Monday, June 10, 2013

Designing With Interlocking Blocks

This morning I set out a set of wooden interlocking blocks for the kiddies while I put together the project I thought was going to be the highlight of the day: Drip Drop Painting. It was a rainy day  so I thought it might be a fun way to experiment with color and medicine droppers. 

Drip Drop Painting is the process of color mixing using medicine droppers. We needed to use up the remnants of paint from previous projects since we will be going on vacation next week :)

I was a  little concerned because we didn’t have enough painting spaces for everybody and judging from the swarm of kids waiting to paint, I thought a couple of kiddies would be disappointed at the prospect of having to wait. 

Turns out some of the kids were SO focused on block play that not everyone was interested in painting. So as some children left the block table for painting, others experimented with their abandoned designs. 

Notice the symmetry and balance of Jack’s structure. He was very careful to pick out pieces that matched so that he could create a more stable structure. As he worked he tested the durability of his “ helicopter car” by rolling it across the table and making adjustments as needed. He had an especially difficult time trying to get the wheels to stay on as he rolled it. Eventually he discovered that placing two support bars on the bottom of his car spanning both rods helped to keep everything in place.

As the children worked they stopped to examine each other’s structures to get ideas. Jack’s mobile structure inspired the children to build vehicles of their own, however we only had two rods for holding wheels in place.  I made an attempt to help everyone achieve their goal by improvising with bamboo skewers cut to lengths of the rods. Unfortunately the diameter didn’t work so they had to think up different ways to represent the idea of a car.

Sam and Logan made wheels for their cars by attaching disks to their structures in different ways. The wheels didn’t move but they seemed pleased with their constructions anyway. 

As they built and observed each other’s work the kids seemed to notice that symmetry played a part in creating a more stable structure. They represented their understanding of the importance of symmetry by finding matching pieces and discarding pieces that did not enable them to create symmetry on key parts of their structures. 

After they worked for a while I asked if any of the children wanted to draw a picture of their projects. 

Jack decided he wanted to draw "directions to make a car". We talked about how it would probably help him to draw the directions if he looked at the car as worked. While drawing he pulled off some of the pieces to examine them more closely. It was clear he was thinking about the individual shapes he used to create the larger piece. 

Addie also wanted to draw so she placed her block on the paper and drew her representation of it. Later she made a drawing device by adding a circular block to the end of her marker while drawing.

Will's first attempts at tracing his block involved making huge sweeping motions around the block. I showed him how to recreate the lines of his block by running the marker along the side of the blocks edge. After watching my demonstration he payed closer attention to the details of the block and made slower, more deliberate movements.

Sam set the two parts of his car on the table and drew his design for the wheels that didn’t move.

Carmen joined the table of children drawing their designs after she worked with the blocks. She listened to their ideas, watched their building and stopped to study their illustrations as she made a drawing of her own.

Some of the other children were more interested in constructing, deconstructing and experimenting with their ideas than they were in the drawing aspect of the project. 

When one child left his or her design behind, the other children experimented with the remnants. The simple act of positioning the project at a different angle or reshaping a few pieces had the power of sparking a new direction of play. 

When all of our inventing was done, the illustrators took turns sharing their concepts with the other children at group time. This generated an in depth conversation about all of the structures, including the ones created by children who did not choose to illustrate their designs.

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