Science Project:

Whole and Parts: Taking Things Apart

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  • Does this appliance come apart into two or more pieces?
  • What might some of these parts do?
  • Would the appliance work without the part?
  • What holds the parts together?
  • Do some of the parts come apart into even smaller pieces?
  • What tools did you use to get the pieces apart?

This project leads to an understanding that a whole may be built of smaller parts that fit and work together. It’s not necessary at this stage for the child – or the adult helper – to understand exactly how the parts function together, but just that they do so. This project also leads to a familiarization with basic tools (hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, etc.) and fasteners (nuts, bolts, screws, etc.) and their uses.

  • Safety goggles
  • Hammer
  • Screwdrivers of various types and sizes
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Other tools as appropriate
  • An old appliance

  1. Show the child the object and make sure she understands its use.
  2. Review safety rules.
  3. Have all people involved put on safety goggles.
  4. Show the child the tools and briefly demonstrate their uses.
  5. Let the child explore the appliance with the tools, attempting to take it apart into one or more pieces. Discuss one or more of the research questions: What might some of these parts do? Would the appliance work without the part? What holds the parts together? Do some of the pieces come apart into even smaller pieces? What tools did you use to get the pieces apart?
  6. Group like parts together. Discuss the groupings: size, shape, material, function.
  7. Extension: Take apart a second appliance and compare its parts with those of the first appliance.

Terms/Concepts: whole and part, mechanical engineering

Author: Shelly Smith
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