Constructivism: An Educational Strategy
Construction and the Three Little Pigs
From the Summer 1996 sciencelines
Submitted by Pat Franzen, teacher at Madison Junior High School,
District 203, Naperville, IL
Assuming that small children do still bring this schema into the
classroom, even a pre-kindergarten teacher can construct excellent
science experiences based on nursery rhymes and children's stories.
Possibilities include: Humpty Dumpty (egg packaging - a mini-great
egg drop), The Three Little Pigs (have children construct houses
of straw, wood, and bricks), and Charlotte's Web (observe spider
The Constructivist Movement within the discipline of science coincidentally
can be modeled by the "construction" of a long-loved
children's story, The Three Little Pigs. Via this story, students
can learn fundamentals of architecture, physics, math (measurement,
etc.), language arts (story construction extensions), and a myriad
of other connections.
- Pre-Kindergarten through early elementary
- Students will design and build model houses made of straw,
wood, or brick (stones)
- Students will hypothesize as to the results of a variety
of class-designed tests of the structures built.
- Students will test the structures and discuss their findings,
determinng any flaws in designs (or their thinking). Self-analysis.
- Copy of the story
- Basic materials as deemed appropriate. (Allow the children
to bring in the majority of the materials.)
- "Wind makers," e.g., fans, blow dryers, leaf blowers,
etc. (TO BE USED ONLY BY ADULTS.)
- Read and discuss story.
- Present the challenge:
- You (students) have been asked by the three little pigs to
help them build a better house. That old wolf is still lurking
in the forest, and the pigs need safe places to live. Please
help them build the very best house you can build with the straw,
wood, or bricks (stones). Think hard about new ways to build
a really strong house.
- Test each design with the "wind makers" using the
gentlest device first - possibly students' best candle blowing
efforts. (Remind the children that the wind may indeed "blow
the house down," but that this is an important part of the
- Discuss the results. Facilitate student analysis of the experiment.
Refer back to "guesstimates" documented earlier. Are
there any surprises?
- Ask student groups to explain how they constructed their
models while "the remains" are still present. Have
them analyze their efforts. What worked well, what didn't?
- What might you have done differently? Why?
- Did anything really surprise you about anybody's model?
- Are there any times that real people have their houses blown
down? (tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, etc.)
- How might we build our own houses so they will be strong
- Why don't skyscrapers get blown down easily?
- What was the most important thing you learned?
- Change the variables - different materials, water instead
of wind, different type of structures.
- Draw a picture or compose a story about the surprises in
- Barbaresi, Nina, illustrator, The Three Little Pigs, Merrigold
Press, NY, 1981.
This is the traditional story of the Three Little Pigs. Other
illustrators are also available.
For some humorous versions and other perspectives on this traditional
story consider the following:
- Scieszka, Jon, Lane Smitth, illustrator, The True Story of
the Three Little Pigs! by A. Wolf, Scholastic, Inc., New York,
1989. (ISBN: 0-590-44357-7)
- Trivizas, Eugene and Helen Oxenbury, The Three Little Wolves
and the Big Bad Pig, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York, 1993.