3. This portion of a question table includes some questions the children might ask about wheels along with some predictions about what the answers might be.

For more information about making and using a question table during any project, 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 and adding questions throughout the project in a variety of ways:  

For more suggestions about helping children formulate questions, see “The Project Approach: Helping Children Ask Questions”.

Predicting possible answers and potential 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 “Who might be able to answer that question for you?” 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 wheels, they can form a subtopic group to try to find answers to the question. The teacher can also learn more about children’s common interests through their memory drawings, their art work, and their dramatic play. Another approach to forming subtopic groups is for the teacher to ask a small group of children to focus on a particular aspect of wheels. For example, several children might want to find out all they can about the wheels on the school’s tricycles. Three or four others may be curious about wheels inside old clocks while a few might want to investigate how people install and repair wheels.

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

Involving Families During Phase 1

Families can be involved in a project on wheels beginning in Phase 1. It’s a good idea to send notes to families letting them know that the class is starting a project about wheels:  

Children might take surveys home so they can ask family members and neighbors such questions as “Do you have any furniture with wheels?” or “How many wheels do you think a bus (or other vehicle) has?” (For more ideas about surveys in project work, see “The Project Approach: Children Taking Surveys” and “Helping Children Take Surveys”.)

Phase 2: Fieldwork

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

These activities are discussed in detail below. It helps to keep in mind that what follows are just suggestions. The children’s ages and interests, as well as the teacher’s experience with project work, will affect which activities might be most helpful and engaging to the class.

Making Site Visits

A class may be able to conduct investigations of wheels without leaving the school grounds. There are probably many wheels in the classroom or right down the hall! Walking trips through the neighborhood or to nearby parks, homes, or businesses can also provide valuable opportunities to study a variety of wheels. If classes are permitted to visit sites away from school via bus or car—a car repair shop, a hardware store, a potter’s studio, a museum, or a mechanical engineering lab—taking such trips can also be worthwhile.

The teacher might 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 playground? A bike shop? A kitchen? They can also discuss who might be able to answer their questions during the site visit. Occasionally visit to a site, such as a museum, by the entire class can be helpful, particularly if enough adults are available to supervise the subtopic groups as they collect data relevant to their questions.

If possible, it’s a good idea to arrange multiple visits to some sites because the first visit to a large place may be overwhelming for the children. On later visits, they may be better able to focus on details that they missed while still trying to “get their bearings.” Returning to a site provides a chance for children to ask additional questions and gain in-depth knowledge of what they are seeing there.

When preparing for outdoor site visits, it is a good idea to remind the class of the usual safety procedures (use sun protection, stay on the paths, dress warmly in winter) for outdoor activities. Whether indoors or outdoors, it’s also a good idea to remind children not to litter and to always ask permission before they touch things or collect artifacts.

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

Gathering Data Related to Wheels

One of the teacher’s key roles during Phase 2 of a project is to facilitate children’s firsthand experiences related to the topic. It’s important to keep in mind that 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 wheels:  

During fieldwork, the teacher can encourage the children to do several things:  

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 wheels and related subtopics. The list will depend on the ages and interests of the children and might include one or more 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:  

Creating Collections of Artifacts and Specimens

Helping the class build and maintain a collection of specimens and artifacts related to wheels can be another important role for the teacher during Phase 2 of the project. The teacher might choose to help in some of the following ways, depending on available resources and the ages, interests, and experiences of the children:  

Note: During site visits, children will have opportunities to observe wheels and related items in use, which often means that dirt, grease, and other substances will be visible on them. However, items that are part of the classroom collection should be well cleaned and free of grease or other chemicals before children handle them. Of course, items in the collection should not have edges sharp enough to cut anyone.

During a project on wheels, the class may be interested in collecting a few of the following items:  

The number and types of items in the collection will vary with the children’s ages and interests. As children and family members add to the collection, the teacher can label, or help the children 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.”

Incorporating Science Activities

As children learn more about wheels during Phase 2, they may have questions that can best be answered through scientific explorations that they plan themselves with classmates or with the teacher. Such activities may include closely examining and working with items in the collection; designing, making, and testing wheel toys and equipment; and setting up experiments.

