October 7, 2009

Geometry made tasty!

Today we had a great time building with marshmallows and toothpicks. I waited until the little guy was sleeping to even think about doing a project with marshmallows that didn't involve devouring every one with reckless abandon. I began by making a little marshmallow complex when no on was looking, and then called Hannah Jane and Hunter in to take a look.

First we discussed what it was. They began with the obvious, toothpicks and marshmallows, mom! and then moved on to the rest, squares, triangles, cubes, and pyramids. The timing was just right for this activity, which I've had in the back of my mind for a few weeks now, because the room we were in at Shriner's Children's Hospital earlier in the week had a border with cubes, spheres and pyramids on it and we took advantage of the wait time to discuss the shapes. Haven is going through a "what's this?" stage and he'll ask about the same object 100 times in a row, so the older two listened to me identify the 3D shapes more than they probably wanted to. Anyway, that made for a great foundation for this activity.

We looked at the one I had already made and we talked about its having a base shape and side shapes that formed a larger shape. Then, of course, they asked to build one (right on cue)!

I gave each a sheet of black scrap booking paper to use as a work mat (unimportant really, but it makes the activity feel more exciting when you get a special workspace)and a tray with marshmallows and toothpicks. Just to get it out of their systems, I allowed them to each eat 2 pieces with the promise that they could have 2 more at the conclusion of the activity. Hannah Jane got right to work building a house with a cube base and triangular prism shaped top.

Hunter initially made a long row of alternating marshmallows and toothpicks and then asked, "How do I make it grow?" by which I think he meant, "How do I make it multidimensional?" So I walked him through making a square base. This was more challenging than I was expecting. It was not enough for me to make one slowly along side him and stop between steps for him to copy. Nope! I had to point to each marshmallow and each tooth pick and show him how to do it without completely pushing the toothpick through. At this point I thought there was no hope for Hunter in this activity and had contented myself with the idea of him making the long "snakes" and "worms." And while I was turned away admiring Hannah Jane's house and subsequent pentagon based pyramid, Hunter stuck three toothpicks into one marshmallow and was looking at it like I know I could do something cool with this, but what?. I tried not to get too excited. I just sat back and held my breath. And as I watched, he placed a marshmallow on the end of each "spike" and then connected them all with toothpicks. "A pyramid! I made a pyramid!" I could tell by his reaction to his own creation that he had not planned it in advance, but had more sort of happened upon it. I think I was as proud as he was. His pyramid took it's place on the display shelf along side Hannah Jane's house.

Being the softy that I am, I told them to go ahead and eat all of their left over marshmallows. Surprisingly, after being given the go ahead they didn't just stuff them all into their mouths, but continued building, eating one here and there. Hunter still ducked below his desk to eat each marshmallow as if he still felt like he was getting away with something. Hunter, who frequently says, "I'll do school when I'm four," said, "that wasn't school, was it?" I told him that it was just fun and if he learned his shapes, that was just a bonus. Hanna Jane winked at me over his shoulder as if to say, "I know he did school, but I'll keep your secret."

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