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.
A project focusing on “Things to Sit On” has the potential to involve the entire class from the very first conversation about the topic. Every child spends part of the day sitting on something, whether at home, in preschool, or elsewhere in the community. Every family has things they can sit on, and so does every classroom.
Sitting is such an ordinary activity that most people, including young children, take for granted the many things that they sit on—furniture, a booster chair, a bicycle seat, swings, a car seat, a see-saw, pillows, a lap, the floor. Because things to sit on can be found in nearly any setting where people spend time, the topic is well suited for programs in which it is not possible to take the children on site visits away from school.
A project on things to sit on invites children to “find the extraordinary within the ordinary.” It is the kind of project that strengthens the child’s disposition to keep learning—even about everyday objects. This slide show by Illinois photographer Durango Mendoza suggests the wide variety of things to sit on that children might encounter and gives a sense of how rich the topic can be.slideshow-2
Through all phases of the project, the topic of things to sit on also presents many opportunities for activities related to physical science, physical development and health, and social studies, as well as language arts, mathematics, and fine arts.
The topic of things to sit on could also work well as a first project for young children who are not familiar with project work. For tips on ways to facilitate a brief “practice” project, see the article “Teaching Project Skills with a Mini-Project”.
This guide outlines possible steps to take to engage preschool-age children in projects about things that people sit on. A wide variety of investigation activities are suggested—all need not be included to make the work interesting and enriching. Much depends on the program’s location and the time available, as well as the children themselves. In addition, the guide indicates ways that investigating things to sit on can address a wide range of Illinois Early Learning Benchmarks (see Appendix A).
Keep in mind that this Project Guide offers a variety of ideas—not “recipes.” Children’s ideas about what directions a study of things to sit on might take are likely to emerge as the project progresses. The activities outlined in this guide are just suggestions; many other worthwhile experiences are possible—and often the children themselves come up with related ideas to pursue. At the same time, it is not necessary for every activity suggested in this guide to be included in a project.
Launching the Project: The Teacher’s Role
Several steps may be involved for the teacher who would like to get the children started on an investigation of things to sit on:
- considering children’s potential interests
- locating resources for firsthand investigation
- going to look at things to sit on without the class
- making the teacher’s topic web
- collecting reference materials related to things to sit on
These steps are discussed in detail below.
Considering Children’s Potential Interest
Preschoolers are likely to have already gathered some data about the things that they sit on every day. They may have noticed that one particular chair tips a bit, or that the back of the bus seat is made of shiny metal, or that one pillow is more comfortable to sit on than all the others. Children can easily be encouraged to look more deeply at these ordinary objects: What are they made of? Who makes them? What makes some seats more comfortable than others? Older preschoolers may even wonder about what is involved in the process of sitting. Children’s curiosity about and interest in things to sit on might even take the project in directions the teacher did not expect!
Sometimes a picture book can provoke children’s thinking and conversation about things to sit on.
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 make direct observations of a variety of things to sit on. The classroom itself is likely to contain many examples of such things—from chairs and pillows to blocks and riding toys and even the rug and the floor. Nearby parks, offices, businesses, home furnishings stores, clinic waiting rooms, farms, museums, vehicles, and similar places are all likely to have things to sit on that the children can study. It’s a good idea to find out if the staff of these places will be open to having young children visit.
Printed materials such as sale flyers from local home furnishing stores may also be useful. Local furniture builders and repairpersons, upholsterers, and others whose work involves things to sit on can be invited to assist the children with the project in a number of ways.
Looking at Things to Sit on before the Project Begins
Before launching the project, it helps if the teacher takes a walk to look at spaces in and around the building where the program is located, taking note of the range of things that people might sit on at different times of the day. Walking for a few minutes around the neighborhood may also turn up some additional items that people sit on—riding toys, swings or benches at a park, bus stop benches, equipment at a fitness center, etc. The teacher may also visit a variety of nearby businesses that sell, repair, or build furniture to look at the chairs, sofas, and other items made specifically to sit on.
It’s a good idea to take photographs of some of the objects and places to show the class. The teacher might also bring some samples of things to sit on, or parts of them, for the children to examine and discuss to provoke their initial interest in the project topic. Businesses may be willing to lend some items. Doll furniture or other models of sofas, chairs, etc., might be useful because they are easier to transport than the full-sized articles.
Making the Teacher’s Web
Teachers usually find it helpful to make a topic web before launching into the first phase with the class. Below is an example of a teacher’s topic web about things to sit on.
The teacher’s topic web is intended to be a reminder of the wide range of possible subtopics that the children can investigate, rather than an outline of lessons or activities. It includes concepts, ideas, information, and vocabulary related to things to sit on that the teacher believes are worthy of the children learning more about.
This web can include elements such as types of furniture used for sitting, non-furniture items used for sitting, materials used to make those items, safety features of things that people sit on, how things to sit on are designed and made, and what is involved in the act of sitting. The teacher’s web may also include potential new vocabulary related to things to sit on, as well as possible sites to visit and experts to invite. Once the project is underway, 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
Teachers may find it helpful to look at articles by teachers who have implemented projects about things to sit on. For example: Kindergarten Chair Project.
As the Things to Sit On Project begins, teachers can also 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. Encyclopedias, nonfiction picture books, furniture and playground supply catalogs, and magazines related to outdoor recreation and home furnishings are likely to be useful throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2. Slides or videos related to things to sit on can also enrich the class discussion during the first two phases.
