Project Overview

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.



Lucas journaling about ice, temperature and inspiration regarding the project.


Lucas dove into math explorations, using his knowledge of ratios and operations with fractions to extrapole from the ice-cream receipt for two people to different groups of people. He converted temperature units from Celsius to Fahrenheit in word problems settings. Through his improvement of the ice-cream machine Lucas use his understanding of concepts such as inches, decimal point operations, geometry of the circle and 3D dimensions to create several pieces. 


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. They made their own thermometers, tested them, and learned about the celsius and fahrenheit scales. Using simulations and hands-on experimentation children learned about liquid, solid and gas states of matter. They explored how different substances change states at different temperatures. They explored how different states of matter have a different molecular structures and represented these structures in diagrams. Lucas and two other children helped the younger children to create their own thermometers. 


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. As a final challenge children had to fix a broken circuit and draw its pictorial representation before and after fixing it. Children also opened electronics such as printers and old video recorders in an effort to understand the electric path. Lucas identified parts of a circuit such as LEDs, fans, circuit boards, switches and the power supply. 


Ice Cream Machine

Lucas 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. After testing the ice cream machine he made some improvements to it and shared them with the rest of his friends. Lucas' discover that the tin can sometimes will slipper down, making it very hard to get out after the ice cream was made. He design circles that served as support of the tin can. To do that he measure the outer diameter of the plastic container and then try to calculate the diameter of the inner container. He also designed a 3D piece that attached the motor to the mixer. During exhibition night he shared his ice cream design with the Portfolio community and explained to everyone how to make an ice cream machine. 


How to make an ice cream machine by Lucas 


Field Trips

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, Lucas created an elephant shaped pencil holder.