Towers, take 2

We started our Family Inventor’s Lab class in March of 2015. We then met for the full school year 2015-16, and have now begun a new year. We will have the chance to re-visit and improve upon many of the themes we have done before.

I will be updating each of my blog posts from last year, so I have a “definitive” and comprehensive post on that theme. These are all linked from my home page.

I will also some times write supplemental posts on: How is this year different from last year, and why?

This week, we re-visited our Towers theme in the Engineering unit. (Read all the details here for this year. FYI, here’s last year’s post.)

We kept one of our most popular activities, the red solo cup stacking. But, we moved it off the table and onto a rug. This was all about noise… hearing those red plastic cups crashing down on a hard table and a hard floor all of class was really acoustically overstimulating for everyone. Moving that to a rug was so much better!

We also found itty bitty plastic cups (shot glass size) at the dollar store – 24 cups for a dollar, so we brought those in as a fun variation.

Last year, we used blocks from a Jenga game as just blocks to build with on the floor and knock down with a wrecking ball. This year, we offered them as the game of Jenga and a few kids had an absolutely fabulous time playing Jenga with their parents.

We had giant wooden blocks last year, which are fun to build with. But, they’re VERY heavy. They’re not a good match for tower week, because when the kids are focused on building the tallest possible tower, they run the risk of having a big pile of very heavy blocks land on them. Ow!

But, we still wanted a big motor, tall tower activity. So, I saved up all my family’s cereal boxes for a couple months, and then took them apart, flipped them inside out so they were plain brown boxes, and we used those as blocks. (Tip: use a hot glue gun to re-assemble! Faster and more effective than tape.) We knocked them down with a new pendulum / wrecking ball we built.

Our last change was for our Watts Tower project. Last year, I had a bunch of styrofoam sheets that had come as packaging. I used those as bases. This year, I didn’t have any, so we built on paper plates, using playdough blobs to hold the arches up. The advantage was that kids who didn’t want to build a pipe cleaner sculpture could still have fun with the playdough. Disadvantage was that not all the kids could get the playdough to support their pipe cleaner arches in a standing position.

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