A librarian can also help the teacher locate reliable Web resources on topics related to things to sit on and to the process of sitting. 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
It’s a good idea for the teacher to decide before the investigation begins how to document the project work during each phase. Many aspects of documentation during a project on things to sit on will be similar to documentation for any other project.
However, documentation during a study of things to sit on may present unusual challenges. For example, if children collect full-size things to sit on, or if they make their own pillows, or create large models, more storage room may be needed than for some other types of projects. The teacher may want to decide ahead of time where to store these items.
Phase 1: Getting Started
During Phase 1, the teacher can help the children begin their study in several ways:
- asking children to collect data where they live to share with the class
- inviting them share their recollections of prior experiences related to things to sit on
- taking the class or small groups on a tour of places nearby that may have things to sit on
- creating a topic web with the children
- helping the children form subtopic groups
- involving families in the initial phase of the project
Collecting Data with Families
One way to start a project on things to sit on is for the teacher to ask children to sketch things to sit on where they live.
- Provide each child with paper, a clipboard, and black markers or pencils to take with them for an evening or over a weekend.
- Suggest to the children: “When you get back to where you live, take a look around and sketch anything that you can see that someone in your family sits on.” (For suggestions about ways to help children get started with sketching and drawing, see “Helping Children Sketch and Draw from Observation”.)
- When the children return to school, the teacher can invite them to share their drawings during a series of class meetings. They will have opportunities during the discussions to make comparisons among the many items they have drawn. For example, which ones have legs? No legs? Wheels? Which ones are hard? Soft?
It often helps for the teacher to talk briefly with children before the meeting, asking them what they want to tell the group about their observations so that they can rehearse what they want to say.
Recalling Prior Experiences Related to Things to Sit On
It is likely that as the children discuss their drawings of things to sit on, some of them will recall and bring up related personal experiences. Perhaps a child has drawn his baby sister’s bouncy seat or the broken swing in his backyard, or he has copied the pattern in his bedroom rug. Some of the children’s stories may be unrelated to their sketches; perhaps someone will tell what it was like to fall off a park bench or to sit in a carnival ride or a dentist’s chair. Continuing to share memory stories for several days may help those who are slow to recall their experiences, as well as those who may be reluctant to speak.
Sometimes reading or retelling a story related to sitting can remind children about their own experiences. The teacher might also recount an experience related to something to sit on.
Asking children to draw or paint something that they recall about things to sit on is another way to help them share their memories. The teacher can write the children’s dictated words on their work. Memory stories and drawings can give the teacher a sense of what sorts of experiences children have had, as well as what misconceptions they may hold and what subtopics may interest them.
Teachers might find that the slide show in the previous section, which shows a wide range of things that people sit on, will spark discussion about the topic.
Making Observations of Things to Sit On at School
Another way to introduce the project topic is to ask the children during group meeting to examine whatever they are sitting on at the moment—a pillow, a chair, the floor:
- Invite them to talk about some things they notice about what they are sitting on (colors, textures, size, shape, etc.).
- Provide clipboards, drawing paper, and pencils so that children can sketch what they are sitting on, or so that they can sketch a classmate who is seated nearby.
- Ask the children to share and discuss their drawings: What are some ways that these things to sit on are similar to each other? What are some ways that they differ?
- Suggest that the children who made sketches at home compare what they sketched there with what they drew at school: “Adrienne, you drew a rug at home. You also drew the rug you’re sitting on now. What are some ways that the two rugs are alike? Different?”
The next step might be for the children to take a walk to nearby places where they can closely observe some things to sit on—the school office, the playground, a park. If enough adults are available to help supervise, small groups of the children (three or four per group) can walk in different directions to make observations. If the availability of adults is a problem, it often helps to have a teacher take three or four of the children at a time while the others remain with another teacher in the classroom or on the playground.
The children can stop occasionally to talk about the things to sit on that they have noticed. Each child can carry a clipboard, some drawing paper, and a pencil. The group should have time to sketch the objects, measure them using standard or nonstandard methods, take photographs, and so forth. Children will be responsible later for describing the data that they have collected to classmates who were not with them.
It’s a good idea for the teacher to keep a record of what children pay attention to and wonder about during these preliminary observations. This information can help the teacher foster discussions among the children throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2. It can also be useful during the children’s webbing process and when they are working with the question chart. (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 objects 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 things to sit on at school and elsewhere, it’s a good idea for the teacher to help them create a topic web. The topic web discussion can cover many aspects of things to sit on:
- what the children already know about things to sit on
- what they would like to find out about various things to sit on
- who they think they could talk to about things to sit on
- some places they might visit to help them find out more about things to sit on
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.
The teacher may also want to remind children of what they noticed or wondered about during earlier discussions or conversations about their memory stories and drawings.
Making a web may take more than one group meeting session, depending on the children’s ages and their levels of experience with the topics and the process. Children can also help the teacher categorize their initial questions, comments, and ideas about things to sit on. For example, if several sticky notes with comments related to chairs were generated during the webbing process, the children may want to group them separately from sticky notes with children’s ideas about things that people sit on at a playground.
Helping Children Ask Questions and Make Predictions
In addition to the children’s topic web related to things to sit on, the teacher may want to generate 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)|
|Why do we have to wear seat belts in the car?||Because the police will arrest your dad if you don’t wear one.|
|Does a chair have to have 4 legs?||No. I saw a chair that was like a big circle and it had no legs.
