Monday, November 5, 2012

PlayWatch: Prototyping ThinkSpace

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.

Asked if solving the mystery maze was difficult, a 6 year old said, “I like it when it's a hard challenge.  I pictured it in my mind.”  His mom told us that he doesn't like to write or draw but loves this kind of challenge.  That was obvious.  After solving (pretty accurately) all of the mazes, he stayed around coaching other kids.

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!

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