Here's a post that one group of students wrote in response to our first lab this week.
This week's lab truly exemplified our groups topic of "the power of play." As a group, we learned more about the topic of cells and solidity and permanence. While we performed "parallel play" (working silently alongside each other yet together as a group), we learned together as a group. We also learned that zometools are not as easy to use as one might think. Playing with these tools though showed us how something that seems like it might be rigid can end up being less defined than we thought. For example, our structure is not rigid, it moves and shakes similar to how a cell membrane might.
Our first decision as a group was to work separately and start building parts of the figure on our own. After each of us had a strong and solid figure, we came together and connected them all. We were surprised that it actually worked and came together, but there were struggles as well. How wide did we have to continue to build? Would the zometool maintain its balance and strength as we continued to build inward? To answer “what do we accomplish with play,” we could say that we were having fun building with the zometools while simultaneously using our brain to create the structure and connect it to cells and science. It is interesting how the mind feels when you are playing with ideas and suddenly inspiration strikes. This happened to us as we were creating our structure. Although we were silent, our minds were racing thinking of new ways to build and relating our structure to microscopic organisms.
To answer the question, “How does nature ‘play’ to solve problems?” we considered the evolving of organisms. Not that they literally play and therefore evolve, but over time their genetic makeup and behaviors change slightly one way or another, playing back and forth between options to see what would work best. Similarly, our group tested out different methods of creating our zometool structure to see what would be the most effective.
We do believe that playing precludes work. Whether you are scribbling ideas down in a notebook, sketching a model, or tossing ideas around in your head, you are taking steps to create better work. You cannot begin a project without first toying with ideas.
Playing allows us to ease ourselves into thinking about bigger concepts. For example, we would have not been able to grasp the concept that Professor Hammer explained in his blog without physically creating a structure to back it up. It helps to have different ways to learn (reading and hands-on activities).