It was a simple enough challenge: Build a tower from the floor to the ceiling, just using newspaper and masking tape that will withstand blowing from arm’s length.

The six children in the room on Saturday at Create (Saturday) were all successful at the challenge, to some degree. They all built a tower that stood up and all withstood the blowing to a greater or lesser degree.

What was really interesting for me and immensely important for them was everything else they learnt during the morning.

Firstly, I encouraged them to work in pairs. My aim was that they would talk about the design and the process, discuss any alterations and adaptations and encourage each other. We had 1 pair (the oldest 2 children); the other 4 all worked independently, although they did keep an eye on what others were doing and chatted about their designs. It made me think. As teachers we often put children into groups to work as we think there are many benefits. It’s true that as an adult we often need to work collaboratively with others so it’s a good skill to learn. Bit at what age? And should everyone be forced to? Of course, because of my ethos of choice at Create, no child was forced to work with anyone else. 

My second observation was how the children launched themselves into the task.  It was a bit like the tortoise and the hare. Some of them knew exactly what the task involved and busily got on with rolling tubes and immediately taping them together. It was a race to the finish with no consideration for  whether the tower would stay standing as it got taller. Others stood and watched what  the quick starters were doing and pondered. We clearly need both kinds of workers and yet children are often criticised for not getting on with their work and daydreaming.

There were many other skills and approaches going on that were important. I want to mention 2 that I know I would not have let happen when I was a classroom teacher:

The first is that I had expressly told them that 1 of the rules was that they could not stick their tower to the floor or the ceiling. I looked round at 1 point and thought 1 pair had ignored the rules, which I have to admit I quite admire! When I reminded them of this rule they explained tome that they had not. They had stuck piece of the base together. The tape actually did look as if it was stuck to the floor but it was a fraction of a millimetre above it. At the top it was not stuck to the ceiling but to the smoke detector! I love how they had suitably bent the rule!

The second was joyful and totally a spur of the moment experience. 2 of the youngest children asked me if the could rip their tower apart. Of course the answer was yes but then that developed into ripping up newspaper and throwing it at each other like confetti. This went on for about 20 minutes. The 2 of them laughed and laughed. They both commented that they would not be allowed to lie on the floor at school or make a mess like this. They both revelled in the physical experience of throwing paper and having it fall on them; beautiful to see. After they had played the both understood that the mess needed to be tidied up and again loved using a broom and a dustpan and brush. 

It was a good reminder for me that children of all ages learn a huge amount from a really simple activity.

If you feel your children would benefit from less adult directed learning/teaching  please give me a call about them coming to experience Create (Saturday). I’d love to hear from you as I’m collecting interest about how and when I can provide this service.