The whimsical theme of ice cream offered a playful and purposefully powerful curriculum, which is inviting, accessible and equitable for children regardless of gender, ethnic background, or socio-economic status. Through a twelve week deep dive into a tasty treat, students explored electricity, states of matter, temperature, measurement, history, and geography. They learned how the commercialization of ice, making possible refrigeration and air conditioning, changed forever the way we eat and live; explored simulations of states of matter; experimented with ways to transport ice and keep it for as long as possible without melting; created their own thermometers; ran electric circuits, and ultimately created their own working ice cream machines.
Learners engaged in extended inquiry, developing expertise in our overall topic, following a learning narrative exploring a range of powerful ideas related to ice cream and how the domestication of ice changed our world. They playfully tinkered - designing devices to keep ice for as long as possible without melting, creating clouds in bottles to explore the role of pressure in changing states of matter, making their own thermometers, experimenting with simulations of the states of matter of different elements and substances, creating a range of creatures using conductive squishy dough and electric circuits, repairing electric circuits, and ultimately building their own functioning ice cream machines and hacking their own designs to improve them. Our final exhibition was an ice cream party at which students made the ice cream using their own hand-made ice cream machines and shared reflections on their learning journey with presentations on how to build an ice cream machine, how to make homemade ice cream, and how electricity works.
During this experience writing was integrated within all our projects as well as an stand alone daily practice. Our children created the names of their ice-cream flavors and construct the decoration for the first exhibition night using mostly words.
Children practice their Math on regular basis as a daily routine. Math was also integrated in different projects like in the instructions for making ice-cream, measuring the weight of different shapes of play-doh, and telling the temperature.
The Commercialization of Ice
Why is it that humans were able to domesticate fire hundreds of thousands of years ago, but were able to transport ice and then artificially produce it only a few hundred years ago? How did the ability to transport and later create ice in climates it does not naturally exist change the way we live? Children learned about the commercialization of ice, delving into history, geography, and economics. Through pretend play children helped Frederic Tudor, the innovator who first commercialized ice, transport his ice from Massachusetts to the Caribbean. They studied insulation in order to to help him store the ice, learned about boats and trade routes to help him transport his ice, and learned about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship to help him sell ice to people in warm climates who initially saw no use for ice.
The Science of Ice
Children explored the composition of ice, including its texture, temperature, size, and the amount of time it takes to melt. With the help of older children they made their own thermometers, tested them and start their own exploration into the idea of temperature and the science of ice.
Circuits and Electricity
As preparation for making an electric ice-cream machine, children learned about circuits and electricity. They created their own circuits, learned the functions and names of a circuit's parts, and discovered how to represent the different parts of their circuits. Using conductive and non-conductive play doh children created their own sculptures that light up, buzz or move.
Ice Cream Machine
All our children built a functional electric ice cream machine using the laser cutter, soldering station, wire strippers, a motor, switch, electric tape, power supply, a plastic container, a metal container and a lot of work. This was an introduction to making: they learn how to operate the laser cutter, they learn how to solder, strip the wires that connect their power to the motor and switch, and use a screw driver to attach the motor to the mixer.
Children visit the Metropolitan Art Museum and had a guided tour on the topic of ice. They learned about clothing to keep warm that also conveys cultural messages and aesthetic beauty, famous paintings incorporating ice, and the difference between warm and cold colors.
Artist in Residence
Children had an introduction to wood working with Pilar Perez and built a pencil holder. They learned how to use many manual wood tools such as the coping saw, power drills, clamps, and power tools such as a scroll saw. Learning about joints, safety rules when using tools, and wood design, Tiana created an elephant shaped pencil holder.