Looking Inside the Collection: Children can learn much by observing and using items in the class collection. Teachers might encourage such activities in several ways:  

The teacher may anticipate that older preschoolers or those who have more experience with project work could use the collections in additional ways:  

Designing, Making, and Testing Wheels and Things with Wheels: Some children might want to design their own toys or working models of things with wheels, giving them opportunities to learn the principles of design and engineering that adults use when they create or work with wheels. Figure 4Figure 4. Some of the children may want to create models of vehicles.

The teacher might help in some of the following ways, depending on available resources and the ages, interests, and experiences of the children:  

(For videos showing some children working together on a construction, see “Constructing a Cradle”. To see examples of how a teacher might talk with preschoolers about models they have made, see “Talking about Waterslide Models” or “An Engineer Changes His Mind”.)

Setting Up Experiments: As the project proceeds, a number of questions may arise that children can address through explorations and experiments that they plan individually or with the help of classmates or the teacher. Depending on their ages, interests, and experience with wheels, children might ask a variety of questions that could be investigated with experiments:  

(For an example of how one teacher facilitated children’s explorations and experiments, see “Magnets and Cars”. For some additional ideas about children’s investigations of rolling, see the Illinois Early Learning Tip Sheet “Playground Physics: On a Roll!”.

Incorporating Language Arts and Literacy Activities

Introducing New Vocabulary: Learning new vocabulary will be important to children’s growing knowledge during a project on wheels. The children’s ages and levels of experience may influence what words and concepts they learn and use. Children may also learn some specialized vocabulary in their subtopic groups. For example, a group that investigates “wheels on chairs” may need to know such terms as “caster” and “swivel,” while a group studying car wheels may become familiar with words such as “rim” and “lug bolt.”

The children may encounter some of the following words and concepts during a project on wheels. The teacher can help the class find definitions.

  • Motorcycle
  • Caster
  • Ball wheel
  • Flywheel
  • Waterwheel
  • Paddlewheel
  • Pinwheel
  • Windmill
  • Hoop
  • Cart
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Simple machine
  • Energy
  • Force
  • Speed
  • Grease
  • Ground transportation
  • Skid
  • Align
  • True a wheel
  • Brake
  • Pedal
  • Gear 
  • Teeth
  • Meshing
  • Sprocket
  • Chain
  • Cylinder
  • Disk
  • Tire
  • Cycle
  • Tricycle
  • Bicycle
  • Unicycle
  • Wheel
  • Axle
  • Rim
  • Hub 
  • Hubcap
  • Spokes
  • Lug bolt
  • Lug nut
  • Ball bearing
  • Round
  • Motion
  • Roll
  • Turn
  • Spin
  • Swivel
  • Rotate
  • Revolve
  • Traction

As children begin to use the new terms, the teacher might facilitate class discussion about some of the words. “Kevin’s noticed a paddlewheel is made out of flat boards and wonders if it’s a real wheel. What do you think?” If some children seem confused about a term, the teacher might suggest looking it up in the dictionary or asking a visiting expert.

Writing in the Context of the Project: The teacher can promote a variety of dictation and writing activities during Phase 2, depending on the children’s ages, interests, and levels of experience:

Sharing Books and Other Reference Materials: Key tasks for the teacher during Phase 2 include finding and sharing Web, print, and multimedia resources that will help children understand more about wheels. The teacher can ask a librarian for help finding good informational picture books, magazines, and other resources to share with the class, including:  

(See Appendix B for lists of children’s literature and Appendix C for teacher resources related to wheels.)

Incorporating Math Activities

Depending on the children’s ages, experience, and interests, a wide range of math-related activities can help them answer questions and develop new understandings:  

Incorporating Social Studies Activities

During Phase 2, some children may become interested in the roles that wheels play in people’s lives. The teacher can facilitate activities (appropriate for the children’s ages, interests, and experiences) that highlight these roles in a number of ways, including:  

Incorporating Physical Development and Health Activities

Using wheels to help with certain kinds of work can reduce the stress on a person’s body. Depending on the children’s ages and interests, the teacher might help them investigate ways the body works when using things with wheels:  

Children may become interested in sports that involve wheels in a variety of ways, such as inline skating, skateboarding, and bicycle and auto racing. Some children may want to find out more about wheelchair athletes in sports such as soccer, basketball, and handcycling. (For related resources, see Appendix C.)

