When we began looking at developing an app (see here and here), we had no idea on what might be the best way to engage young children in properties of matter. There were a couple of things we knew the app should do…
The activities needed to connect to one another and if possible build on one another. The app would need to be appropriate and engaging for young children. And finally, move the learning away from looking like a classroom or laboratory setting.
Determining the activities began by consulting state and national standards for K-2nd and Ages 3-5. Using previous research on properties of matter and properties of materials, we were able to identify the concepts and activities that had been used to help children understand the concepts. This informed three of the four activities: 1) sorting; 2) weight; and 3) change of state (solid and liquids only).
With the Next Generation Science Standards, we wanted to incorporate the idea of children solving a problem. This helped with determining both the final activity and the theme for the app. The concepts needed to connect to one another in a sort of progression to solve some problem. We discussed possibly having the app follow a person in a career using properties of matter; ideas that were separate activities; and engineering was a big element of the discussion. We began talking about using a boat as an activity. Of course, this led to discussing a pirate themed app.
The back story for the app is that Pat the Parrot flies off and the children must traverse the ocean waters to save Pat. The first game the children must load the treasure chests with items needed for rescuing Pat. After filling the chests, the children must load the chests on the boat without it tipping over and sinking. Once the boat is loaded, the children would need to enlist the help of the local monkeys to push the boat off from the island. To pay the monkeys, the children were to provide drinks of differing temperatures. Finally, the children arrive at the island and need to be able to determine what material would be best to move across sand, rocks and grassy lands. And WooHoo! Pat is rescued! Now the app does not exactly follow this story but this was how we finally figured out what the app would focus on.