What Can You Create With . . .?

Any kind of activity that’s open-ended and encourages creativity/problem-solving is something I love to use to challenge students. I came across this video from John Spencer and decided to try it with our third graders. Click here to view more of John’s videos!

The Challenge:  Using the following supplies, create something that has a use.

  • 2 pieces of paper
  • 3 straws
  • 1 marble
  • a few paper clips
  • a few rubber bands
  • 8 or 9 inches of masking tape (Tape isn’t on the original supply list but, after watching the first class struggle, I decided to provide some tape.)

What I love about the video is how Spencer stresses that there is NO bad idea!

We began with asking students to brainstorm on their own. They could jot down ideas or draw them. I only gave them 60 seconds or so; usually students are so excited that they can’t keep quiet for too long! They’re very eager to get started!

The next step was for the group to discuss all ideas and then come up with a decision on what to create. Most groups did fine with this, although a very few struggled. It’s difficult to practice the give-and-take that is needed to collaborate but, it’s an extremely important skill to learn!

What was so interesting is that each class approached the challenge in different ways. With one class, every single group had the same idea – a slingshot! Granted, they were all different – but still, the same idea?!

The other classes provided more variety with their designs. One group designed a purse for their teacher. I wasn’t quite sure what role the marble played in the design, but was quickly told it went inside to check to see if the purse could actually hold things.

Here are a few other creations.

I wish the above group had explained more about their process. They built a bridge out of paper for the marble to roll on, but, what they discovered was that it rolled off the bridge every time. I overheard a member of the group exclaim, “We are ALL geniuses. We’re definitely NOT idiots!” That’s when the ideas really seemed to flow! The students came up with the idea of lining the bridge with paper clips. This provided a “railing” that kept the marble on the bridge.

This was hard for third graders! The type of supplies along with the limited number of items that could be used really was a stretch for the children. Even though some of the designs were similar and/or not too complicated, each group worked through the design process by planning, discussing, making changes, and sometimes, even starting over. The entire process was excellent practice and I have no doubt it will get easier as more challenges are presented!

If I Only Had a Robot . . .

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a robot at your beck and call? What would you have it do? How would it help you?

This is what the second graders were asked to ponder! Then, to their delight, they were asked to build a robot prototype. After constructing the robot, they were to post a picture or video, along with narration describing their creation, to their journal in Seesaw (digital portfolios).

The idea started with a Christmas gift from by mom! My mother is a fantastic quilter, has an amazing ability to determine just the right fabrics that go together, and is one of the most creative people I know! Recently, she’s been designing small quilts for every month that I hang in the window next to the door to my classroom. This past Christmas she gave me a really cute robot mini quilt. I told her it was perfect; that I’d been thinking of ideas for a robot lesson. Within days, she had created more of these little robot quilts!

Add in two fun robot books, and we were ready to begin!

We started with the question, “Would you like to have a robot to do something for you?” We brainstormed ideas of all kinds of tasks that robots could accomplish to make our lives easier. Then, to lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” the quilts were shown one at a time. You could almost see the wheels turning as students began to get ideas on what they would build!

Each table had a collection of q-tips, fabric, wiggle eyes, reinforcements, muffin cup liners, ribbon, yarn, lids. There were also small containers, boxes, and empty toilet paper rolls available.

Oh, my! I had no idea how exciting this simple creation opportunity would be! I enjoyed watching the students try different materials to create the “perfect” robot. If one item didn’t work, they regrouped and tried something else. For several, the idea they had in their mind at the beginning of the class wasn’t like the final product. That is such a good lesson to learn – not everything works the first time!

The children had the option of taking a picture then recording about the robot, narrating a video of their design, or having someone else video while they explained their robot. Below are some examples:

We had robots that danced, some that tossed baseballs, others that were like pets to be a friend to the owner, and many others. The one common factor is that ALL students were extremely proud of their robots! One confident child stated, “I LOVE my mind!”