Yes. It has to have 4 legs or it will tip over.
|How does a sled move while you are sitting on it?||Someone has to push you on a hill.
Sleds have tiny wheels to help you go through the snow.
The question table is likely to be useful during all phases of the project. Teachers can encourage continued questioning during any phase of the project in a variety of ways:
- Ask the children what they want visiting experts to show them and talk with them about. For example, the teacher might ask, “When the furniture repairperson comes, what would you like for her to show us?” “What are some things that you want the store owner to talk about?”
- Help children restate “wonderings” as questions. For example, if a child says, “I want to know if a saddle costs a lot of money,” the teacher might say, “So do you want to ask the horse owner, ‘How much does a saddle cost?’”
- Encourage children to ask questions or make comments when their classmates report findings from fieldwork during Phase 2.
- Write new questions on the question table as the children raise them during fieldwork.
- Suggest other ways that the children might express their questions (for example, drawing a picture of something that they are curious about).
Predicting possible answers and sources of information is another important aspect 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 class generally, “What do you think the answer might be?” or “What do you think the guest expert will say when you ask him that?” Children may also want to make drawings that represent their predictions.
The teacher can also encourage children to make predictions about other things throughout the project:
- Which books or other resources do they think might have information related to a specific question?
- What do they think they will see on a site visit? (For example, “Do you think the seat in the tractor will have a seat belt?” “What do you think the dentist’s chair will look like?”)
- What might happen during specific “experiments” or explorations that they design? (See discussion in Phase 2 below of explorations and experiments.)
Forming Subtopic Groups
Several of the children may show interest in the same question related to things to sit on. They can form a subtopic group that will try to find answers to the question. The teacher can work with each group to help the children decide what they might do to get the information they need. For example, the subtopic group that is interested in the question “What are some of the kinds of things that people sit on when they work?” will benefit from particular references, experts, and site visits. A group that is trying to find out how people actually sit down will probably need to use different resources.
Another approach to subtopic groups might be to ask a small group of children to focus on a particular chair or similar item. For example, several children might want to find out all they can about the director’s office chair. Three or four others might decide to investigate the swings in the park, while some others might be curious about the classroom rug that they sit on.
Involving Families during Phase 1
If the teacher decides to begin the project by asking children to sketch things to sit on where they live, it’s a good idea to send notes with the children explaining to families the purpose of that activity. The teacher can also send a more detailed note to families letting them know that the class will be investigating the topic “Things to Sit On.” The note can also mention what the children have said and done so far about the topic and request help from family members. Do any of them have jobs or hobbies that involve special kinds of seating? Do they have interesting experiences to share with the class related to sitting on something? Do they make or repair things to sit on for a job or hobby? The teacher might also ask family members to help children remember their own experiences with sitting on things. It’s also a good idea to suggest that from time to time parents informally ask their children to talk about what they have found out recently about things to sit on.
Some teachers may want to involve families by suggesting that children invite family members to sketch or take photographs of things they sit on for the children to bring back to class to share. Children might take home surveys, so they can ask family members and neighbors questions such as, “Do you sit down at work?” (Some children might want to add a follow-up question such as, “What do you sit on at work?”)
Phase 2: Fieldwork
The children can begin fieldwork after their topic web has been completed and they have selected subtopic groups. Depending on their subtopic groups and the questions that they want to answer, their fieldwork may include a range of activities:
- gathering data on particular things to sit on in their classroom or their school
- visiting other sites where things to sit on can be found
- collecting items related to things people sit on
- talking with guest experts about things people sit on
- conducting experiments and explorations related to things to sit on
- participating in activities in the domains of language arts, math, social studies, physical development and health, and fine arts
- reporting to classmates about what they have learned
These activities are discussed in detail below.
Gathering Data about Things to Sit On
One of the teacher’s key roles during Phase 2 of a project is to facilitate children’s close observations of relevant items. Here are some things that the teacher might do:
- Arrange for children to investigate things to sit on in a variety of settings—indoors, outdoors, in workplaces, in restaurants, in school, in museums, at home, and so on.
- Suggest that small groups of children focus on a particular kind of seating (for example, office chairs, swings at the park, or the exercise machines in a fitness center).
- Provide children with clipboards, paper and pencils, and a camera if available.
- Offer magnifiers so children can take a close look at textures and construction features (such as joints, bolts, etc.) of various things to sit on.
- Give each group time to sketch and photograph things to sit on, or parts of them. For example, the children might want to sketch the legs of many chairs to record the similarities and differences among them.
- Provide crayons and paper so that children can make rubbings to show textures of the objects they are studying.
- Suggest that children collect artifacts related to objects they are studying. For example, a child might pick up a sale flyer at the furniture store or ask to borrow a screwdriver used by the custodian to repair chairs.
- Encourage the children to…
- notice colors, textures, and other properties of the materials used to make something to sit on.
- list different types of materials used to make an object (for example, an infant’s car seat might be made of plastic, fabric, and metal).
- pay attention to the hardware and other materials used to assemble particular things to sit on (for example, bolts, screws, glue, etc.).
- measure an object’s height, width, etc., with a tape measure, Unifix cubes, or nonstandard measuring tool.
- keep a record of such things as the number of wheels on various office chairs.
- notice unusual or identifying characteristics of particular things to sit on—recliners, rockers, folding chairs, ski lift seats, shampoo chairs, etc.
- notice safety features of particular things to sit on, such as safety belts, levers for adjusting heights, etc.
- record their data on paper by sketching, writing, making tally marks, etc.
