On Thursday afternoons when we don’t have staff meeting we have STEAM club for Kindergarten through 2nd graders. I signed on to help with the first grade group mostly because the 3rd-5th grade chess club takes over the library at that time and I can’t stand the smell of the vinyl chess boards. The library reeks of vinyl for hours after they leave.
STEAM, of course, stands for Science Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. We have one hour for our activity. This week we built bunny traps. The bunnies were plastic golf balls. The supplies were all kinds of plastic containers and small boxes, yarn, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and most exciting of all, three real pulleys. Before we started we talked a little about how pulleys work. They got a quick preview of the materials they’d have to use and then they made a plan. Once that was finished they got to work. Construct test, revise, test, revise…
The first obstacle was that I “forgot” the tape. They had to figure out a way to attach their parts with no tape! It didn’t take them long to figure out that they could poke a hole in their container. One girl made a hole that was too big. She found a piece of crayon on the floor to tie to the end of her yarn so it wouldn’t go through the hole. Pretty cool!
It’s interesting to step back and see the mistakes they make and how they react to them. Most students approached the pulleys which we hung from the 8 foot ceiling with about 3 feet of yarn. Until I actually put the yarn in the pulley and handed them the end of it they didn’t realize that there was no way their trap would reach the floor. Not a one asked me to fix it…they just headed back to their desks and made adjustments.
One student quickly realized that the lid of his container was getting in the way. He calmly grabbed a pair of scissors and made an alteration to his device. By the end of the hour most of 15 students managed to catch a bunny in their trap one way or another. Most had three or four design changes. They all headed home with their traps and a bunny of their own. No one asked for a golf ball, they had totally bought in to the story that the ball was a bunny.
I volunteered for STEAM to get away of the smell of vinyl chess boards in the library. It has become one of my favorite activities.