The teacher might want to encourage some children to find out about comfort and safety issues related to wheels:  

Incorporating Fine Arts Activities

The visual arts, creative movement, drama, and music can become part of children’s investigations of wheels. During Phase 2, it’s a good idea to focus on having children make realistic representations of what they have learned. Their more imaginative or impressionistic interpretations may be more suitable for Phase 3. Depending on available resources and the children’s ages and interests, the teacher might try several approaches to bringing the fine arts into Phase 2:  

Debriefing after Fieldwork

It’s a good idea to make time for subtopic groups to report to the class regularly about what they have found during fieldwork. The teacher might facilitate these discussions in several ways, depending on the children’s ages and levels of experience:  

Involving Families in the Wheels Project During Phase 2

Multiple opportunities for family involvement are likely to arise during Phase 2 of an investigation of wheels. Teachers can use their newsletters, email, blogs, or special invitations to involve families in a variety of activities. Some activities will work well for family members who have time during the day to come to the school. Several of the following steps can engage families who are not able to be at school regularly:  

Phase 3: Bringing the Project to a Close

A project about wheels might last from three weeks to three months, depending on what resources are available and the extent of the children’s interest.

In Phase 3 the teacher can help the children bring the project to a close by going back over the question table with the class, facilitating children’s use of their new knowledge in their play, helping them plan how to display their documentation, working with them on plans for a culminating event, and inviting families to participate.

Revisiting the Question Table

As the study of wheels winds down, the teacher can go over the question table (see Figure 5) with the class or with individual children:  

Depending on the children’s ages and interests, the teacher may want to help them contact some of their guest experts or consult books and other references to answer remaining questions or to clarify what they have misunderstood.

What would you like to find out? (Question) What do you think the answer might be? (Prediction) What did you find out? (Answer)
How do wheels stick on a car? Workers pound nails in to keep the wheels there. Wheels stick to the car axle with bolts called lug bolts.
Is a wreath a wheel? Yes, because it looks like a wheel.

No, because it can’t go around and around. It will break if you use it on a bike or even a toy.
A wreath is not a wheel because it doesn’t do any work except decoration.

Some people make broken bike wheels into wreaths.
Do computers have wheels inside them? No, computers just have wires.

Yes, because I can hear a wheel going around inside my dad’s laptop.
Figure 5. The teacher can revisit the question table with the children, helping them discuss the answers they have found and how they might find answers to any remaining questions.

In Figure 5, the final question on whether computers have wheels inside has yet to be answered. The teacher could talk with the children about how they might find the answer. At this point, the teacher might also revisit some overall questions about the wheel project. Do some of the children seem to misunderstand anything about the topic? What might be done to address their misconceptions?

Facilitating Play

Children’s new knowledge and understandings of wheels may be reflected in a variety of ways in their spontaneous play throughout the project. This is especially true during Phase 3 when they can apply their knowledge about the characteristics and uses of a variety of wheels. Depending on the children’s ages and interests, teachers can take any of several approaches to fostering such play:  

Planning for Final Displays of Documentation

When the children’s questions about wheels have been addressed, the teacher can suggest that it is time for the children to plan how they will display the findings from their project. It helps to encourage them to think of the documentation or display as “telling the story of their project or work.” The teacher can help with this process in a variety of ways, depending on the children’s ages, interests, and experiences:  

Planning a Culminating Activity

The subtopic groups should meet to decide what they want to do to share their new knowledge and skills with others. A key decision is whether they want to host an event when they can show others their work or, instead, plan a less-complex final activity such as making a book that families can pass around.

The children can then decide how best to express and represent what they have found out during the project. Do they want to create a display of scale models of vehicles, tell a story that involves wheels, paint a mural, write poetry, make music, develop a creative movement or dance performance, put on a play in which wheels play a key role, or invite families to an event focusing on rolling a variety of objects with wheels on race courses the children construct?

The teacher might take on several roles when meeting with the small groups to discuss the children’s decisions:  

As the investigation ends, children may feel inspired to creatively express what they have been learning about wheels as part of the culminating activity. Depending on children’s ages and interests, the teacher can try any of several ways to foster their creative work during Phase 3:  

Involving Families During Phase 3

Family members often enjoy seeing what children have done and learned during a project. As the investigation of wheels 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 intended to suggest possibilities, to support the teacher who is looking for ways to get started with a project related to wheels, or to help maintain momentum once an investigation is under way.