Talking with Guest Experts about Things to Sit On
The teacher can help the children generate a list of potential guest experts who can provide information about things to sit on and related subtopics. Such a list might include the following people:
- People who design furniture, playgrounds, parks, or the interiors of vehicles
- People who make or repair furniture, playground equipment, etc.
- Doll furniture makers
- People who sell home or office furnishings
- People who buy furniture for schools or businesses
- People whose work involves riding in vehicles (buses, tractors, fire trucks, etc.)
- People whose work involves specialized places to sit (such as dentists, pilots, hair stylists, optometrists)
- People who ride horses, bicycles, motorcycles, etc.
- People who use wheelchairs
- Health care personnel who can talk with children about sitting safely and about the physiology of sitting
Children can draw or dictate their questions for the experts prior to visits. It’s a good idea to have them rehearse their questions to make the best use of the expert’s time with the class. Many guest experts like to know ahead of time what the children want to ask them; the teacher can share those questions with them before the visit. Some experts may be willing to correspond with the children via email.
Going on Site Visits
If necessary, a class may be able to conduct a project on things to sit on without leaving the school building or grounds. However, site visits away from school via bus or car are likely to provide valuable opportunities for additional fieldwork. The teacher might want to keep in mind that during their travel to the sites, children may be able to observe and examine other things that people sit on—car seats, bus seats, strollers, and more.
Occasionally, a whole-class visit to a field site (a furniture factory or museum, for example) can be useful, particularly if each child or small group of children has specific data to collect. When possible, however, site visits should be made by subtopic groups. When children in a subtopic group have decided what their questions are, the teacher can work with them to decide where they might go to find the answers: A park? A farm? A furniture repair shop?
During the site visit, children can use the same data-gathering techniques described in the section “Gathering Data about Things to Sit On” above, such as making observational sketches, taking notes, and collecting artifacts (with permission). They may also have opportunities to ask for information from people who work or live there. (See “Talking with Guest Experts about Things to Sit On” above.)
On visits to outdoor locations, the teacher may want to remind the class to follow the usual safety procedures for outdoor activities (for example, wear sunscreen, avoid poison ivy, do not litter). The teacher should remind children to ask permission to collect artifacts or to touch things that they see during any visit.
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:
- Have the small groups briefly rehearse what they want to say before they report.
- Help the children “tune in” to differences and similarities that they have observed among various things to sit on (for example, sizes, shapes, structure, purpose, materials used).
- Refer children to the question table: Does a subtopic group’s report include some answers to earlier questions?
- Give shy or reluctant children a chance to talk about what they have observed.
- Encourage children to talk to each other about their ideas, findings, and questions.
Creating Collections of Artifacts and Specimens
Helping the class build and maintain a collection of artifacts related to things to sit on can be another important role for the teacher during Phase 2 of the project. Here are some ways that the teacher might help.
The teacher may suggest that children gather items from home, from local shops, etc., to take to school to share. Some teachers invite families to add to the classroom collection. Children should have multiple opportunities to make observational sketches and drawings of these items.
The class may be interested in collections of…
- advertisements for various things to sit on
- riding toys
- doll furniture
- parts of a dismantled chair or other item that people sit on
- hardware, tools, and other items (without sharp edges) used for making and repairing things to sit on
- magazine pages or other illustrations of various things to sit on
- other items from field visits and visits with guest experts
As children bring items in for the collection, the teacher can help them label each one with the name of the item, 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.”
Teachers can keep the collection in a specific part of the room. Some teachers put smaller items (with their provenance) into boxes with dividers.
Teachers may occasionally bring in items to add to the collection.
Incorporating Explorations and Experiments Related to Things to Sit On
As children learn more about things to sit on 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 chairs and other things to sit on, and setting up experiments.
Looking Inside the Collection: Children can learn a great deal by examining objects in the class collection. Teachers might encourage this activity in several ways:
- Offer magnifiers so children can examine the collected items closely.
- Ask them to describe what they notice: textures, smells, colors, sounds, etc.
- Invite them to sketch what they observe; drawing close-up or magnified views can be an interesting challenge for some children.
- Ask provocative questions: “What are these things made of? What holds them together?”
- Offer opportunities to take apart and reassemble chairs and other furniture, providing tools and supervision as needed.
- Suggest that children add their sketches and photographs of items in the collection to the story of the project.
Designing, Making, and Testing Things to Sit On: Some children may want to design their own pillows, stools, or other items to sit on, or create scale models. As they do so, they will have opportunities to learn the principles of design and engineering used by adults who create things to sit on. The teacher can help with this process in several ways:
- Provide paper so children can draw their initial plans.
- Ask them about the purpose of the objects they want to design: furniture for dolls? A scale model of a real object? A cushion for a person to sit on?
- Offer a wide range of construction materials for the children to choose from—wooden unit blocks, hollow blocks, pieces of wood (untreated), wire, plastic interlocking blocks, drinking straws, paper clips, “boxes and junk,” commercial construction sets (for example, Construx or Tinkertoys), large and small fabric pieces, stuffing materials such as foam or batting, a variety of fasteners.
- Talk with them about the materials and tools they will need. What materials does a child think might be suitable for making the seat she has designed, and what makes her think so?
- Help children to change their plans if the materials they want to use are not available.
- Encourage children to consider comfort and safety in their designs.
- Invite parents or other volunteers to assist the children with tasks such as drilling or nailing.
