Magazine article Technology and Children

The Cookie Factory

Magazine article Technology and Children

The Cookie Factory

Article excerpt

"Hey, Mom, let's take some cookies over to the neighbors. I'd like to package up a few to share with Liz's family." My daughter Sarah had no idea how her simple request could lead to a myriad of problems - real problems with real solutions and a host of classroom applications.

The Cookie Factory activity should serve as an introduction to an integrated unit of study intended to focus on a small number of objectives across the curriculum. The activity, as presented here, has been used successfully at all grade levels from K-12 and with pre- and in-service teachers. It was adapted from a lesson on mass production by Brad and Terry Thode in their text, Technology (Thode & Thode, 1994). The activity's focus was shifted slightly in order to more closely examine the many ways elementary teachers can use technology activities to integrate their existing curriculum objectives. The Cookie Factory activity can be used with a wide range of audiences and for a variety of purposes.

Introducing The Activity

The class is divided into groups of 4 - 6 students, each given a box of resources and the following instructions: Your group is going to compete for a contract to produce packages of cookies. Your task today is to make as many packages of cookies as possible with the resources in your box.

You want to convince the customer who will be awarding the contract that your group can produce the most attractive packages of cookies in the least amount of time. Each package must contain six cookies decorated with two M&M eyes and an icing smile. You may not use any resources other than what you have in your box. At the end of the activity your group will present your product to the customer for comparison with the packages produced by the rest of the class. You may want to think of a name for your cookie product and a packaging concept that will be appealing to young children.

Not one word is mentioned at this point about mass production, assembly lines, quality control, or other aspects of manufacturing packages of cookies. Students are given the opportunity to discover how to organize their group, how to design and construct a package for the cookies, how to identify and assign specific jobs in the system, and so forth.

The Materials

The box of resources contains the following items: 1 box of vanilla wafers, 1 small package of M&Ms, 1 tube of icing, 6 sheets of 12" x 18" construction paper scissors, tape, markers, pen and pencil, ruler, scratch paper for sketching ideas, napkins, plastic knives, and latex gloves (optional).

Observing The Groups at Work

As the students begin to assemble cookies and packages, they begin discussing some of the strategies they need to enter production: how to organize their group, how to identify the steps in the process, whether to assign jobs randomly or by talents, etc. Many of them are raising their hands at this point with questions about the design of the cookie and the package. "What do you think your customer wants?" is often the response.

One group decided to make a box for their cookies, but they forgot to measure the cookies and they couldn't fit all six into their container. Another group is making a bag for their cookies, but is wondering if the cookies will survive transportation to the retail outlet. The group in the corner is still putting M&M eyes on the cookies and hasn't even thought about how to make their packages. Of course, there is that one group that is already finished and is eating their cookies!

When the packages are presented to the class, everyone offers compliments and constructive suggestions. The groups share how they organized their production process and why their product should receive the contract. An independent panel of judges selects the product they wish to award the contract to. Everyone celebrates by enjoying milk and cookies.

What Have We Learned?

Now comes the important part -just what did the students learn by participating in this activity? …

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