Tangrams and the nature of science - All ages
Back at Saturday Science, the little ones made their own tangram sets and let their imaginations run wild. The idea is to introduce an alternative idea of the scientific method, that is, that scientists take given information (from their experiments or life, as represented by each block) and must figure out how they fit together, and what alternatives there might be. For 3-4 year olds, this is an opportunity to practice shapes and counting. 5-6 kids too. Plus, we introduce the parallelogram. All the kids could make houses out of a couple of pieces, but we also asked that they build with all of the pieces. The next challenge is to build without overlapping. Same goes for all of the ages.
For 5-6 kids, we also tried to figure out how we could predict what a story might be based on a couple of words. Each kid in the group pulled a story word out of a bag and we tried to construct an accurate sentence, gaining more information with each word.
For 7-8 kids, this sort of puzzling kept them VERY busy for the entire period. We added tangram solutions to show what kind of options are out there (but only let them look at a given solution for 3 seconds!).
For the 9-11 year olds, a final puzzle really threw a kink in the scientific method. Following along with the University of Walkato Science Learning Hub's instructions for the missing piece, the kids were given a four piece puzzle. Acting like scientists who know what the solution must be (in this case, a square), they had to use four pieces to find the solution. Once they had it, they were given the fifth piece, and were told the solution stayed the same. They had to update their hypotheses and rebuild the puzzle to make it all work!