- Talk with the children from time to time as they test their designs. Find out how they are dealing with such problems as balance, symmetry, and the sturdiness of materials.
Setting up Experiments: As children continue to investigate things to sit on, a number of questions may arise during the project that can be addressed through planned experiments. For example, which material will make a stronger bench—wood or heavy cardboard? Is it possible to sit on a chair or stool that has only one leg? 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 the right words to describe things to sit on and their parts will be valuable to children’s growing knowledge during the project. The ages of the children involved may influence what words and concepts they learn and use. Subtopic groups may also learn some specialized vocabulary. For example, a group studying furniture-making is likely to be exposed to terms such as plane, saw, carve, and glue.
The teacher can help the class find definitions of basic “seating” words:
Height, Chair, High chair, Recliner, Stool, Bench, Rocking chair, Chaise longue, Deck chair, Seat belt, Arm, Back, Seat pan, Base, Frame, Comfort, Balance, Symmetry, Width, Cushion, Pillow, Sit, Seat, Materials, Wood, Plastic, Metal, Fabric, Padding, Upholstery, Legs, Feet
Some older preschoolers may want to explore different uses of the word “sit”; for example, sit up, sit down, sit around, sit on, sit out, sit tight, sit still, babysit.
Writing in the Context of the Project: Teachers can involve children in a variety of writing activities during Phase 2:
- Encourage children to label the parts of their field sketches and drawings.
- Invite them to make lists of what they observe during site visits.
- Suggest that they make and label posters or other representations of processes they find out about, such as how a bus seat is installed or how a person sits down.
- Ask them to dictate or write the “story” of what occurred during a site visit.
- Let them dictate or write thank-you notes to guest experts, the librarian, parent helpers, and others who assist with the project.
- Invite older preschoolers to explain complex concepts and relationships between objects as the teacher writes their words. For example, if a child says, “This bicycle seat is like the old tractor seat in the museum,” the teacher might ask a child to explain what she means.
Using Books and Other Reference Materials: The teacher may want to ask a librarian for help finding good informational picture books, magazines, and other resources to share with children. Though few books are available for preschoolers that directly discuss things to sit on, finding and sharing such resources are key tasks for the teacher:
- Books that label parts of chairs, benches, and other things to sit on
- Books and other resources that show and identify types of things to sit on (including furniture catalogs or magazines and books about furniture)
- Resources that explain how different types of seating are made
- Resources with information about jobs related to making and repairing things to sit on
- Reliable Web resources that address children’s questions about things to sit on, the process of sitting, etc.
Incorporating Math Activities
As fieldwork progresses, the teacher can encourage a wide range of math-related activities that help children answer questions and express new understandings:
- Use standard and nonstandard measurement tools to measure the height and width of various things that people sit on in the classroom and elsewhere.
- Investigate symmetry in things that people have made to sit on. (See Figure 7 below.)
- Make charts or graphs of findings to show comparisons among various things to sit on (for example, number of legs, overall height).
- Find answers to such questions as, “Which things in the classroom are sat on most often?” “If you wanted to hang a swing on the playground, what would be too high? Too low? Just right?”
- Sort and categorize tools, furniture parts, and other artifacts that they have collected.
- Select photos or sketches that illustrate comparisons among a set of items people sit on (for example, sketches of arms or legs from several different chairs).
- Find out how long it takes (months, weeks, days) to make a specific chair, tractor seat, playground swing, or other item that people sit on.
- Develop a “time line” showing the steps that go into making an item to sit on (for example, the steps a carpenter uses to make a bench).
- Use a protractor and similar tools to investigate angles in the design of various things to sit on.
- Find and compare the costs of specific things to sit on, using a catalog, the Internet, or other resources. (This activity may be suitable for older preschoolers.)
- Conduct surveys of classmates and family members that ask questions related to things to sit on.
- Use graphs or charts to represent findings.
Incorporating Social Studies Activities
Some children may become interested in human behavior that involves things to sit on during Phase 2. The teacher can encourage them to try a range of activities related to how people use things to sit on:
- Make maps or floor plans showing where things to sit on are located in some familiar spaces such as the classroom, the playground, or a movie theater.
- Listen to books that depict a variety of family customs that involve sitting. For example, families in some parts of the world have a tradition of eating meals while seated on the floor; other families eat while sitting on chairs. Some of the children may want to discuss their own families’ customs involving things to sit on.
- Develop surveys and interview questions that allow them to investigate other peoples’ perspectives on things to sit on:
- What sorts of things do people sit on at home? At work? When they travel?
- What makes a person decide he or she likes to sit on one thing but not on another?
- What decisions go into arranging things to sit on?
- What kinds of play or other recreation involve sitting on something?
- How do people decide where to put things to sit on in their homes and work places?
Incorporating Physical Development and Health Activities
Sitting is a physical activity that can be done in ways that help or harm the human body. Comfort and safety features are parts of the design of many kinds of seating. The teacher can help children investigate such aspects of things to sit on:
- Find out what children think about distinctions among activities such as sitting, standing, and lying down.
- Help the class find resources to answer such questions as, “Why do people sit down?” or “What does a person’s body need to do in order to sit down?”
- Provide an artist’s jointed wooden figure model for children who want to find out how the human body sits: What parts move? What parts bend? What parts do not bend? Ask children to take turns sitting down on various things (the floor, a school chair, a trike, a rocking horse) so that classmates can observe what is involved in different types of sitting. Suggest that they make sketches of what they observe.
