Saturday, April 2, 2011

Posing a Problem as an Activity

We are in flux in my classroom.  The time between “projects” or emergent studies, a time referred to as ordinary moments.  I am providing provocative experiences for the children and waiting to see if they will become so intrigued by something that it will spark a more in-depth investigation. 

I heard a few boys talking about conveyor belts in the block area the other day, so I had a few parents try and find books about them without much luck.  They were able to find great picture books on simple machines; levers, pulleys, etc.  These have been out in the block area without sparking much interest even from the conveyor belt group. 

The thought of the conveyor belt gave me an idea and I decided to pose a problem.  I asked the children how they could move a basket of ping pong balls from one side of the large building area to the other.  I gave them cove molding, kapla blocks, large tubing, gift wrap rolls, masking tape and scissors.
When we brainstormed as a class, one girl mentioned, “You could just carry them.”  Very  true, you could.  Funny how when let go to freely explore the scene, no child decided to use this simple and sure fire way to transport the balls. 

What happened was a week-long exploration in combining these materials.  It involved a lot of trial and error and a superb amount of teamwork from holding the tubes to cutting the tape. 

I found it extremely interesting that children that did not normally play together would work together toward this common goal.  It even intrigued the working parents who had fun trying to create a system for transport along with the children. 

The exclamations of “we did it!” when a ball was moved across the entire space, were proud and joyful. 

We did not meet to discuss the ways that worked and the ways that did not. We did not focus on the best way.   It was not about the answer.  It was about the process, the thinking, the creativity; trying it one way on Monday and a totally different way on Thursday.  These are the children that will grow up able to solve problems in innovative ways.
Isn’t this the kind of learning that is most valuable?

How are you instilling creativity and higher level thinking in your classroom or your playroom or your backyard this week?

I know for me, it’s time to pull out the pulleys, but I would love to hear from you.  

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