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Below The Surface

Friday, February 25, 2011

Great Conversations about Creative Construction

In the world of learning research, there is much talk about the power of conversation. Rather than just learning from books and lessons, people learn about the world when they engage in casual conversations together by sharing observations, expressing ideas, and making personal connections to content. Here at ECHO, we’re always looking for opportunities for engage visitors in conversations about science and the world around us.


This week, families have been talking up a storm during our Daily Design Challenges. Each day at noon we’ve hosted an open-ended construction activity, which challenges groups to think together and build a sturdy structure using a limited set of materials. Activities draw on ideas from our Raise the Roof exhibit, which is all about buildings—what holds them up, what keeps them standing and what knocks them down. Design Challenges have invited groups to build a tower out of straws and tape that can hold a raw egg for 20 seconds; to construct a chair using just newspaper and duct tape that can hold a person; to create a tower out of 2 sheets of newspaper that can withstand a “book-quake;” and to build a bridge out of dry noodles and glue that can support the weight of a mini “car.”


The results have been amazing!
The room has been abuzz with conversation about how to work together, what makes a sturdy structure, and how to use simple materials creatively. Teams of Girl Scouts, grandparents & grandchildren, and families of just about every combination, have plotted, debated and laughed together while constructing and testing their designs. They’ve concocted bridges, towers, and chairs of just about every sort imaginable in under an hour. And, most importantly, we at ECHO have learned a thing or two about how much learning is possible when you combine simple materials and great family conversation!

Each day, Design Challenge winners are posted in our “Hall of Fame” on ECHO’s first floor and on our Facebook Page. Please join us for the final four Design Challenges scheduled this week:

Saturday, February 26: Create a Pasta Bridge
Sunday, February 27: Build a Newspaper Tower
Monday, February 28: Construct a Straw Tower to hold an egg
Tuesday, March 1: Create an Upcycled Chair


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