- Encourage them to find out about built-in safety features of some things to sit on, such as strollers, car seats, and high chairs. A guest expert may be able to answer their questions about seat belts, seat height, seat angle, and other aspects of safety taken into account by people who design and make seating.
Incorporating Fine Arts Activities: Visual Arts, Music, Creative Movement, and Drama
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 various things to sit on. The fine arts may also provide sources of information. The teacher might try several approaches to engaging the children with the fine arts:
- Share art prints and children’s book illustrations depicting things to sit on or people and animals sitting. For example, Kam Mak’s book My Chinatown shows people sitting on a variety of seats, including a shoeshine bench and a seat in a boat.
- Encourage the class to discuss the different ways that artists and illustrators represent people sitting, or things to sit on—the different uses of color, line, and other artistic elements to convey information or feelings (for example Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles,” paintings or sculptures of the Buddha, Paul Gauguin’s “The Market,” or Mary Cassatt’s “Children Playing on the Beach”).
- Invite children to talk about aesthetic elements in the design of various things to sit on: What do they find “beautiful” or appealing in the design or decoration of a particular object?
- Help the children find out about the work of artists who treat chairs as art.
- Ask for donations of sturdy old chairs or stools for the children to decorate with acrylic paint. (See Figure 8 below.)
- Share CDs that feature classical, folk, or popular music related to things to sit on (for example, Hap Palmer’s song “Colors” and Ella Jenkins’ “Rhythms around the Chair”).
- Talk with the children about sounds that are associated with things that they sit on (for example, the scraping of furniture being dragged across the floor, the tapping of a shoe against the leg of a park bench).
- Invite the class to compose or improvise their own music using parts of various things to sit on.
- Suggest that children use their bodies to represent chairs, benches, stools, etc.
- See if they can think of some ways to dance while sitting on the floor, on a piece of furniture, or on a tricycle. Offer stretchy fabric, scarves or long pieces of fabric to use during sitting-down dances.
Involving Families in Phase 2
Multiple opportunities for family involvement are likely to arise during Phase 2 of a project on things to sit on. Teachers can use their newsletters or special invitations to engage families in a variety of activities:
- Send home small “kits” of constructions toys, with notes asking family members to work with their children to create models of things to sit on.
- Create “homework” that asks children and family members to list or sketch things people sit on in the neighborhood or at home.
- Create some homework to encourage families to find out together about things to sit on in the community. For example, children and parents could count the number of chairs in the local clinic or a restaurant near home, or they could sketch the seats in a movie theater or on a bus.
- Invite family members to read the project documentation that is displayed in the classroom.
- Invite family members to help out with site visits or with supervising and assisting children who are making things to sit on.
- Ask family members who build or repair seating to serve as guest experts.
- Have children ask their family members survey questions related to things to sit on (for example, “Did you ever fix a broken chair?” or “Do you like to sit on the floor?”). For more ideas about surveys in project work, see “The Project Approach: Children Taking Surveys” and “Helping Children Take Surveys”.
- Ask families to send in clean reusable items (“boxes and junk”) for children to use when constructing things to sit on.
Phase 3: Bringing the Project to a Close
A project about things to sit on 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 by revisiting the question chart with the class, facilitating children’s use of their new knowledge in their play, assisting with plans for displaying their documentation, working with them on plans for a culminating event, and inviting families to participate.
Revisiting the Question Table
As the study of things to sit on begins to wind down, the teacher can look at the question table with the class or with individual children:
- Which questions have they answered?
- How did their predictions compare to their findings?
- Which questions are still unaddressed, and what might be done to find answers?
- Do some of the children seem to misunderstand anything about the topic?
- What might be done to address their misconceptions?
The children may want to 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?|
|Why do we have to wear seat belts in the car?||Because the police will arrest your dad if you don’t wear a seat belt.||Seat belts keep you from falling out of your seat if the car stops suddenly. And if the car crashes, seat belts keep people from getting hurt so much.|
|Do chairs always have 4 legs?||No. I saw a chair that was like a big circle and it had no legs. |
Yes. It has to have 4 legs or it will tip over.
|How does a sled move while you are sitting on it?||Someone has to push you on a hill. |
Sleds have tiny wheels to help you go through the snow.
|A sled has runners to go through the snow. But you need to push with your feet to get started. Or somebody has to push you.|
Children’s new understandings of things to sit on may be reflected in a variety of ways in their spontaneous play throughout the project but especially during Phase 3 when they can apply their knowledge about designing, making, repairing, selling, buying, and using various things to sit on. Teachers can take several approaches to fostering such play:
- Share songs and fingerplays about sitting and about things to sit on (for example, “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate”).
- Teach games that involve sitting and things to sit on (for example, Musical Chairs or Duck Duck Goose).
- Encourage children (especially older preschoolers) to create their own active games, guessing games, or board games based on what they have learned about various things that people sit on.
- Provide materials for children to make models of furniture-making and repair tools to use in dramatic play.
- Offer a variety of riding toys and playground equipment with different kinds of seats. When snow is on the ground, provide snow saucers and other sliding toys that people sit on.
- Make a variety of blocks, construction toys, and other materials available so that children can continue to construct a variety of things to sit on during pretend play.
Planning for Final Displays of Documentation
When the children’s questions about things to sit on have been addressed, the teacher can suggest that it is time for the class to plan how they will display the findings from their project. The teacher can help with this process in a variety of ways:
- Ask the study groups, “What are some ways that you could share with other people what you found out about things to sit on?” Help them record and refer back to their ideas.
