Building boats and battling the wind

Photo cred goes to Tanya, my phone died before any pictures could be taken

Photo cred goes to Tanya, my phone died before any pictures could be taken

A year ago, I went to my local festival and thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a stall here?” Little did I know I’d be bringing my mobile makerspace a year on! I knew at the time I’d be doing something to encourage more girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). But you couldn’t have convinced me I’d literally be taking fun and creative activities to communities to give kids a go. I absolutely love taking my mobile makerspace to communities and seeing kids light up like I did 20 years ago when a lady in a white lab coat showed me the magic of science. But invariably, nothing ever goes to plan.

It was a sunny and very windy day in Sheffield. Tents were flying everywhere. One even scraped across the tops of two cars and landed on top of another tent. Ouch. My day was going a bit smoother than theirs. I didn’t have a tent to worry about, but all my props and my beloved sign that I worked so hard on kept escaping. All the play dough dried out, so we had to put the squishy circuits away.

I had the grand idea of getting every kid that visited my stall to make their very own stamp and ‘leave their mark’ on a sheet that I would take with me everywhere. It was supposed to be a fun way to document all the kids I work with over time. I cut a pool noodle into segments for the kids to cut into fun shapes and dip into paint. (If you’re looking to make stamps with kids, I highly recommend doing it this way, rather than with potatoes.)

I also added a ‘Build a Boat’ activity using popsicle sticks, glue and a tub of water – there are a million Pinterest posts on this. After building a boat at home, painting my nails while waiting for the glue to dry and then watching it float in my sink, I was convinced it would work but worried the glue would take too long to dry. The stamp activity would be a good waiting activity. By the time kids cut their stamps and stamped the board, hopefully, their boats would be dry enough to try out. Not one child made a stamp. But plenty of children (and their adults) made floating “thingies.’

I was a bit heartbroken that the kids weren’t interested in making stamps, but I quickly realized how resourceful the kids by using the pool noodle segments as building pieces for their boats. Because I had the stamp and boat materials stored together, the very first kids used the cut-up pool noodle segments as materials to build their boats. They cut slits for the popsicle sticks to slide in. There was no need for the glue! The noodle segments allowed them to make cool and inventive floating structures that they couldn’t have made with just glue.

Overall, the kids enjoyed building their own boats and watching them float in the water and then trying out boats that other kids left behind. No two boats were the same which was interesting. I thought if kids saw others boats that they would mimic them, but sure enough, they built something unique each time.

I’ll definitely be repeating this activity at the Parson Cross STEM Day on 23 August, along with a new balloon painting activity inspired by Princess Diaries :)