Each year, we teach a preschool engineering class about Cars. We’ve experimented with different ideas for “assembly lines” where kids go through a series of stations to create a car. Usually in our class, we encourage creativity and experimentation and process so we don’t generally have any projects where every kid follows the same template and creates a similar looking product, but this was a fun chance to explore that mode of learning.
This year, over our lunch break between classes, my co-teachers and I were joking about “if only we could build a REAL assembly line with a conveyor belt….” Then, we got that gleam in our eyes, and went to work. Here was our result – when you turn the rollers at the end, the belt moves in a loop.
For the belt, we used contact paper with the protective backing still on (bonus: we can still re-use it later for something we would normally use contact paper for). It was sturdier than normal paper would have been, and had more flexibility to it than a cardstock or heavy paper would have.
For the rollers at the end, we have giant tinker toys that we used – I don’t think these are still made, so I searched ebay, and you may be able to get some, but they’re pricey! But don’t get too caught up in having the exact pieces we had… I think you could create a similar effect in a lot of other ways… you just need some sort of dowel that can turn in some sort of vertical support. (Might even be able to tape together some blocks with a space to hold the dowel as it rotates.) We did learn that taping the supports down “flying buttress” style was helpful. The paper needs to be taut to roll, so you need to tinker a bit to get the placement just right.
Our plastic rollers were smooth, so the paper tended to slip and not always rotate like we wanted, so we put sticky tape loops on our dowels to help grab the paper.
Then we set up our stations for the car building: kids would add wheels and windows as the car body came down the assembly line.