Buildings are made of a variety of materials, chosen for their physical properties, and are designed in a variety of styles and shapes to suit their purposes. Why is the roof of a house slanted? What kinds of challenges do builders face as they construct houses, bridges and tall buildings? And what kinds of machines help people build these structures? Next time you talk a walk with your first or second grader, try these ideas for encouraging neighborhood science.
What’s that stone? As your child begins to discriminate various materials, try to tie these materials to their origins as best you can. For instance, a variety of stone is used for buildings. Consult a guide to rocks and minerals to try to identify the kinds of stone in the different buildings you and your child encounter. Try to find out where the various stone might come from—a local quarry perhaps? If so, then why not try to visit the quarry to have a glimpse of how stone is turned into a building material?
Sketch that building: Encourage your child to pick out a favorite structure such as a house, office building or bridge. Next ask her to draw what she sees. This kind of drawing is not meant as an art project as much as it is intended to help her look carefully at the structure—its general shape, outline, exterior features such as chimneys, stairs, etc. If the sketching is difficult to do in a sitting, take a photo of the building to bring home.
Roofs: Look at a cluster of buildings and focus on comparing just one part across all the buildings, such as roofs, for example. (It could also be windows, or stairways, etc.) Why are the roofs all so different? What is the advantage of one roof style over another? Wondering aloud can provoke some interesting thinking about the structure-function relationship.