September 2, 2011

Tube Test

Disclaimer:  This post is filled with grainy, sad photos because it takes place entirely in my poorly lit kitchen.  I know...to be a blogger with a poorly lit kitchen is a very sad thing.  But the story that goes along with the pathetic photos is one of major breakthroughs in the way one little 5 year old thinks about the world and about learning.  In short, overlook the pictures and behold the greatest story ever told (in our kitchen, that is).

I saw a picture on Pinterest (my new favorite web site to waste time on) of an maze of paper towel tubes turned into a marble  run stuck to the front door of someone's home.  I knew right away that we had to do it because Haven is absolutely obsessed with cardboard tubes of all kinds.  He has been caught unrolling entire rolls of toilet paper simply to get the tube out of the middle.  So this activity was a must!

Because I know he loves the tubes, I already had a stash of them saved up in the hall closet for a rainy day.  We didn't even have to wait and accumulate so we had immediate gratification.  When I need a few alone moments (because what home schooling mom couldn't use a few more of those, right?) I sent the kids outside with the art bucket and the tubes so they could decorate them, not knowing why.  This made for a bonus day of activities for the same project!  Woot!


The day they painted the tubes, we got a call from a neighbor saying that the apples were falling from the trees and would we please come pick a ton of them so that they didn't go to waste.  Right on!  You can go here to read more about the apple ordeal, but suffice it to say that I knew right then that I would need some distractions for the kids over the next few days as I canned what was certain to be a truck load of apples.  Can you say perfect timing for the tube activity?


I hot glued magnets to the back of the tubes and the back of an old apple cider mix box to catch the marbles at the end so they didn't ding the fridge or the floor, and set the kids to work.

I thought this was going to be a mindless "yeah!  It worked!  Now what?" sort of activity, but boy was I wrong!  Maybe I did something wrong in the design, but the kids really had to tweak and test.  Most of the marble runs resulted in a no go - a marble shooting off into oblivion - so it took some strategizing.



After a while, only Hunter remained.  This was one of the most memorable afternoons thus far in my motherhood of Hunter.  He was mad.  Very mad.  And frustrated.  He mumbled, "I hate this thing.  I hate it.  I am never going to do this again.  This doesn't work.  I've never been so mad in all my life."  I have never heard him talk like this EVER.  Sure, his dad's side of the family is notorious for ranting at inanimate objects, but he's never quite gone on about something like he did about his hatred for the marble activity.  Still, long after Haven and Hannah Jane had gone outside to play in the sunshine, there he remained. 

 As I peeled and chopped and seasoned and canned those apples, Hunter stood on his tall kitchen chair rearranging the tubes with a serious focus that I rarely see in him.  After some time, he stopped cursing the activity and started telling himself, "Now I know this one isn't going to work, but it is worth a try.  It is."  as if he were convincing himself not to give up.


He called out to me with some observations from time to time.  He wanted me to know that the steepness had a direct impact on his success rate, that each tube has to extend farther out than the one before it in order to catch the marble, and so on.  By golly!  He was really working his little brain on this one. 

All day he would keep coming back to the fridge to try a new strategy.  The next day, after each pause in our school work he would say, "Can I do the marble run now?  Is it time?"  It's been 3 days now and he keeps coming back.  He's still making predictions and running tests.  When it doesn't go as planned, he runs it again and watches for where the breakdown occurs.  It's amazing!

Today he looked at me all serious and said, "Mom, you might already know this, but I didn't.  Did you know that it doesn't really matter if something works, because you are figuring things out even when it doesn't?  I didn't really get that before."  What?!?!  Never ever does a mom expect things like that to come out of their child's mouth without us pulling it out of them.  I spend time every day telling Hannah Jane not to cry because she got one math problem wrong or because she missed a note in her flute practice, and still every day she cries- usually more than once- over being imperfect.  But here Hunter has spent self initiated time focused on an activity and walked away thinking Hey, I really learned something today.  I got a lot wrong and I learned from that too.  What more could I ask for? 

Hannah Jane and Haven have come back, too.  They are impressed with Hunter's ability to tutor them into making a successful run.  Now that they see it can be done,they are far more interested.  He's inspired them!

So, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a huge fan of this activity which only cost a few bucks in magnets and a little squirreling away of paper towel tubes.  You can find the full, original tutorial here at TPCraft (a site which I fully intend to spend loads of time on, by the way).  It taught Hunter a lesson that I didn't see coming and that I have failed to teach his sister.  And it gave me a little glimpse into how his mind works.  What a unique little man he is and what amazing thoughts he thinks!

If you make one of these, I'd be curious to hear how your kids responded.  Did they work it for days like Hunter?  Did they walk away like Hannah Jane and Haven?  They they make their won funny connections?  I just really think the possibilities are endless with this one

1 comment:

  1. I'm not even sure how I ended up on your blog.. but I'm glad I did! This story was inspirational! thanks for sharing.

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