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Building Symmetry with 4 & 5 year-olds

I have way too many photographs for a single post.  Although only about a dozen 4-and 5-year-olds were with me yesterday playing with symmetry, they were so engaged and made so many beautiful images, both simple and complex, that I got carried away with taking pictures.

Here’s how it went: first I talked with the kids about symmetry, how their own two eyes, two arms, two legs, and two ears are expressions of symmetry in nature.

Building with Symmetry
Building with Symmetry

We also looked at how using symmetry makes things that are built stronger. Then I talked about the visual beauty of symmetry, about reflections, and then about other kinds of symmetry, where something is reflected not just once, but multiple times. I had cut up some reflective mat board and adjusted them to be able to fit around a point of a hexagon.

Reflective mat board, my symmetry makers
Reflective mat board, my symmetry makers

The children used colored tiles to make designs that could be reflected.

Symmetry star
Symmetry star

They started simple.

Symmetry star
Symmetry star

But soon their designs became more complex.

Ready to be reflected as three -fold symmetry
Ready to be reflected as three-fold symmetry

No matter how their explorations went, they were wowed by the reflections.

complex design

After awhile we realized that the designs could be reflected from multiple points, which created different results.

 a design that has a couple of points that suggest rotations
a design that has a couple of points that suggest rotations

 

Reflections around the red hexagon
Reflections around the red hexagon
Reflecting from a different edge
Reflecting from a different edge

We also looked at different images made by adjusting the angle of the reflective boards.

Triangle waiting for reflective boards
Triangle waiting for reflective boards

Now prepared to be amazed by the different looks this triangle makes.

Three fold reflection
Three fold reflection

and next…

Six fold reflection
Six fold reflection

Even as we created more and more complex designs, the thrill of the simple designs didn’t fade.

Simple Symmetry
Simple Symmetry

This sweet little designs becomes…

Simple Symmetry reflected
Simple Symmetry reflected

…a sweet little reflection.

 

When we had exhausted ourselves with building, it was time to make beaded necklaces. This is the fourth time I’ve worked with these children, and each time I make a different necklace with them. This gives the kids an opportunity to practice counting, to use fine finger control, and to practice making knots. This day, though, we included talk about making a symmetrical design.

symmetry necklace
symmetry necklace

I offered these children a choice of three kinds of symmetrical patterns to do.  The design that I didn’t photograph was pattern of two alternating colors with a large wooden bead in the middle.

Necklace with symmetry
Necklace with symmetry

I’m pretty sure that the ideas I was presenting to these kids was mostly beyond their ability to fully grasp, but they had such a good time playing around with these ideas, and seemed so engaged and excited by them that I have hopes that something about all of this stays with them in some way.

 

4 thoughts on “Building Symmetry with 4 & 5 year-olds

  1. Sometimes I worry that kids will be upset that they don’t have a product to take home with them, as what happens with their reflected designs. I’m always surprised by how absolutely unattached the kids are to holding on to the images. When it’s time to dis-assmeble, they are happy to do that as they were to create. I hope you get to do a project like this Beryl. You will be so pleased at how it captivates the kids!

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