Domino block play and the scientific method.

Our voyage into engineering, surface tension, and physics led us straight to the wooden blocks this morning. Different sized and shaped blocks are an excellent exploration tool to reinforce and develop basic physical concepts. You can use blocks to explore the following:

  • Adding
  • Grouping and sorting
  • Subtracting
  • Gravity
  • Balance
  • Geometry
  • Scientific method and experimental learning

Both Max and Micah were able to pose questions and then set up an experiment with their blocks to find an answer. This is the basic scientific method in action- question, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion. Once they learned this “method of play”, they continued to pose their own questions and experiment to find answers.

Micah started with sorting. She separated the long, slim blocks from the remaining blocks. Then I asked her what she’d like to know about these blocks. She wanted to know “how many to make a tower”. So she used the blocks to build a tower by stacking. Milla watched suspiciously.

Micah tried to line them up one on top of the other. I told her that this was a good strategy for better balance, which helps keep towers from tumbling.

Micah’s final tower, just before Milla vanquished it. Turns out that toddlers are a greater threat to wooden towers than balance.

As follow-up, Micah and I counted the number of blocks in her tower. She repeated the experiment several time, building more towers, to see if she used more or less blocks before the tower tumbled.

Then we talked about balance by using our bodies instead of blocks. How could we find the most balanced position with our bodies?

Standing up tall and straight with arms at our sides made for great balance. We didn’t feel “tippy”. The “tower position” is a balanced one, we decided.

Standing up tall with one leg sticking out to the side and arms at our sides felt very “tippy”. To get our balance, we put an arm out on the same side (which didn’t work) and then an arm out at the opposite side (which helped restore our balance).

Standing up tall with both arms out to the side offered balance, but standing up tall with both arms over our head was not as balanced.

Other fun positions we tested:

  • Standing with one leg behind us and one arm behind us.
  • Standing with one leg behind us and the opposite arm stretched out in front.
  • Standing on a “narrow edge” (i.e. our tippy toes).
  • Standing on a “wide edge” (i.e. flat-footed).

Max conducted his own experiments, exploring questions about variable conditions in domino effects. He wanted to know what creates an ideal condition for domino effects and what makes domino effects more difficult. He discovered that long, slim blocks placed close together (about one inch apart) worked perfectly.

Max investigates how much distance can exist between two blocks for a domino effect to occur.

Max also wanted to see how many blocks he could stack on a “narrow edge” before they fell over. Amazing, methinks.

Micah explores stacking and shapes.

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