Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Invitation to Build: Create a Dam

As Big Brother is getting older it's really interesting to see both his interests and skills develop into more specific skill sets. Lately he's been really interested in the building of things (mostly stemming from a love of Legos, Magnatiles, and our wooden railroad track.) As he leans that way I'm finding myself looking for other creative ways to develop those interests and skills.

A few weeks ago he had the chance to observe a beaver dam up close with my husband on one of their nature walks. This lead to some great questions. A few days later I followed up with a drive to a local man made dam which he was able to inspect from a distance.

When we came home I set up this building investigation in the yard. It was inspired by a great tinfoil river activity we did last year from the amazing book 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever by the team over at Kids Activities Blog

Similar to that experience, we used tinfoil to create a river (this time on our lawn.) This time we set it up on  slight slope.

The boys and I also collected natural materials from around the yard that might be useful in building the dam. We collected sticks, acorns, rocks, and old reeds from lilies. 

I added in a few non-natural materials I also thought Big Brother might want to use: modeling clay, popsicle sticks, and lumber scraps. 

Big Brother's goal was to be able to get his dam to hold enough water so that these three acorn boats could float. 

It was so interesting to watch his process, which mostly involved trial and error. First he started with just a pile of the wooden natural materials. 

When he observed the water move through those, he decided to try using more rocks. 

With each trial he would tweak his design a little, before trying again. 

In the end I encouraged him (although I was really trying to let it be his process to try using a little clay. I led him to the idea that he had seen mud on the beaver dams.) He started to get into the idea of building a space for the water to collect. 

He never quite got to the place where all the boats could continuously float, although his last design definitely best slowed down the water. 

He continued to tinker on his dam a few more days, and even brainstorm other materials he would like to add in. (Including trying to find some clay like mud on our property.) 

We'll definitely be looking for other ways to invite building experiences. What do your children like to build? 

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  1. How did you make the acorn boats? In the photos it looks like the toothpicks are just hovering on top with no glue or anything lol

    1. Hi Suzanne! Actually, I truly just stuck them in the crack in the top of the acorn lid, and pushed them in until they were stable. However, I think that glue might work a little better and even give the boats a little balance.