Posing a question for children to try and answer by planning and testing their ideas fosters creativity and problem solving. It also creates a wonderful environment for team building.
The challenge proposed here was "How can you move the balls from one tray to the next without touching the carpet?" The trays were placed on each side of a large rectangular carpet. We added cove molding, PVC piping cut in half, our regular blocks, some flexible tubing, ping pong balls and masking tape.
Some children tried to build up much like a bridge and had to deal with support issues.
Others made long paths and had to figure out how to keep them from moving and separating.
Others built paths with sides to prevent the balls from rolling out.
As children returned to this activity each day during the week, the ideas became more elaborate as they built on the trials and errors of past days and implemented ideas seen tried by others around them.
They even started to record their ideas on the clipboards that are always kept in the block area.
Later in the week, we added wiffle balls and golf balls to see if these would react differently in their paths.
This inspired children who do not usually play in the block area to give it a try. New combinations of children played together as they shared their ideas and worked on a common goal.
How do you promote problem solving in your classroom? Have you tried giving your students a challenge along with some open ended materials and time to try and try again? I would love to hear about it. Tell me your ideas in the comments or link your own blog posts here as well.