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.



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


Tiana dove into math explorations, including numeracy and algebra skills, as well as geometry and measurement. She constructed a box, learning how to transform a two dimensional object into three dimensions and exploring length, width, and height, as well as measurement using inches. She measured the weight of play dough and learned about grams and pounds.   


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. Tiana 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. Tiana identified parts of a circuit such as LEDs, fans, circuit boards, switches and the power supply. 


Ice Cream Machine

Tiana 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 she made some improvements to it and shared them with the rest of her friends. Tiana's improvement was a wooden ring around the plastic bucket. The ring has a hole in which the motor can be when making the ice-cream. It also has a modified inner circle that accommodates the switch. Tiana then used the ice cream machine to make four batches of her own different ice cream flavors. During exhibition night she shared her ice cream with the Portfolio community and explained to everyone what the main parts of the ice cream machine are. 


Document Tiana wrote for her presentation

How Does the Ice Cream Machine Work?

I am going to tell you how the ice cream machine works. The circuit parts are a motor, a switch, and a power supply. The switch acts like a gate. When the switch is turned on, the electrons can flow from the positive wire through the switch to the motor. When the electrons can go through to the motor, the motor will start spinning the mixer. When the electrons can not go through to the motor then the mixer will not spin.

Why do we need a motor?

Ice cream is fluffy and if we did not have a motor then ice cream would not be fluffy. It would not have air. Air is very important . We add air from the mixer.

Why do we need ice?

The ice cools the cream and other ingredients while the ice cream is mixing. The cream and other ingredients have more energy than the ice, so the ice steals energy from the cream and other ingredients. The ice wants to melt but the salt prevents it, and so the ice has to steal more energy from the cream and other ingredients in order to melt. This turns the cream and other ingredients into ice cream.


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, Tiana created an elephant shaped pencil holder.