Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fun While it Lasted

The first group (sixth graders) arrived in my classroom after what appeared to be an intense recess. They were, all of them, either drenched in sweat or nursing some kind of injury.

I surveyed the carnage. Turns out half their class was absent this day as well.  I decided that dancing was not in the cards.

"Okay guys," I said, "come sit down near me. Let's talk about our options for today."  I outlined my plan. They had played around with the straws and pipe cleaners last week and loved it.  I had given them a chance to figure out for themselves how the materials worked and they loved the experimentation and play, even going so far as to exclaim "This is better than Xbox!"

Today, I wanted to challenge them.  I showed them a sheet with pretty good but not overly helpful illustrations of the Platonic solids.  I told them they could work individually or in teams - the goal was to see if, as a class, they could make at least one of each solid.  Most chose the octahedron, surprisingly. But by the end of class when the three-person team was finally, after a lot of muddling and helpful argument, finishing up their icosohedron, a bunch of other kids decided they wanted to make one too.

Since class was almost over at that point, it was a race down to the final possible minute.  Because once you make an icosohedron, you also have to spin it!

I love how certain aspects of this solid are made more obvious through...movement!

Later that day the fourth and fifth graders were more up for dancing but they also got a chance to work a second time with the straws and pipe cleaners.  Their particular challenge this time was to build something using an odd number of edges in their starting shape.  This essentially meant three (triangle) and five (pentagon) as the base shapes.  They grumbled. Some made squares anyway.  I reminded them of the challenge.  They grumbled some more but then...

One boy discovered a tetrahedron all on his own!

A triangle turned to this triangle swing set!

A lot of kids turned a pentagon into something like this, but only after having to revise previous six-sided efforts. (It's quite interesting to me that after you get past four edges that kids don't easily see the difference between pentagons, hexagons and octagons.)

This was a continuation of last week's project.  I love the way she connected two cubes and built up.

Based on everything I heard them say, to me and to each other, I could have kept them busy for a couple weeks just exploring space and structure with these simple materials. I love this new sequence I'm discovering - free exploration, then a series of challenges that build on each other.  I just wish I had more time to help these kids go further/deeper, but it sure was fun while it lasted!

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