Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Aww-Cool! D.I.Y. Educational Science Fun


My sister sends a big box full of assorted candies and presents to the children for Christmas.  This year, in among the Life-Saver type candy books, scarves and hats, craft kits, and toys that she assembled were three Aww-Cool! DIY Educational Science/Toy kits - a maze challenge, a bowling set, and a bubble machine.

We pulled them out today to put together, starting with the maze challenge.


At first, I thought it was a pretty basic, complete-the-circuit, electric science sort of thing.  Following the instructions, the children inserted the components into their proper places on the board, connected the wires, added batteries, turned the switch on, and it was good to go.

That's when I realized it was actually a build-your-own-toy set.  With the switch on, the object of the game is to move a looped wand over and around a twisted, roller-coaster shaped length of wire (that you bend, shape, and reshape again later, yourself), without touching the loop of the wand to the wire (completing the circuit and causing a bell to ring, like in Operation).


We all took turns giving it a try. 

And, that's when I realized the boxed kit was really a catalyst for creative thinking, problem solving, and scientific investigation, as the children began to notice things like the spark generated when the wand got near to, but not touching, the wire (you can only kind of see it in the picture below - but in real time, it was very visible)...


...or asking questions like - how does the spinning arm ring the bell, when it clearly isn't long enough to reach it?  (Hint: It has to do with a stretchy spring arm, and centrifugal force)...

 
...or when they realized they could bypass the on/off switch by touching the metal wand to the correct connector spring, and make the bell ring even if the switch was off.  Anyway, all that to say that without additional questions, or answers, or suggestions for further exploration, the toys simply lend themselves to very natural learning.

In fact, we didn't even manage to get the bubble machine put together...


...before C (age 9) noticed a comment about making soap bubbles with your hands or other simple tools (written by someone to whom English is clearly not a first language)...


...and she was off and running with a series of experiments of her own.


I can't wait to see what happens when we finally get back to the kit - especially now that I've read that you can connect all the toys together for even more challenges and fun.

It might be a while though.  For now C's pretty happy with her sink full of soapy water.





3 comments:

Ticia said...

Jeff tells stories of mazes like that for his LARPs he would go on as a young adult. They were meant to simulate picking locks. Jeff's made one from time to time for the kids and they love it.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Definitely wins!

Natalie PlanetSmartyPants said...

Sounds intriguing. I like the science kits that can spark independent discovery like that!