It helps to remember that the children are likely to find many worthwhile ways to investigate wheels. In fact, as children pursue what interests them, they may take the project in directions very different from what the teacher originally expected. “Wheels” could become just a small part of some other topic that engages the minds of many children in the class.


Thanks to the following Illinois photographers who contributed work to the “Wheels Are All Around” slide show: Durango Mendoza, Russell Smith, William Durango Lafontaine, Scarlett Marie Mendoza, Lola Colleen Mendoza, and Ava Grace Mendoza.

Thanks to Nora Love, University Primary School head teacher, for reviewing this document.

Illinois locations depicted in the slide show include Cantigny Park, Wheaton; Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet; Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield; and places in and near Champaign, Urbana, and Chicago.

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

The following table suggests some of the benchmarks from the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards that are likely to be addressed during a project on wheels.

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 classmates’ 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 wheels 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 wheels.

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 wheels.

…children discuss books and other resources about wheels 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 and found 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 wheels.

…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 wheels 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 wheels in 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 wheels.

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

…children create books that include their original stories or poems related to wheels 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 wheels.

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

……children find printed words, numerals, etc., on the objects they are studying, such as tires, gears, or tools.

…children make their own books, diagrams, etc.

…children sing songs related to wheels.

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 wheels in books, paintings, drawings, sculpture, etc.

…children illustrate their own books involving wheels.

…children listen to and act out stories that involve wheels, such as “Big Mean Mike.”

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 wheels.
5.B.ECa With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to express an opinion about a book or topic.

…children predict possible answers to a question.

…children respond to an opinion question on a survey (“Do you like to ride tricycles?”) by writing their names.

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 wheels.

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

…children actively investigate many aspects of wheels.

…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 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 key features of an object they observe, such as the number of wheels on a wheelchair or the number of lug nuts on a car wheel.

…children count items they will need for their representations, such as Lego wheels to make a truck or pipe cleaners to make spokes.

…children count out items to be used in displays, such as photographs, drawings, and artifacts.

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 teeth on a gear or the number of tires on a tractor.
7.A.ECb Use nonstandard units to measure attributes such as length and capacity. …children describe the size of an object in relation to their bodies (“The tractor tire is taller than Ramon.” “The steering wheel is as big as my head.”).
7.A.ECc Use vocabulary that describes and compares length, height, weight, capacity, and size.View sample lesson plan

…children use terms such as “how wide,” “how far apart,” and “how high” when discussing wheels.

…children describe or discuss differences and similarities in height and weight of various wheels and tires they have seen during field work.

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

…children “race” small cars or other objects down inclines to see which ones reach a finish line first, second, etc.

…children create a time line or storyboard showing the sequence of steps in removing a flat tire.

…children investigate a teaching clock to see how the gears and hands work.

…children use counting or a stopwatch to see how long they can keep a hoop rolling.

…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.

7.C.ECa With teacher assistance, explore use of measuring tools that use standard units to measure objects and quantities that are meaningful to the child.

…children and teachers use rulers and tape measures to measure diameters of various wheels.

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 wheels or tires are similar to and different from each other.

…children sort collected items such as lug nuts, gears, and tools related to wheels when making real graphs, Venn diagrams, etc.

…children use words such as large/small, round/flat, and more/fewer when discussing wheels and related items they have observed.

8.A.ECb Recognize, duplicate, extend, and create simple patterns in various formats. …children sketch and compare patterns in tire tracks.
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 shapes of various wheels and related items.

9.A.ECe Think about/imagine how altering the spatial orientation of a shape will change how it looks (e.g., turning it upside down).

…children view and draw wheels from the side, from the back, and from the top.

9.B.ECa Show understanding of location and ordinal position.View sample lesson plan …children “race” wheeled items on a ramp to see how far they roll after reaching the bottom or which ones reach the bottom first.
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 wheels.

…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 wheels or related objects, noticing 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 wheels.

…children interview experts about various kinds of wheels.

…children take surveys of peers and family members on topics related to wheels (e.g., “Did you ever change a bike tire?” or “Do you have a chair with wheels?”).

