the marble challenge

the beginning of the story...the beginning of the challenge.

Sometimes the materials we have in a classroom require special introduction.

Sometimes the materials are just waiting to be brought to life.

In the classroom for the these 4s/5s students, there is a basket of marbles available in the block area. The children had been building with usual block materials, making complex systems, constructing and deconstructing designs.
When the children initially started using the marbles, they had used them flat on the carpet, mostly in a large pool of all the marbles together. The children created games that required the marbles to be flicked across the space or rolled them with force to get a marble across a specific area.   (yikes!  potentially not safe, a bit wild, a bit uncontrollable).

sketching ideas for the marble's journey.

I decided to introduce a challenge to the whole group. We began by sitting together in our block area, the children each having a clipboard (which they have used before in projects) and a pencil, and there we sat looking at one marble sitting on one long wood block.

comparing ideas for the marble to travel.
We talked briefly about what we know about this marble already  - it can roll, it is small, it is glass, it is shiny.
AHA! - the marble can ROLL! Keep that in mind!

you can see rollercoaster-like lines on these sketches.
The challenge story was such:

"Please help this marble. It is wanting to go on a journey on its own. For the marble to journey on its own, it needs your help to have a block design for its travels.

There is only one rule: the marble has to be able to keep ROLLING on its own once it starts on its journey. That means, really, each of us can only START a marble on its travels yet then it has to KEEP ROLLING ON ITS OWN as far as you can design an adventure.

Let's use our clipboards to sketch out ideas that might give an opportunity for this marble to roll on its own."

The ideas on paper, the discussions while drawing, and the inventive thinking by the children was inspiring. The children were immediately engaged, challenged and brought new language to the group: 
"The marble needs kind of like a rollercoaster to keep rolling."
"It needs to go up and down and up."
"It needs to not stop. It needs to go fast."

the children worked in partners with basic materials to start, then got more materials as they needed. they used their sketches as reference for discussion with their partner and remembering ideas of UP and ROLLERCOASTER and HIGH.
leaning one block on another for a basic ramp.

simple design to test how FAR the marble can go.

It was interesting to see partners solve particular problems that their designs presented : the marble falling off a block "path" so students added bigger blocks on each side or the starting ramp being adjusted higher or lower to get the marble to the "end zone" where they wanted it to stop.
adding walls for the road to contain the marble.

double starting points, more features, tunnels, and an end box.

group of boys working during choice time to devise a curve for the marble.
road is reinforced with walls for the marble to keep traveling.

layers and layers of blocks create "steps" for the marble to bounce its way down  the trail.

separate tracks, tubes, tunnels, ramp structures, fall off points, complex use of materials.

details over the marble trail, steps, walls, end zone: action!

think different, use other rolling materials, create ROLLING SYSTEMS.
let it roll...

Sometimes it just takes one story about a marble to scaffold children
to a new level of thinking, a new way of manipulating materials, a new way of engaging with peers.

The children are ready: Just offer the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your ideas, comments and feedback! Thanks!