Monday, August 23, 2010

The Urge To Destroy: The Urge To Create

The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.  -Mikhail Bakunin

I must have been about 4-years-old. I was in my jammies, ready for bed. As I headed to the toilet, I impulsively picked up a red crayon and proceeded to draw a long, dark red line on the hallway wall between my room and the bathroom. I did the same thing on the way back. It was entirely out of character for me. My mother was so surprised that she didn't even reprimand me. I have few concrete memories from those early years, but that is one of them.

I don't plan my television watching, but when I hunt for programming, Mythbusters trumps everything else, even if it's a repeat. I like that it's a science program from which I always learn something. I covet their workshop far more than any mansion. I enjoy being able to correct people in social circumstances when they trot out an urban legend that the team has dispelled. And, yes, it satisfies my curiosity about such things as what would happen to a compact car if it should come between two speeding semi-trucks when they have a head-on collision.

One of the things that first attracted me to the young upstart late night comedian David Letterman was his regular feature, "Dropping Stuff Off A Five Story Building," wherein he would, well, drop stuff off a 5 story building. So influential was this recurring "skit," that I've turned it into an annual Pre-K science experiment that I call "Break or Bounce?" in honor of the more mundane classic preschool predicting experiment, "Sink or Float?" I gather together a random assortment of items like a frying pan, a glass jar, a watermelon (or pumpkin if it's around Halloween), a piece of chalk, a can of beans, a candle, a super ball, a 5 lb. sack of flour, and whatever other items come to hand, then one by one carry them to the top a ladder, call for the predictions, "Break or bounce?" then let gravity do its thing. Just like the Mythbusters, just like the Letterman audience, we spontaneously laugh and cheer with each impact, whatever the result.

When international television superstar Jenny posted about her kids' giant tile mosaic, it reminded me that I had a couple boxes of dirty, white bathroom tile tucked away in the storage room. Ours was a four step art project combining the urge to destroy with the urge to create, with lots of useful fine and large motor skill practice thrown in for good measure.

Step one: we used squirt bottles of soapy water and rags to wash the tiles.

Step two: We carefully wrapped our tile in a rag.

Step three: We placed our bundle on the floor and whacked it several times with a rubber mallet.

Step four: we glued our broken pieces to the community collage.

Not every child went through every step, but that's the beauty of this project for a 2-6 year-old class. There was a place for everyone, with whatever interest or skill, to step in creatively. And yes, there did tend to be a division of labor based on gender, with the girls more interested in the tile cleaning and gluing, while the boys tended to go for the wrapping and smashing, although this was by no means a hard and fast rule. (I'm tempted here to go into a discussion about how males in Western society have historically derived their power from the ability to take life, while females derive their power from creating it, but in a modern world in which the day-to-day need for life-taking things like hunting and making war have outlived their usefulness, I'm lead inevitably to the organizing question of every society to ever exist: "What do we do with the men?" which is a subject far too broad to fit within the borders of a little preschool blog post.)

The final piece is very heavy and very beautiful. I hope the white glue holds it together.

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Barbara Zaborowski said...

Hey, fellow Mythbusters fan! Kari Byram has a new show premiering today called Head Rush. It's science for kids but (hopefully) not dumbed down. It's on here in Phoenix at 1 PM. I'll be at school, but my faithful DVR will capture it for me. Cross your fingers; new sources of inspiration are always welcome, right?

Saya said...

That is very very beautiful, Teacher Tom! I like how they got to break things. I didn't even think of that! Mine was part of shapes/colors thing, but randomly broken pieces of different colored tiles could do its job, too. *Note to self*

I am happy to learn that you are my fellow Mythbusters fan! They ROCK! Just as Barbara said, I'm looking forward to Kari's show... and new episodes of Mythbusters.

That compact car episode is one of my favorite! that rocket/train thingy was awesome!

Jen Widrig said...

Have you read Iron John, by Robert Bly? He has some interesting things to say about the American man. Not sure what I think about all of them, but worth a great discussion.

Sherry and Donna said...

Oh Tom you 'crack' me up ... which looks like your intention! By the look of your 'Break or Bounce' list other than the power ball I reckon you cracked everything up!
Sherry was saying yesterday that we should do a science experiment today ... I'm not sure how she would feel about me dropping all our stuff from the top of the ladder but hey I'll run it past her anyway.
Donna :) :)

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. So cool to watch that process for the children. Very, very cool! My friend Vanessa makes the most amazing pieces with broken plates and pieces she finds. I think she would love to see this project you did! I must send her a link!

Launa Hall said...

"What shall we do with the men?"

Okay, that is a fascinating question. I will sit with that one for a while.

Love the tiles!

Scott said...

This project is great - with steps that appeal to just about everyone. I like the end result - monochromatic and textured. Hope the glue holds (maybe hot glue is needed?).

I do like "Mythbusters" but recently discovered a new favorite: "Sliced". I came upon the show about toys - he cut open various toys to see what was inside and how it worked. I'd never seen the inside of a Magic 8 Ball. Each show, he cuts up all kinds of stuff. I think the host reminds me of you - at least in spirit!

Saya said...

Scott... I never seen it before! Which channel is it on?
I also like "how it's made" series as well.

Scott said...

Saya, it's on the History Channel. I haven't seen it on in the past week or so.

Two Pockets said...

I so miss you and the preschool!
I love that all you had to do was walk into the "office" to dig out the box of tiles!

As for what to do with the men: they can create also. (and right enough as you wrote--that's a broad subject for your preschool blog and bravo for mentioning it anyway.)

Anonymous said...

There is also a kid version of Mythbusters... well, kind of.. called destroy build destroy... it is awesome too!

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