Friday, September 10, 2010

the ball machine, part I

E and Em were working collaboratively in the block when I came to see what they were building. I asked if they would like me to take a photograph of their structure and they agreed it was a good idea. Then I asked them what it was called and E said it was a Ball Machine.

I brought them paper and markers and asked if they would like to draw a picture of their structure, pointing out some basic shapes.

This was very quickly done with little attention given to details. I wasn't sure if this was due to a lack of interest in the subject, the medium, or something else altogether.

The next day I showed them the photo of their Ball Machine and asked them individually to tell me more about what the machine does.

Em: "It takes the ball out and put it back in. The ball do tricks. The ball can do kickball. You turn on the ball machine and put the ball in it. It makes it purple and green and black."

Ms. Erin: Can you tell me about the different parts of the Ball Machine?

Em: "The ball goes in here [points to the right side]. Then it gets paint [points to the middle, right]. This is where it comes out [points to the left]."

E was engaged elsewhere after that so I asked him about the machine the next day showing him the photograph of the ball machine. Here is what he had to say:

E: "The balls go in the holes so you can win. That’s the sixteen [points to the right side]. You get a present if it goes in there. If it goes over the holes you lose. Sometimes you shoot the balls then you win. That’s the flat [points to the middle]. If you land on the flat everyone loses. That’s where the ball comes out [points to the left side]. The one that loses gets a present too."

Ms. Erin: What kind of present?

E: "A big thing; a bike with no wheels. It goes. It’s a game."

Ms. Erin: Do you think you could build this structure again?

E: "No. The balls will be mad at us. We have to build another machine that’s not the same."


The following day I decided to see if E and Em would be interested in painting their drawing with watercolors. Em was interested. E was absent.

Hoping to bring more details of their work to their attention, I printed out the image of their final structure onto transparency paper and placed it in the light studio on the overhead projector. E was absent again but Em was interested.

When she got to her image, I find it interesting that Em decided to draw her face from memory instead of tracing the image projected with arms protruding from her head. 

Em's final drawing:


I would love to hear comments and observations about where to go from here.


  1. great project approach... i would definately go with their interest. sometimes i think we could push to stay with something when they have moved onto other things. E said the machine would be mad if they built it again... maybe an indication of wanting to move on? sounds like there's lots of enthusiasum about machines. maybe put out t.p tubes, shoeboxes, lids, etc.or ask them what materials they would like to use to make more machines. maybe playdough! i love your blog... and your openess! thanks miss erin.

  2. Thanks for the input Jules! Machines rock. It will be interesting to see where they lead me next!

  3. I agree with Jules! I think that you observed their owrk and helped them to extend it without intruding. This documentation will be fantastic for them to reflect on and perhaps build on their original idea - and also for other children and families to really see the work that is happening. This is wonderful.


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