Automata Toys…a fun intro to Making?

I belong to several Ontario Teacher groups on Facebook, and have benefitted from some very generous sharing of knowledge, experiences and conversation. Recently, a contributor posted about her interest in automata toy building. I watched the video she linked to her comments..and was fascinated. Charmingly simple, low-tech and inexpensive, yet requiring lots of creativity, planning, experimentation, and some understanding of mechanics…it seemed ideal for newbie Makers!

As I foraged further into online information about automata, I found examples of projects which linked learning goals with the creation of these delightful toys. Also, various levels of entry…from kits with explicit directions, to launching with some initial lessons building background knowledge about the various styles of mechanisms used to produce different motion effects….to presenting the concept and rolling in a cart with recycled boxes, craft and art supplies and encouraging full-on tinkering.

As a non-rotary classroom educator who teaches almost every subject to her students, my thoughts always loop from “wow..that looks amazing!”…to “ok, how can I link this to the curriculum?”.  The obvious is science–gears. But, with a plan to be weekly reading&tech buddies with Mrs. Stewart’s grade 1 class this  coming year, I see an opportunity for my 4/5’s to write picture books for this very real audience, and create an automata toy related to their text to share alongside. How fun!