We took delivery of this little treasure  last Friday. Our very own Evergreen Outdoor Education Engineer Board – fully assembled and ready to use. Fixings are all galvanised so they won’t rust and it’s construction is robust and nicely finished. Perfect for outdoor spaces.

mechanic board

Everything we needed to get started was there: pre-drilled blocks of wood in 3 different sizes, wooden cogs of varying depths, elastic bands and galvanised bolts, washers and wing nuts. I was assured I can order more blocks and cogs if I need them and all of the other bits and bobs are readily available in hardware shops. The containers are pre-drilled to drain water away and are easily replaceable and affordable as they are the IKEA Trofast boxes at just £1.50 each. The lids (not supplied) cost just 50p. I have added lids to mine.

trofast

I couldn’t wait to open the packets and have a tinker. Their website does state that older children enjoy playing with it too and it’s true – because I loved it! I couldn’t wait for the kids to come on Monday morning.

It blends in perfectly with our other outdoor resources but what’s even better is it comes with a carry handle which really does support the weight of the board with its contents. And actually, it wasn’t half as heavy as I was expecting it to be. This makes it perfect for bringing indoors too if you want to.

I knew the piece would be popular but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as popular as it is. 2 year olds were just as engaged with it as 6 year olds. I saw toddlers using the blocks, cogs and bolts to build tractors rather than attaching them to the board. I saw a 4 year old pushing bolts through from one side and asking a 3 year old to catch it from the other side and attach the wing nut. A 5 year old spotting a design flaw and making adjustments. The language though: these kids were using words I’d not considered out of the ordinary before – words like adjust, rotate, stretch. Isn’t it amazing when they use this vocabulary spontaneously?

This piece was used throughout the entire day by the little ones and later by the schoolies. What was most unusual about this period though is that the chattiest children you’ve ever met come after school and during the whole time they were here they missed snack and barely said a word as they worked through their designs. Un-be-lievable. They were so utterly absorbed in what they were doing. Genius!

Supervision is required as some of the parts, understandably, are small.  They’re meant to be fiddly – that’s the whole point. But I like that they’ve supplied wing nuts rather than regular nuts as smaller hands can turn them too. However, I will be making some of the holes in the board larger to take heavier and larger nuts and bolts so that children can expand vocabulary even further by comparing length, diameter and weight and I will be filling a third container with more toddler-friendly parts, afterall a 40mm nut is a lot harder to swallow than a 5mm nut is it not?

But what I really, really loved about this piece is how much it sparked the children’s creativity. Our children have unlimited access to a whole wealth of open ended materials and loose parts, most natural, some not. I watched them thread twigs, laces and chunky pipe cleaners through holes, thread on buttons and bobbins and wooden lacing shapes. They used cable ties to fasten on bolts and washers. They fetched their screwdrivers, hammers, spanners, tape measures and spirit levels. One child even fetched the pot of pencils, clip boards and graph paper to put her design down on paper before she started her project.

thread

So, what might at first glance seem like very much a mathematically focused resource is very much a holistic resource. It covers every single area of learning and development, promotes every single characteristic of effective learning and it’s a pure asset to our provision. Worth every single penny of its £155 (fully assembled and including delivery).

 

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