Category: Community Partners, Education, Exhibits

Start your engines … the kindergarteners are ready to go!

Guest blog by our friends at University Liggett School


University Liggett School Kindergarteners develop their car designs.Last fall, kindergarten teacher Nicole Beaudry noticed that some of her students were extremely interested in Matchbox cars.

“They were really into the colors and styles of the cars and were comparing the designs to find the ‘coolest’ one,” Beaudry explained. “They also began propelling them off the furniture to see how they moved, so there was an interest in aerodynamics as well.”

Guided by the passion and inquisitiveness of her students, Beaudry created the car design project. She worked with University Liggett School Trustee and parent Jody Ingle as she planned the project, and Ingle’s background in industrial design was extremely helpful in ensuring the project connected the students to real world experiences.

Over the course of two-and-a-half-months, students conceptualized, drew and designed their own car. The project was constantly evolving as Beaudry gauged the students’ interest and their abilities to be successful with the activities.

University Liggett School Kindergarteners develop their car designs.“I make sure that projects contain avenues for all children and all learners and include as many hands-on activities as possible. I also work to bring art and science experiments into every project, including this one,” she said.

Work on the car design project began with a discussion of shapes, symmetry and proportions, and students examined real-world vehicles that were inspired by nature. They selected an animal or natural environment that would serve as the inspiration for their own vehicle design.

Beaudry built on the inquisitiveness of her students and provided scaffolding throughout the project, incorporating surveys and discussions about end users during the design phase.

Students were able to see many real-world examples of the design process through trips to the Ford S Studio and the Ford Piquette Plant, and Beaudry brought in experts to help students finalize their vehicles.  Bringing experts into the classroom is a key component of project work; it exposes children to people with real world experience and helps make the project more concrete and relevant.

As the students advanced through the design process, an instructor from College for Creative Studies came to the classroom, sitting with each student to discuss their vision. He drew realistic renderings of the students’ vehicles, and the students were able to draw in some of their own lines.

The final step was turning their renderings into clay models. Sculptors from Ford came to the class to show the students how to add and subtract clay to arrive at the shape they wanted, and how smoothing and creating lines would reflect the vehicle’s features.

Throughout the project, Beaudry documented the process so that students could see their progress and refer to the work they’ve done. By the end of the project, the kindergarten classroom was filled with examples of the students’ creativity and innovation.

As a rule, it was important to Beaudry that the students’ age did not limit what they were able to try.

“Children are capable of learning so much and doing so much more than some people tend to give them credit for,” she said. “The glow forge and 3-D printer were both key parts of this project and no one said ‘kindergarteners are too young.’ The support and belief that ULS teachers know their learners is tremendous and something I really value from our administration.”

Check it out!

Visit this exhibit in the Teague Gallery inside the Ford House Visitor Center.

Explore the University Liggett School's Kindergartener "Auto Show" on display in the Teague Gallery, March 10 through May 29, 2023.