No, preschoolers are not going to understand what pi (the number) is. I’m a little fuzzy on exactly what it is myself. But the whole point of bringing STEAM into storytime is going back to the basics. And what is more basic than shapes? Follow along as I shine a spotlight on the circle.
Here is how I introduced Pi Day to my kids:
Me: “Has anyone heard that today is pi day? What is pi?”
Kids: I got the expected answers along the lines of something yummy to eat.
Me: “That’s true. And what shape is this pie?” And I drew a whole pie on the board. A chocolate pie, if you must know, because it’s the best. (The kids asked, and then I had to color in the pie because chocolate is dark.)
Kids: “A circle!”
Me: “That’s right! But Pi Day does not celebrate the dessert pie, it celebrates the number pi. The number pi – 3.14 – helps us figure out how big a circle will be if it’s this wide (draw a small line on your board) or THIS WIDE (draw a big line on your board). This number is important for the people who make things that are circular. Do you see anything in the room shaped like a circle?”
Kids: Clock, pie on the board, depends on what’s in your room.
Me: “That’s right! What else can you think of that is shaped like a circle?”
Kids: Again, answers vary, such as moon, balls, etc.
Me: “Great answers! Most of those things, like the clock and the balls we play with, had to be made by someone. And that couldn’t happen without the number pi. Who wants to help me find more things in the shape of a circle in our next story? “
There are many great books about shapes out there, but we got some new books at my library recently which inspired me to celebrate Pi Day in storytime and here.
Shape Shift by Joyce Hesselberth is a playful book that encourages children to recognize that the world is full of shapes, and that you can make anything you want using basic shapes.
All Year Round by Susan B. Katz encourages children to associate basic shapes with annual holidays, helping them relate shapes to things they find meaningful.
After reading our books, it was time to make pies for our friends! I pulled out the play dough and demonstrated how to roll a piece of dough into a sphere or “ball” in your palm. Once we had a sphere, we used our palms to squish the dough flat, making a circular crust. Then we had to put fillings or toppings onto our pies, which became quite colorful. Finally, we had to slice up our pies to share with our friends, counting how many slices we could get depending upon how big our pie and our slices were. The kids loved this activity, and it was also a great way to slip sharing into a math-based storytime. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this activity, but I will share a much more sophisticated picture from the site that inspired me:
Pi day is also an excellent time to introduce your kids to the compass – the one for drawing circles, not the one for telling directions. I found these very cost effective compasses through Oriental Trading. At about $0.68 a piece, I was happy to show the kids and parents how to use them, and then send the kids home with their own compass to practice with. I told the parents that the compass can be used like the Spirograph we all loved as kids, by attaching colored pencils or even paint brushes to the tool and having fun as seen here:
If you have any other ideas for celebrating pi day in preschool storytime, I would love to hear them! Until then, all this pi talk has made me hungry. Ciao!