One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to engineer oral stories with the children. I love how oral stories elicit participation. I ask the children to pick a story they want to hear and then send them off on an adventure through the classroom gathering the props that we will need to tell our story. This is a time when imagination is ignited -children are eager to be a part of the process!  Last year the group of three-year-olds I taught loved to hear the story of the Gingerbread Man. They would use cookie cutters and toy animals as props in our story-play. Each day brought a new version of the same beloved story.  

As I am writing this, the snow is beginning to fall, and the temperatures are rapidly dropping. I know that there are going to be several days when the temperature drops well below zero and we are going to be holed up inside for a few days. As a native Minnesotan, I have come to embrace the season of too-cold-to-be-outside as a season to think outside of the box.

With that in mind, here’s an extension to the oral story activity. Invite the children to design some sort of home for their storybook characters. Put the Legos, Magna Tiles, and Duplos away for a few weeks and allow the children to design and construct using found materials from the classroom. Offer alternative building materials such as graham crackers, cardboard, pretzels, sugar cubes, pipe stems, and packaging. Offer tape, glue, toothpaste, frosting or almond butter to be used as mortar. Perhaps it’s time to delve into a big papier mache project! Help children think about the type of building which might be suited to their their character. Maybe one week the Gingerbread man lives in a condo and the next week on a farm. Changing the structure and story settings will change other details from the the story, giving everyone a chance to stretch their imaginations. Set up an engineering space that the children can revisit when inspiration strikes them, and they will soon be building skyscrapers, cabins, duplexes, and more.

Contributing Author:
Marie Dawn Johnson
Early Childhood Education Specialist

Winter invites us to be creative. Blend a little bit of engineering along with the magic of storytelling and you’ll quickly be supporting STEAM in your program. Cheers to all of you during this holiday season from all of us at Kodo!