This story of spatial thinking exploration while testing ThinkSpace prototypes was shared by Museum director Janice O’Donnell.
The mystery maze prototypes were covered wooden boxes enclosing mazes of
varying degrees of difficulty, with openings at two ends for a small
wooden ball. The object: roll a ball through the maze and out the other
side. By listening, feeling and observing, figure out what the maze
inside looks like. Draw a diagram of the maze as you picture it. We
had cards so kids could compare their drawings to maze diagrams.
An 11 year old approached the mystery mazes very methodically. She
experimented a bit and then decided, “I'm going to draw as I do it.”
She tilted the box, ascertained that the ball rolled to the left, and
made a horizontal line on her diagram. Tilted again, heard the ball
roll down, and drew a vertical line. Tilted again and lost track, so
she started at the beginning, checking her drawing and adding new lines
as she discovered the ball's progress through the maze. When it popped
out the other side, she rolled it through again, carefully confirming
her diagram. She followed this method with several of the boxes, then
said, “Now I'll teach my sister how to do it!” – and she did.
Engaging children of a wide age range for sustained periods of concentrated exploration, the mystery mazes are a keeper!