Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Heavy Duty Problem Solving


I saw some heavy duty problem solving happening in our blocks center last week.

The boys began building the "traditional" arch structure that I've seen over and over in my classrooms. Two tall blocks standing on end and another block across the span at the top.

Then one said, "I wonder if I can fit through here." He slowly inserted his head into the opening...until the structure fell on him. (Sorry - no photo.)

Well, the exploration was on. They tried spacing blocks out as far as possible. They tried moving their heads through the space in different ways. They speculated that if we had longer blocks, they could move the sides apart as far as they needed.

Then one boy decided to try it feet first.


He could get more of his body through the opening. But, alas, it fell on him at some point.

Then we began explorations in balancing.

Could we hold and balance a stack of blocks?


Could we balance a round, rolling block on top of another one?


Could we build a balancing structure?


Could we balance the columns on one another and get them to stay?


I watched this column work for a while. The builder tried several different configurations until he decided that "the square ones on the bottom" was the best foundation.

He would build the fragile structures again and again. A slight bump or move the wrong way and they would tumble. But he built them again.

Through trial and error - and a great deal of persistence - he was able to get this result.


I heard lots of self-talk and encouragement among the boys. I heard interesting speculation on what could be done at all the different stages of play. And I said hardly anything. (Other than "Wow!")

I think I enjoyed the exploration more than the boys did.

Our mishmash of blocks can yield some pretty great learning, I'd say.

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