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 wheels.

…children make accurate and detailed pictures or models of individual wheels, gears, vehicles with wheels, etc.

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

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 some of their questions about wheels.

…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 explorations and experiments to answer specific questions related to wheels (e.g., “What does this tire look like when you look through a magnifier?” or “How do you stop a wheel when it’s rolling?”).

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 (cars from boxes and junk, railroad track from blocks) for their dramatic play.

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

...children plan explorations or experiments that address specific questions (e.g.,“What is it like to ride a tricycle through mulch?” or “Which is harder, pulling a wagon uphill or pushing it?”)

…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, which they use to report findings to classmates.

…children notice and discuss differences in their findings (e.g., “The wheels on a car and a truck have lug nuts. The wheels on our wagon don’t.”).

…children help to create displays showing what they have found out about wheels.

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 wheels have changed.

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

…children bring ideas and information about wheels into their dramatic play (e.g., creating a tire shop or creating a clock with hands that turn).

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

…children decide on formats (murals, booklets, videos, open houses) to use for sharing what they have found out with others.

…children summarize their knowledge and understandings about wheels in ways that are accessible to others (a list, a display of models with explanatory notes).

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

…children discuss how they can tell that something is (or is not) a wheel.

…children talk with each other about how wheels stay on various objects (cars, furniture, tricycles, wheel toys).

…children explore and discuss materials used to make wheels.

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

…children experiment with making inclines of varying steepness for rolling hoops, cylinders, or wheel toys.

…children explore what happens when they roll wheels on a variety of surfaces, such as tabletops, sand, gravel, and ice.

…children explore ways of making rolling objects stop.

…children test the strength and durability of various materials (cardboard, wood, etc.) when making models of wheels, vehicles, or tools related to wheels.

…children test the holding power of glue or fasteners they use when making models of things related to wheels.

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

…children use magnifiers and binoculars to examine various wheels.

…children use string, tape measures, unit cubes, etc., to measure various wheels.

…children weigh wheels, wheel hardware, and tools using balance scales, spring scales, etc.

…children learn the uses of wheel-related tools, such as wrenches and jacks.

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

…children see how engineers and others use specific wheel-related technology such as tire pressure gauges and truing stands.

…children use digital cameras to record data about wheels.

…with adult help or independently, children use computers to find and record information about wheels.

14.C.ECa Participate in voting as a way of making choices. …children vote or reach consensus about how to present what they have learned to others.
14.D.ECb Participate in a variety of roles in the early childhood environment.

…children do research individually and with others to answer their questions about wheels.

…children share information with classmates with words, drawings, models, etc.

…children plan and create displays to share their information about wheels with others.

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

…children interview people (bus drivers, car or bike repair workers, potters, people in the building trades, etc.) whose work involves wheels.

…children examine tools and equipment related to wheels (potter’s wheels, wheelbarrows, can openers, analog clocks, etc.) used by people in a wide range of jobs.

…children report what they have learned from people whose work involves wheels.

…during dramatic play, children take roles of people whose work involves wheels.

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 wheels, vehicles, wheel toys, and wheel-related tools and equipment.

…children find out the cost of changing a tire, repairing a wheel, etc.

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 dictate the story of a site visit or interaction with a visiting expert.

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

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

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

…children are able to find specific objects with wheels on the playground, in the classroom, in the neighborhood, and at home.

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

…children can differentiate among the jobs people do that involve wheels.

…children take surveys of classmates, family members, and neighbors about experiences and habits related to wheels (e.g., “Do you have a chair with wheels?” or “How many wheels do you think a car has?”).

…children take a variety of roles in dramatic play related to wheels.

18.B.ECa Understand that each of us belongs to a family and recognize that families vary. …children do activities with their families related to the project, such as a survey, then report their findings and experiences to classmates.
19.A.ECa Engage in active play using gross- and fine-motor skills. …children investigate riding toys and other wheel toys by playing with them on the playground and in the classroom.
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, stencils, and safety compasses when drawing wheels and objects with wheels.

…children make signs, etc., for dramatic play related to wheels, such as a sign that says BIKE SHOP.

19.B.ECa Coordinate movements to perform complex tasks.

…children play with riding toys such as kick scooters, trikes, wagons, and pedal cars.