- Encourage children to plan displays that tell the story of their work—their questions, the data they collected, and what they were able to find out about things to sit on.
- Help the various study groups select drawings, photographs, 3-dimensional models, and other items they have made for display.
- Let the children write or dictate captions for their work.
- Suggest that they include specimens and artifacts that they collected, such as parts of chairs and other furniture, tools used for repairing furniture, and sale flyers or catalogs depicting things to sit on.
Planning a Culminating Activity
The study groups and subtopic groups should meet to decide what they want to do to share their new knowledge and skills with others. A key decision is how best to express and represent what they have found out about the things to sit on. Do they want to create scale models of furniture, tell a story that involves sitting down or things to sit on, write poetry, make music, create a dance, put on a play in which things to sit on play a key role? The children can also decide if they want to host an event when others can view their work or, instead, plan a less-complex final activity such as making a book that can be passed around among families.
The teacher can meet with the small groups to discuss the children’s decisions:
- Ask the children questions such as, “What do you especially want others (for example, parents or another class) to know about your study of things to sit on?” “What do you think might be especially interesting to (your father, your little sister, the principal, etc.)?”
- As needed, inform the children of limitations such as time, space, and money that may affect what they can do for culminating activities.
- Serve as an advisor when the groups run into challenges.
- Provide the materials requested by the groups.
- Let the children do the work.
- Help the children set and stick to deadlines for completing their representations.
As the investigation ends, children may feel inspired to imaginatively express what they have been learning about things to sit on as part of the culminating activity. The teacher can foster their creative work during Phase 3:
- Encourage individual children to represent something of particular interest to them.
- Take children to the local library to look for art prints that depict things to sit on.
- Introduce the work of local or well-known artists and artisans to inspire children to express ideas and feelings about things to sit on, using fine arts materials such as paints, clay, wire, and other media.
- Share picture books with the children that include poetry and fantasy stories depicting things to sit on.
- Invite children to make up their own poetry or original stories related to things to sit on.
- Suggest that the class act out stories that involve sitting.
Involving Families in Phase 3
Family members often enjoy seeing what children have done and learned during a project. As the investigation of things to sit on 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:
- Let children create invitations to family members to view the displays.
- Display photos, sketches, or models made by family members along with items the children have created.
- Provide volunteer opportunities for family members during the culminating activities (for example, supervising while some of the children and their guests play a game such as Musical Chairs or Duck Duck Goose).
- Invite parents to reflect on their children’s participation in the “Things to Sit On” project (for example, by asking them to use “comment cards” next to different parts of the children’s display).
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 related to things to sit on, 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 things to sit on. In fact, as children pursue what interests them, any project may end up with a main focus very different from what was originally expected. “Things to Sit On” could become just a small part of some other topic that engages the minds of many children in a class.
Thanks to Yvonne Kogan for permission to use photographs in Figures 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11.
Thanks to Durango Mendoza for photograph in Figure 1 and for the “Things You Can Sit On” slide show.
Thanks to Scott Brouette for document review.
Appendix A: Benchmarks
The following list suggests some of the benchmarks from the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards that are likely to be addressed during a project on things to sit on.Language Arts
- children participate in making the topic web.
- small groups and individuals report their findings.
- children comment on classmates’ findings.
- children discuss what to do for a culminating activity.
- children make comments or ask questions during discussions about things to sit on 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 things to sit on.
- 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.
- with classmates and teachers, children discuss books and other resources about things to sit on.
- children report to the class about what they have found during field work, answering questions from classmates and teachers to clarify what they have said.
- children develop a list of their questions about things to sit on.
- children plan questions they will ask guest experts.
- children create surveys of classmates, family members, and others.
- children question each other about their findings.
- children ask about and begin to use specialized vocabulary that they hear during field work.
- children accurately use new vocabulary related to things to sit on in their conversations, questioning, labeling, dictations, dramatic play, and representations of what they have learned.
- children use books to find information about things people sit on.
- children create books to report what they have learned about things to sit on and share the books with classmates and others.
- children create books that include their original stories or poems related to things to sit on and share the books with classmates and others.
- children use reference works, magazines, informational books, advertisements, and the Internet to answer their questions.
- children listen to and tell stories that involve things to sit on.
- children look at diagrams, instruction sheets, and schematic drawings related to things to sit on.
- children find printed words, numerals, etc., on the objects they are studying, such as manufacturer labels.
- children make their own books, diagrams, etc.
- children sing songs related to things to sit on.
- children discuss the various ways that artists depict things to sit on.
- children use nonfiction books as sources of information about things to sit on.
- children dictate labels or captions for field drawings and photographs.
- children write or dictate their findings.
- small groups report to the class about what they have observed or found out, using their drawings as visual aids.
- children tell what happened during a site visit, interview, or experiment by drawing, writing, and/or dictating to an adult.
- in large or small groups, children discuss what they want to find out about things to sit on.
- children follow up on their own questions.
- children actively investigate many aspects of things to sit on.
- children use newly acquired knowledge when they illustrate, dictate, or write their findings and ideas related to things to sit on throughout the project.
- children count objects they observe (number of armrests or legs on a chair, etc.).
- children count items they will need for their representations, such as pieces of wood and nails to make a model of a bench.
- children count out items (photographs, drawings, artifacts) to be used in displays.
- children create graphs that indicate quantities of chairs and other things to sit on.
- children create representations that include correct numbers of parts, such as four legs and two arms on a chair.
