Inspired by Beests: the Evolution of the Strandbeest-Newtowne style

Inspired by Beests: the Evolution of the Strandbeest-Newtowne style

Emergent curriculum emerges from the child.

the child is inspired.

we listen. we observe.

we offer materials based on what we think will continue the thoughts of that child to grow.

through questioning, collaboration, and exploration ideas emerge.

learning emerges.  a sense of community effort, camaraderie and joy also emerges.


Do you know what a Strandbeest is?  Theo Jansen created these amazing strandbeests, that are powered by wind and seemingly walk when prompted by this natural force.  See more about them here:

Our three year olds began a conversation about Strandbeests at the lunch table.  Soon we were engaging our clipboards to draw our visions of our own strandbeests. Our drawings promoted us to consider what we might need to build a beest of our very own.  We spent time drawing and watching short clips of these creatures in action.


Whats that for!?”

“Its a ladder”

“It needs three tummies.”

“…And a ladder”

” Do these things save people?”

The children’s work are displayed in the classroom for inspiration and discussion

November 10th: A small group of beest-builders ventured into our Recycle Atelier: the Workshop to visit with a few familiar and unfamiliar tools. We began our time together with watching them once again.

This is what the children had to say about them:

–What is a strandbeest?  What do you know about them?–

It’s a big monster that you can see.

Something that has claws

A Monster, A Dragon a Tree?

–What is a Strandbeests Job?–

It takes peoples stuff, maybe

Its legs move, that’s gravity.     

It’s a robot…

–How is that Strandbeest moving?–

Do you see that thing? That one is stepping?

*Yes! How is it moving?

–What gives it power? How is the grass moving? that is moving too!–

The wind is blowing the grass…

It’s made out of wood and paper!

There is a roller thing in it…

How does a sailboat move? or a kite? –

–What are those white parts of the Strandbeest, do they have a job?–

They give it power? Yeah, power.

Sails!  Wind!


We chose these materials to offer for construction:

tinker toys, tape, dowel rods and tissue paper framed sails

We first chose to explore the tinkertoys.  It wasn’t long before someone built a wheel and axle, and we all shared our understanding of wheels, and how they move.

Next, we introduced an axle piece that allows you to connect something to your axle.

The children chose to connect long dowels to their axles and were soon off making “wheelers”, “pushers”  and “vacuum cleaners”. They explored the movement that was supported by the axle by racing around the Playspace.

Once the wheeling explorations were complete and the group came back together, we turned the conversation back to the beest.  By holding our three wheelers in a line someone recognized that they looked like feet: ‘Yes, feet for a Strandbeest’.  The team of Beestbuilders worked together to create a simple unit of four legs.  Another unit of three legs was made by connecting the remaining wheeler feet together.

These two feet units now needed something to connect to. By exploring the size and the shape of the remaining dowels and reeds, a giant cube like Beest came to life.  Friends taped the dowels together at the corners, and even stood inside the creature to secure him.

“I am inside of him, I am in his lungs!”  “Seven of us fit in here!”

One extra-long rod found it way taped into the middle, poking quite far out of the Beest- a handle.  We used this to push him, testing his movement ability.  It worked.  The Beest could move.

The Next day, the Beest traveled upstairs to the classroom for everyone to see. We decided to take it outside and invite the Fours team to help us finish its construction. More Beest-builders are welcomed in.

Once outside, the threes eagerly showed the Fours their creation.  Both classrooms, the teachers and parent helpers worked  to complete this creature.  Children added more tape to the joints.  String  was offered to make the joints stronger, and tape was used to connect the sails to catch the fierce wind that was blowing that morning.

When our Beest building was finished, the children noticed it wasn’t quite working as well as before.  We decided to keep working on it the next day. Now it was too big to fit through the door, so he spent the night outside.

However, an unexpected rain storm came through and soaked the poor Beest and ruined the sails!

The following day the Teachers pulled the defeated Beest into the classroom.  We had a conversation about our efforts, and decided to come up with a list of “Things that worked” and “Things that didn’t work” during  our gathering.


The threes came to the following conclusions:

Things that worked:

*the wheels

*the sails

*the tape connected it

Things that didn’t work:

*the 2 big wheels

*the tape wasn’t strong enough

*the tape was too squiggly

*too much tape

*the sticks were too big

*it was too loose

*there was too much wind

After we talked about what worked and what didn’t work, the children were asked to come up with ideas about how to build a new one differently.

What’s next?

*We need more sails.

*The wheels need to be the same size.

*We need more tape.

*We should use glue.

*We should notch holes in the sticks so they fit together.

*Maybe car wheels?

*Bigger wheels and a great big sail.

Before moving on to a new Beest, however, the Threes enjoyed a day of DECONSTRUCTION.

The Beest was taken apart by a dedicated group of children who the cut the tape and string, pulled pieces apart and sorted the materials so we could use them again and they sang…. “We’re tearing up the strandbeest, we’re tearing up the strandbeest” as they deconstructed it and salvaged the materials.

This isn’t the last of the strandbeest…it will be back!


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