Tinker Thinking Part III – Ramp Play

The use of the phrase, happy accident, has pretty much gone out of fashion. None the less, for Jocelyn and Logan those words aptly describe their experience. This pair of pre-k children have known one another for two years and have been playing with ramps for about a year and a half. They are helpful with one another and move in and out of cooperative and parallel play with ease. Each has adopted the practice of arranging materials to suit their individual goals while remaining respectful of one another’s designs within their ramp system.

It’s June and the sunny skies are deceiving as the weather is brisk. So Jocelyn and Logan ask to stay indoors and work on ramp play. After some time of constructing a course together, the two children split up and Logan has the idea to include a ball “jump” along the course.

“You know what I mean, Joc, just like those ski jump parts that go up, “ explains Logan.

ramp play

“So the ball is going to jump up and down,” she asks.

“No, well, yes, um. Oh I’ll show you..it’s going to roll down and jump off of this triangle and go in the air and, and then go back on the ramp.”

Jocelyn set the ball in motion at the start of the ramp just as Logan let go of the triangle block. To Logan’s surprise the ball not only bounced off the triangle, but the force also caused the triangular block to pivot on its point and tip over. (photo 2)

ramp play

“Joc!!! Did you see that?”

“That was awesome, Logan! You made a machine part.  Let’s do it again!”

ramp play

This happy accident (a welcomed surprise) certainly wasn’t foreseen by the adults, nor was it planned for by the children. Teachers know that while children tinker, they often encounter problems they hadn’t anticipated and while tinkering, happy surprises pop up, too!  The surprising discovery of a moving part caused Jocelyn and Logan to work together for the better part of an hour, testing balls of different sizes and perfecting their “machine part” (triangle block) which they were able to tip over many times. The happy accident of the tipping block gave this pair of learners fuel for thinking about movable parts for their ramp systems. Using open-ended, loose parts often reveal unexpected opportunities for learning and investigation and can cause children to think about using materials in innovative ways. Gotta love surprises!

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