The Exploratorium in San Francisco is “a public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception.” Within the Exploratorium is The Tinkering Studio. Per their website:
“The Tinkering Studio is an immersive, active, creative place at the Exploratorium where museum visitors can slow down, become deeply engaged in an investigation of scientific phenomena, and make something—a piece of a collaborative chain reaction—that fully represents their ideas and aesthetic.
In The Tinkering Studio, visitors are invited to explore a curiosity-driven exhibit, chat with a featured artist, or investigate a range of phenomena with staff artists, scientists, educators, and others by participating in a collaborative activity. A large, eclectic assortment of materials, tools, and technologies are provided for people to use as they explore and create.”https://www.exploratorium.edu/tinkering/about
The Tinkering Studio freely shares projects and open kits, and I chanced upon one called, Tinkering with Balance. My colleague, Mary Potter, expressed interest in exploring balance with her Class IV students. In advance of this session, I gathered or assembled the following materials:
- Six bases so that her 20 students could work in groups of 3 or 4. In my school’s Carpentry studio, I formed these bases using scrap plywood from the recent sets built for the Upper School Winter Musical performance of “Singing in the Rain”
- 3 round dowels that were 1″ in diameter and 3′ in length — I cut these in half lengthwise so they were each 18″ long
- 6 square dowels that were 1/4″ on each side and 3′ in length
- A variety of shapes (there are PDFs of shapes linked on the activity’s website) out of cardstock and abandoned manila folders for the students to affix to their square dowels (if we’d had more time, students would have used markers to doodle on the shapes and add color to their sculptures)
- Wooden clothespins for affixing the shapes to the square dowel
- Six sets of three different fulcrums — each fulcrum had a channel built-in that fit the 1/4″ dowel. One fulcrum had a round base, one fulcrum was an obtuse triangular shape, and the third was an equilateral triangular shape. These three ranged from easiest to hardest to balance. I used Tinkercad Code Blocks to design these shapes, and then I printed them on our Ultimaker 3 Extended printers. I uploaded these three files to the Thingiverse here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5902952/files
Initially I was going to locate some triangular blocks from a tangram or Math manipulatives kit, but these would have had to be glued onto the square dowels. I liked the idea of students choosing where their fulcrum should be affixed to the dowel, and I liked the idea of them experimenting with having the fulcrum closer or farther from the dowel’s center as an additional design challenge.
After spring break, two Class I teachers are interested in exploring this activity as well! I think I will offer them the rounded fulcrum and the obtuse triangle fulcrum only. I also might limit the number of shapes for them (acrobats, spirals, and open circles maybe).