Oct 23, 2013

WonderWorks: Catapults!!

 Flinging things is so much fun!

Today's Topic: Catapults!
plastic spoons
wooden spoons
wooden blocks
scrap wood
pvc pipes (leftover from this class)
cove molding (leftover from this class)
tongs (leftover from this class)
drink bottle lids (optional)

  cover art Katy did it! / Siomades, Lorianne

 What Kids Do: 
This might be the most fun WonderWorks class we've ever had.  There was so much giggling and delight going on the entire time, from both kids and adults.  EVERYONE loved this project!  I gave them a few springy tools, some levers and instructed them to choose only lightweight projectiles (pom poms and packing peanuts mostly).  Here are a few of the catapults they came up with. 

 The large, stomp-on variety were hugely popular and at least one boy played only with this size for the entire class period.  Over and over.  It never got old.  He experimented with all sorts of variables and just had a blast!
 This participant kept stepping on the same side as her pompoms.  It sort of worked and I was impressed that no one tried to "correct" her, but instead, let her just explore the concept in her own way.  I wanted to just sit and watch her to see how she developed this idea further on her own, but I was trying to capture photos of all the great action (REALLYdifficult to capture catapults in action!).
 This is an elaborate catapult that was eventually abandoned.  Can you see why it might not work as well as hoped?
 Then, some kids just made pompom soup...
 Or shredded the packing peanuts (they didn't come out in the second class...)
 Or used the tongs for their original purpose.
 The best way to capture catapult action, of course, is video, so here you go!  (You can also see evidence here of one of the other popular activities--jamming pompoms into the PVC pipes!  They were great fun to blow out with your mouth)
Adult Challenge of the week:  Ask, "What could you change?" to foster the idea of experimentation.

Hindsight Tip: Although more families might have packing peanuts at home than pompoms, the younger children in the room loved just crumbling them to pieces.  Next time, I think I'd add cotton balls as my second option if one is needed.

Variations to try: 
instead of pompoms, you could also try using packing peanuts, cotton balls or marshmallows as projectiles
Here are some more elaborate catapult plans: from popsicle sticks, from a paper clip, paper towel tubes and a wooden spoon, from two pieces of wood, popsicle sticks and a plastic spoon, tissue box + pencils + rubber bands and a milk cap, soup can + piece of cardboard

Related Apps: There are lots of catapult-related apps available, but most of them are violent, and I'm not sure if the physics of catapulting really come across in an app, so I hesitate to recommend any here.  

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