…children play hoop-and-stick games.

…children demonstrate how to use particular tools related to wheels.

19.C.ECa Follow simple safety rules while participating in activities.

…children wear sun protection and proper clothing when doing outdoor fieldwork.

…children follow rules when using riding equipment (scooters, trikes, etc.).

…children talk with experts about wheel-related safety procedures.

23.A.ECa Identify body parts and their functions. …children observe and discuss which parts of their bodies are involved in activities such as roller skating, riding a trike, or pulling a wagon.
25.A.ECa Movement and Dance: Build awareness of, explore, and participate in dance and creative movement activities. …children choreograph or participate in creative movement activities, such as pretending to be a fan or incorporating wheel toys or chairs with wheels into dance moves.
25.A.ECb Drama: Begin to appreciate and participate in dramatic activities. …children create or have roles in dramatic performances (skits, puppet shows) related to wheels.
25.A.ECc Music: Begin to appreciate and participate in music activities.View sample lesson plan

…children sing songs related to wheels.

…children use simple instruments to create musical compositions related to what they have learned about wheels.

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 wheels.

…children use roller brushes, cardboard tubes, and other cylinders when painting.

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, music-making, etc.) involved in representing what they have learned.

…children constructively respond to classmates’ creative efforts.

…children talk about the ways that various artists depict wheels 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 wheels.

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

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, such as drawing at home or answering a survey question.

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 a task, such as explaining an idea, making a graph, or carrying out an experiment.

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

…children involve their families in activities related to wheels, such as counting how many wheels they see during a walk.

…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 wheels.

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

…with peers, children play games or engage in dramatic play related to wheels.

31.B.ECb Engage in cooperative group play.

…children make and/or play table games that involve spinners.

…children’s play with classmates involves wheels toys or other objects with wheels.

Appendix B: Children’s Literature and Web Resources Related to Wheels

A teacher can often promote children’s interest in a topic by sharing a picture book with the class. A small number of picture books are available that discuss the science of wheels, pulleys, and related items. Wheels sometimes play a central role in children’s stories, songs, and poems. Illustrators often depict wheels in children’s books, even if wheels aren’t central to the plot.

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

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

The following lists of selected books and other resources may be useful during a project on wheels. The lists are not comprehensive; teachers may know of additional books, Web sites, or multimedia resources.

Informational Picture Books

The following is a sampling of books that can provide factual information relevant to a project on wheels. Some of the books listed may be too challenging overall for preschool-age children, but they contain some text or illustrations that the children may find helpful.

Realistic Fiction Picture Books

The following picture books are realistic fiction—stories with no magical elements. Realistic fiction books can be useful to children during all phases of a project.  

Picture Books of Poetry and Verse

The following selected picture books feature poems and rhymes (including songs in book form) related to wheels.  

Picture Books of Fantasy and Folktales

The following selected picture books include folktales and fantasy stories that involve wheels. The teacher—and the children—may know of other options.  

Web Resources for Children

Preschoolers may need help from adults to use the following Web resources, which provide useful information and ideas related to wheels.

A reading of the book Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams can be found in archived episodes of “Reading Rainbow” on YouTube. (Search for galimoto + “reading rainbow”.)

Sesame Street’s video archive includes some short clips related to wheels:

Appendix C: Teacher Resources

Magazines, Web sites, DVDs, and encyclopedias and other reference books may be useful to the teacher during a project on wheels. The lists below are not meant to be comprehensive. Teachers may know of additional resources related to wheels, and a librarian may be helpful in locating others.

Books, Magazines, Encyclopedias, and Related Resources

The teacher can use these resources to find background information about wheels and related items as well as some ideas to use in the classroom.

Some of the following books for adults or older children may contain information or illustrations the teacher can selectively share with preschoolers.  

The Kids ’N’ Clay Ceramics Book: Handbuilding and Wheel-Throwing Projects from the Kids ’N’ Clay Pottery Studio by Kevin Nierman and Elaine Arima. Illustrated by Curtis H. Arima. Tricycle Press, 2000.

Teachers may also want to use entries related to wheels in reference sources such as the World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica.

A librarian or bookseller may help the teacher locate “coffee table” books with large color photographs and informative text on such things as spinning wheels, hand tools, farm implements, motorcycles, cars, trains, or antique clocks and watches.