- children describe or discuss differences and similarities in length, height, and weight of various things to sit on.
- children listen to and act out stories, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Peter’s Chair, that involve things to sit on.
- children investigate how long it takes to build a sofa or other seating.
- 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.
- children discuss or make drawings that show how various things to sit on are similar to or different from each other.
- children sort collected items such as bolts, screwdrivers, or bike seats by common characteristics (for example, when making Venn diagrams).
- children use drawings to illustrate differences among various things people sit on.
- children use words such as high/low, large/small, and soft/hard when discussing seating they have observed.
- children’s drawings and models show beginning understanding of symmetry (one arm on each side of a sofa, one stirrup on each side of a saddle, etc.).
- children say what they would like to find out about things people sit on.
- children talk about potential ways to find the information they need.
- children closely study various things people sit on, 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 things people sit on.
- children interview experts about things to sit on.
- children take surveys of peers and family members on topics related to things people sit on.
- 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 things people sit on.
- children make accurate and detailed pictures or models of things people sit on.
- children organize drawings, photos, and other documentation to tell the story of their investigation of things people sit on.
- children predict possible answers to their questions about things to sit on.
- children speculate about possible outcomes of an exploration, experiment, or survey.
- 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 things people sit on.
- children use a variety of media to create representations of what they have seen or learned during the project.
- children create items related to things people sit on for their dramatic play, such as doll furniture or furniture repair tools.
- children plan explorations or experiments that address specific questions, such as “What is inside of this cushion?” or “Which is stronger, a wooden bench or a bench made of cardboard?”
- children carry out the explorations and experiments and share their findings with classmates.
- 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., “I drew a swing made from a tire. You drew one that’s made of wood.”)
- children help to create displays showing what they have found out about things to sit on.
- children revisit their initial questions and predictions to discuss how their understandings about things to sit on have changed.
- children discuss and think about what they especially want others, such as parents or another class, to know about their investigation of things to sit on.
- children bring ideas and information about things to sit on into their dramatic play.
- 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 things to sit on in ways that are accessible to others (for example, a list, a display of models with explanatory notes).
- children talk with each other about the structure of various things to sit on.
- children explore and discuss properties of a variety of materials used to make things to sit on, such as metal, wood, and fabric.
- children discuss what makes certain things comfortable or uncomfortable to sit on.
- children test the strength and durability of different materials (cardboard, wood, etc.) when making models of things to sit on.
- children test the holding power of glue or fasteners they use when making models of things to sit on.
- children discuss sounds associated with things they sit on, such as the sound of a chair scraping on the floor or the sound of a cushion being fluffed.
- children use magnifiers, binoculars, and other tools to examine various things to sit on.
- children use string, tape measures, unit cubes, etc., to measure various types of seating.
- children use protractors to help them draw objects or measure angles.
- children weigh bolts, batting, and other items used in construction of seating, using balance scales, spring scales, etc.
- children investigate levels, screwdrivers, and other tools used in the construction of things people sit on.
- children use digital cameras to record data about types of seating, how people construct seating, and how people sit.
- with adult help or independently, children use the Internet to find information about things to sit on.
- children interview office workers, bus drivers, and others whose work involves sitting.
- children interview furniture makers, upholsterers, and other people whose work involves things to sit on.
- children examine the tools used by people who make or repair things to sit on.
- children report what they have learned from people they have interviewed.
- during dramatic play, children take roles of workers they have interviewed.
- children investigate prices of various things people sit on.
- children report to others about what they have learned during field work.
- children create a timeline (with adult help) to show the steps involved in their field work.
- children bring ideas from their field work into their dramatic play.
- children can identify things people sit on 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 thing people sit on.
- children describe some aspects of where things to sit on are located, such as “the red swing on the playground” or “the bus bench next to my house.”
- children help make a map of the classroom or other setting, showing where certain chairs or other types of seating are located.
- children interact with people who use seating for a variety of purposes, such as wheelchair users, equestrians, and bicyclists.
- children take surveys of classmates, family members, and neighbors about preferences and habits with regard to seating.
- children take a variety of roles in dramatic play related to things to sit on.
- children use pencils, markers, or crayons to make observational sketches and drawings.
- children explore the use of protractors and other drawing aids when drawing things to sit on.
- children make signs, etc., for dramatic play related to things to sit on.
- children discuss what it feels like to sit on various objects.
- children explore how parts of the body move when people sit down or move from a sitting position.
- children discuss which parts of the body are involved in sitting or in using a seat on a vehicle, such as a tricycle.
- children discuss reasons that people sit.
- children explore comfortable and uncomfortable ways of sitting.
- children use a variety of visual media (painting, photography, videography, sculpture, etc.) to represent what they have learned about things to sit on.
- 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 things to sit on.
- children use a variety of visual materials to express their ideas, feelings, and new understandings about things to sit on.
- children use creative movement, drama, and music to express ideas, feelings, and understandings about things to sit on.
- children participate willingly in a variety of activities related to the project.
- children involve their families in some activities related to things to sit on.
- children persevere when faced with challenges when creating models and other representations.
- as needed, children try multiple approaches to such tasks as explaining an idea, making a graph, or carrying out an experiment.
- children ask classmates questions or respond to questions from classmates during group discussion.
- in small groups, children plan ways to investigate things people sit on.
- children collaborate with peers to make models, create displays, write books, etc.
- with peers, children play games or engage in dramatic play related to things to sit on.