Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Think: Pinwheels

This week's Think! challenge, Wild Windmills: Build a windmill using two straws, two sheets of paper, paper clips, one button, one six-inch length of thread. We would use scissors, a ruler, and a needle during construction, but those items could not be a part of the final solution.

We've made pinwheels that turn in the wind before, using pins in pencil erasers, so the challenge for the fine young gents (and the lovely friends who joined us) turned into making a simple pinwheel windmill.

The eldest of the gents was frustrated in his attempts to make a paper square to fold. It's funny to see human nature at work in our children, in this case the way we so often get an idea stuck in our heads and become unable to think past that first idea even when it's clear it's not working. At least that's what happens to me, and I saw it happening to my fine, and frustrated, young gent. He was certain he could cut a perfect square freehand. It took some time before he was able to remember, with my prompting, the paper-folding geometry we've been doing together, not to mention how we make squares when we're cutting snowflakes.

He finally got the paper folded and cut, and immediately ran into another snag: His pinwheel paper had a very small center and ripped. I introduced the words "design flaw" and reminded him that making mistakes is a part of the process. "It's okay if it doesn't work," I said. "And if you're willing to keep going, you can figure out what's not working and try to fix it." So he did. I think it's starting to sink in. We're after the process right now, not necessarily a perfect end product.

Here is Cal with his windmill pinwheel:

It didn't quite work. But he was happy with the end result because he had fun making it, it almost worked, and he wanted to go play Legos with his friend, B. He asked if he could try again later, so we did (sort of).

Middle gent opted out. He went to play Legos. He's been tired this week and wanted some time to himself.

The youngest gent was raring to try. Levi's windmill pinwheel:

This little guy was a lot of fun to work with. His ideas outstripped his fine motor ability, so he told me what he wanted to do, and I did the work he couldn't do. What the heck, he's three and he wanted to try, and I didn't want him to melt into a frustration puddle or give up because he's "too little". It took a little experimenting and "Not there, Mom" but he actually came up with a wobbly working pinwheel. It didn't hold together well, but he's three. It was a great start.

Our friends made pinwheels too, but I didn't get pictures of the final products. Think! challenges make a great group playtime activity because we get to try the challenges with people who problem-solve a little differently.

We didn't get to actually make more windmills in the afternoon because of other plans, but we did have an interesting discussion about the challenges. Do we have to use all of the materials? (We decided it was up to the person doing the challenge to decide for himself.) Why can't Mom help?--I helped Levi. (I only help implement ideas and offer suggestions. The solution is up to the person working on the challenge.) Can we trade ideas with other people at the table? (Of course! Teamwork and learning from what the people around you are doing is an important creative skill.) Which led to an interesting discussion of the difference between copying someone else and sharing ideas. By the time we got through all of that, we'd run out of time to actually try another windmill. We're hoping to squeeze in some more time later this week.

Last week's challenge, Catalogs, looked like lots of fun (pictures of the creations here--fantastic!): Using only one catalog, build the tallest, deepest, widest structure you can build. The week got away from us, so we didn't get to try it, but we're hoping to get to this challenge someday just for fun.


Elizabeth said...

What a fun project! And I must say your boys are just as handome as ever!

Think! said...

Awesome work guys! You should be proud of yourselves for sticking with it!