Monday, September 3, 2012

PlayWatch: Learning Club & Imagination Playground

Three AmeriCorps Museum Educators shared inspiring stories of their Learning Club participants’ creative play with Imagination Playground blocks.

We had the unique opportunity to bring Imagination Playground to the South Side Boys & Girls Club on several occasions and gave kids open-ended challenges to complete as a whole group or in teams. The kids worked together to construct a wall that spanned the room; a house that I could stand in (I am 6’3”), equipped with a seat should I choose to take a load off; and a bridge, 30 feet long, that transported and held the weight of the entire team plus one AmeriCorps member.

Then the kids had plenty of free time to build, which spawned grander and even more thoughtful projects. Three girls, Janiah, Jaziyah and D’Zire, accomplished a truly amazing feat: they constructed a train, with seats for two, which they moved around the room on cylindrical pieces that they took turns placing in front. They discovered this method entirely on their own, and I only assisted with cylinder placement once I noticed their engineering achievement.

The girls had the spatial awareness to know the distance the next cylinder should be placed in order to sustain a smooth ride, and even began angling them to turn the train in a new direction. It was great to see what can happen when our brilliant kids are very much engaged.

– John Rossi

Fox Point Boys & Girls Club came to the Museum for a field trip and we began building an Ice Cream Castle in Imagination Playground.  Alyson, Jhene and I built the walls, while Kimora was busy making ice cream cones out of loose parts and adorning the castle with sugary treats.

Alyson found the laminated sheet with sample structures for inspiration.  In one of the pictures, two curved pieces lean together atop two tall rectangular blocks, making an arched doorway.  Alyson decided that would be my job to create, because I was the tallest one, but I just couldn’t get it to stand!  Frustrated, I told her I didn’t think we could do it, but she wasn’t giving up.  Instead of it being the doorway, she decided to make that the back gate and to have it be closed.  She had me hold the blocks up while she made a tall column underneath to steady them.  Before I knew it, we had an arch.

It might not have been made the way we originally planned, but Alyson was clever enough to come up with an alternate design that still created the shape she desired.  She clearly communicated her ideas and persevered without getting frustrated or giving up.  I was amazed with the way such a small girl who is generally pretty quiet and mild-mannered could perform such high-level science and engineering skills. I told her how impressed I was and suggested she think about becoming an architect one day.  She responded, “I love animals, so maybe I can be an architect for dolphin castles!”

– Meagan Amylon

Imagination Playground inspiration sheet

Learning Club kids who come to Family Nights get a free pass to come to the Museum with their families as often as they want for a whole year, and it's always a pleasure to see them make good use of it. Plus, it's fun for us to get to play again with club alums, and it's flattering to be asked for by name. Such was the case when former Learning Club member Vanessa came to play with her brother and mother.

I met up with them in Imagination Playground and at Vanessa's insistence, we built a car big enough (and functional enough) to actually ride around in (when pushed). As clever and creative as ever, Vanessa added a piece of sparkly black and yellow striped cloth and said, “Check out my flashy taxi!"

She drove her newly-christened vehicle around the room, asking all of the other visitors (kids and adults) if they wanted a ride. "Free rides in the flashy taxi! No fare today." I don't think anyone took her up on it, but within a few minutes there was a competing taxi on the road; her creation was inspiring other kids.

I shouldn't have been surprised at Vanessa's ingenuity and positive impact on the room since that was always the case in Learning Club, but it still impressed me to see a kid so quickly and effectively take charge. Learning Club kids are great Museum-goers and by giving them free passes, we're giving them an opportunity they might not have otherwise. They're also giving us something in return: experienced and enthusiastic Museum visitors who know how to have creative fun.

– Andy Axel

1 comment:

Imagination Playground said...

Loving the teddy beart inspiration :-D