Some of the games and toys (tops, pinwheels, “tumblers”) mentioned in the following books involve wheels.

Selected articles from magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Pottery Making Illustrated, Car and Driver, Fine Homebuilding, Model Railroader Magazine, Model Airplane International, Sports ’n’ Spokes, Interweave Knit & Spin, and others may include interesting photographs and information about specific kinds of wheels.

Some children may be interested in selected parts of sound recordings related to wheels.  

Parts of the following informational DVD videos may be of interest to children who are interested in the wheels on trains.  

A number of museums throughout Illinois have a variety of wheels in their collections, particularly history or science and technology museums. The Illinois Association of Museums maintains a list of museums organized by region of the state. The name of each museum is linked to contact information (see Illinois Association of Museums). Teachers can visit the Web sites of nearby museums or call for information about possible site visits or materials teachers can borrow.

Resources about Projects on Similar Topics

The multimedia resource, Projects to Go, includes the DVD “Rearview Mirror: Reflections on a Preschool Car Project.” Sallee Beneke tells the story of how her preschool class at Illinois Valley Community College became engaged in a study of cars. When building a car from cardboard boxes as part of the project, the children figured out how to construct tires and a steering wheel.

A teacher may also find it helpful to look at articles by teachers who have implemented projects that involved investigating wheels and related objects. For example, see the following:  

Other Web Resources Related to Wheels

The teacher can check the Web sites of companies that make and sell such things as waterwheels, wheelchairs, and vehicle wheels and tires. Some of these Web sites feature drawings, photographs, videos, or descriptions of the products. Children can use home improvement and hardware store Web sites to check prices of wheels and related items.

The International Paralympic Committee maintains a Web site that features photographs and information about paralympic sports, some of which involve wheelchairs or adaptive equipment. The teacher may be able to find resources there for children who are interested in wheelchair sports. Web sites that sell “sports wheelchairs” may also be helpful.

The following Web resources provide ideas and information that the teacher may be able to adapt to an investigation of wheels by a preschool class. The teacher may want to try a suggested activity without the children. If an activity seems to be a good “match” with the children’s abilities and interests, the teacher can demonstrate and help them with the activity.

The teacher can also find instructions for making pinwheels and yoyos online.

As the children’s knowledge about the topic increases, the teacher may want to add to his or her understanding of the science of wheels. For example, the Annenberg Foundation’s “Learner” Web site for teachers has a set of modules that includes online videos about the science of energy, force, and motion. Two in particular may be useful in demonstrating the principles of physics related to wheels:

Teachers who want to find out more about the physics of rolling may be interested in some vintage YouTube videos of lectures by the late physicist Dr. Julian Sumner Miller. Find them by searching “julius sumner miller” + rolling.

Other Resources Relevant to Project Work

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

Illinois Early Learning Project Tip Sheets

Fine Arts Resources Related to Wheels

Both the Internet and the local library can be sources of additional materials (art prints, music CDs, DVDs of dance and theatrical performances) that the teacher might want to make available to children when they are considering ways to represent their ideas, understandings, and feelings about wheels.

Visual Arts Resources

Teachers can share art prints, online images, or photographs of three-dimensional works to help children consider the aesthetic elements of wheels. Children may benefit from looking closely at how artists depict wheels and compare those representations to “real” wheels they have seen during the project. Some images can be found online; for example, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Web site allows users to search for images of works of art using keywords such as “wheels.” The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian features information about Vochol, a Volkswagen Beetle covered in beads (even the wheels and steering wheel) by Mexican Huichol craftsmen. (For more on Vochol, see the National Museum of the American Indian or informative videos available on YouTube in both English and Spanish.)

The following works by nationally and internationally known artists depict wheels and related objects in ways that are appropriate for preschoolers to view and discuss:

A number of Illinois artists’ work involves wheels and related items:

Creative Movement and Dance Resources

The role of wheels in creative movement and dance may be of particular interest to some children. The Dancing Wheels Company in Cleveland, Ohio, is a dance organization that includes performers with and without disabilities. It maintains a Web site that includes videos of performers in wheelchairs:

Music Resources

The teacher may find that songs and instrumental music related to wheels can enhance the project:
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