I have tried to embrace the knowledge that what I make does not have to be perfect; I simply need to try. Through experience and teaching my own students I have learned that making is: creating something to solve a problem, being innovative in making something that could have been purchased, and feeling pride in what has been made.
A few weeks ago I challenged the third grade class to create a marble run. The children were put into teams of three. They had fifty minutes and a bucket of supplies to get their marble to move as slowly as possible down the pegboard. Weeks prior I had purchased and collected pegs, cardboard, paper, toilet paper rolls, cut up pieces of molding, cut up piece of pool noodles, a roll of tape and a marble. (What I really wanted was funnels for each team, but finding one that had a large enough hole for the marble, proved to be too costly for my budget. They would have to go without.) At the sound of “go”, the children were abuzz with excitement for meeting the challenge.
If you have not had the opportunity to play with a marble run or even watch someone else create one, I highly recommend it. The children struggled, but bit by bit they started working together to get the marble down the wall. When it was time to share out the designs, I introduced the concept of iteration. I asked the children to share what they had made and to explain how and why they had to iterate during this challenge. They described where they struggled and how they worked as a team.
This past Friday the trimester ended and I was reflecting on all that my third and fourth grade students had done in STEAM. My mind wandered back to the marble run and those silly funnels. There had to be a way to make them. That’s when it hit me! I had a few large soda bottles in the car. I could cut off the tops, use an iron to round the edges and make my own funnels! I checked to make sure that a marble could fit and before I knew it I made four funnels. What’s even better is that I used the bottom half of the bottle and made some clear pots for my African violets (now I can see when I water runs out). Then I used the middle to make a plastic bangle. There is a lot more to a bottle that meets the eye! I for one, cannot wait for the next marble run challenge so that I can see if my funnel design works as planned!