Top image: Fastener (photo by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay)

Mittens on a string
(Photo by Bin im Garten via Wikimedia Commons)

Setting the Stage

Objects have many parts that have to be joined together. While younger students will be most familiar with fasteners/joiners used on their clothing, this inquiry is designed to broaden their thinking by looking at a wide variety of fasteners and how they are the same and different.

This inquiry could begin from:

  • questions and/or comments from the students as they dress to go outside in winter. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “What happened to your jacket when you were getting dressed to go outside today?”
    • “Why did your boot fall off?”
    • “How do you make sure your mittens don’t get lost?”
  • Toggle
    (Photo by dartperle via Pixabay)

  • an unfamiliar fastener (e.g., a toggle, a hose tube) left on the table for the students to explore. Discuss using questions such as:
    • I wonder what this object is used for?”
    • “What do you notice about it? Does it look like anything you have seen before?”
    • “Where might we find this object? Who might use it?”
  • observations and conversations while putting together a new table for the classroom. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “What did you notice about the fasteners for our new table?” (e.g., the screws came with a special wrench to help us attach them)
    • “What are some other things in our room that need to be joined or held together?”

Allen Wrenches
(Photo by Brent_Hondow via Pixabay)

Materials and Preparation (Click to Expand)

Collection of fasteners
(Photo by Let's Talk Science)


  • a wide variety of fasteners:
    • clothing fasteners such as: buttons, Velcro, zippers, snaps, hooks and eyes, frog fasteners, laces, mitten clips, safety pins, buckles
    • fasteners from the office such as tape, glue, staples, thumb tacks, paper clips, brass fasteners (split pins)
    • fasteners from the workshop such as cable ties, bungee cords, hose connectors, screws, nuts and bolts, duct tape, clamps, vices
    • fasteners from home such as baby safety latches, bread clips, chip clips, door latches, magnets, suction cups, hair clips, twist ties, clothespins
  • a bin or basket for the fasteners


  • Put a basket or bin of a variety of fasteners on a table in the classroom.
  • Think about a learning strategy such as Sorting & Classifying Mats to support students’ development of the skill of sorting and classifying.

What To Do

Students develop the skills of Comparing & Contrasting and Predicting as they learn about different kinds of fasteners and how they are used. 


  • explore the materials in the bin individually and/or in small groups.
    • Educators engage with students during this inquiry, noticing and naming what students have done and asking questions that provoke further development of the skills of sorting, classifying, comparing and contrasting.
    • Educators observe and document students’ initial interactions with the materials. This documentation should include questions raised by the students, to determine the direction for future learning.

Sorting fasteners
(Photo by Let's Talk Science)

Sorting fasteners
(Photo by Let’s Talk Science)


Observe and document, using anecdotal comments, photos and/or video recordings, student’s ability to:

Sorting fasteners by a common attribute
(Photo by Let's Talk Science)

  • Sort - students sort objects into piles on the basis of a common attribute (e.g., red buttons; fasteners with pointy ends, fasteners made of metal, etc.)
  • Classify - students classify objects according to self-determined and given criteria (e.g., “I sorted all the red buttons because red is my favourite colour.”; “Find all of the fasteners that might be used to hold papers together.”)
  • Classify - students classify objects according to multiple attributes (e.g., red buttons, red buttons with 2 holes or 4 holes, red buttons that are big, red buttons that are small; fasteners with pointy ends, fasteners with pointy ends that are used in the workshop; fasteners that are used in the workshop that are made out of metal)
  • Classify - students find different ways to classify the same objects (e.g., red buttons with sparkles VS red buttons that are plain; clothing fasteners that are made of metal and clothing fasteners that are made of plastic or cloth)

  • Sorting fasteners by self-determined criteria
    (Photo by Let's Talk Science)

    Sorting the same fasteners in different ways
    (Photo by Let’s Talk Science)

  • Compare & contrast - students compare and contrast fasteners and their uses (e.g., “These fasteners are all the same because they are made out of metal. These are all made out of plastic. But they are the same because they are all used to join our clothes together.”)
  • Communicate - students describe the rule (criteria) they used to classify the fasteners (e.g., “I sorted by colour - these buttons are all red.” “These fasteners are all ones that are made of metal and that are used in a workshop.”)

Co-constructing Learning

Saying, Doing, Representing

Educator Interactions:
Responding, Challenging

Students sort fasteners.

  • “Tell me how you sorted all of these fasteners?”
  • I notice that you picked out a lot of buttons from the basket. Why did you choose the buttons? What are some things you notice about the buttons? Which buttons are the same? In what ways are they the same? How are they different?”
  • “I notice that your sort doesn’t have any round things in it. Why is that?”
  • “Could I add this hair clip to your sort? Why or why not?”

Students sort and classify objects according to self-determined and given criteria.

  • What was your sorting rule (criteria) for putting all of these fasteners in one pile?”
  • “Find all of the fasteners that we might use in our classroom.”

Students compare and contrast fasteners and their uses.

  • “You said that buttons keep our clothes done up or held together. What else can you find in the basket that can hold things together? What do you notice is the same about all of these things? What is different?”
  • “What is the same about all of these fasteners? (e.g., all used on shoes) What is different about them? (e.g., the material they are made of, their shape)
  • “Find all of the fasteners that are made of metal (plastic, etc.). Besides what they are made of, what else is the same about them? What is different?”

Students communicate the rules (criteria) by which they sort and classify fasteners and how they are used.

  • “What words could you use to describe the fasteners you have sorted here?”
  • “How can we classify the words we have used to describe fasteners? (e.g., how they are used, what they are made of, what they look like, etc.)
  • “Sometimes we use fasteners for other purposes. How do we hold the drapes on our classroom window together? [a hair clasp]. What other things in the basket could be used in different ways?”

Cross-Curricular Connections


  • communicate orally in a clear, coherent manner (e.g., explain criteria for sorting, describe how fasteners are used)

Mathematical Thinking

  • sort and classify by attributes (e.g., how fasteners are used, what fasteners are made from, etc.)
  • organize objects into categories by sorting and classifying objects using one, or multiple attributes (e.g., organize fasteners by type, by where they are commonly used and the material from which it is made)
  • collect and organize primary data and display the data (e.g., collect and organize data about which fastener is used more on shoes in the classroom, laces or Velcro)

Extending the Learning

If your students are interested in learning more, the following may provoke their curiosity:

  • At some point, children will likely have noticed the fasteners on their own clothes/shoes and the clothes/shoes and of others. Post the question: “Which is more: Laces or Velcro?” and show interested children how do a survey of the other children in the class, using a T chart as one way to document their findings.

Which is more?


VelcroTM shoes
(Photo by Arieth via Pixabay)


Shoes with laces
(Photo by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay)

||||| - 5

  • Min
  • Sheena
  • Juan
  • Elina
  • Zheng

||| - 3

  • Rhia
  • Suhkra
  • Joseph

Collect, organize and display primary data


    Plastic twist ties
    (Photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons)

  • Share your fasteners inquiry with families, and ask them to do an at-home hunt to see what kinds of fasteners can be found in different parts of the home, who uses them and why they are used. This could include looking for examples of fasteners being used in ways other than their intended purpose (e.g., opening up a paper clip provides a hook for hanging light objects).
  • At school, have children share their at-home findings, comparing and contrasting what was discovered (e.g., what fasteners are found in only one place? What fasteners are found in many places? What fasteners are hidden [like those that keep fridge and cupboard doors closed] and why?).
  • Before the fasteners in our basket were designed and created, how did people put clothing and other things together?