Monday, January 05, 2015

Stretching The Budget

Our plastic marble run building set is at least 15 years old, probably older, and is showing it. They don't make this particular set any longer and the new affordable ones are so cheaply manufactured that I wouldn't give them a week in our classroom. So what I've done, what I always do in these circumstances, is to keep talking to people about it. Parents are always getting rid of old toys, either when their children outgrow them or lose interest, or simply to make way for new toys. I've scored some of our best stuff that way.

As a result, I've received a number of marble runs over the years. Of course, no one has enough of any one sort to make a set sufficiently large for classroom use, so I'm always hoping for something compatible with what we already have, which hasn't yet happened. So, I've been left with figuring out what to do with them. The first few wound up as part of glue gun creations, but the last one became the foundation for a spectacular "pour over" art project, one that ended disastrously as one over-eager boy completed our experience by falling on it. This idea had been inspired by our "tall paintings," which had in turn been inspired by the work of the artist Alexander Calder's grandson.

Isaac and Mile's family recently donated a small ball run and as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to try it again. Remembering the challenge of transporting our last attempt, I set this one on the lid to a shipping crate that, fittingly, was once used to transport a Calder mobile.

I try very hard to not spend a lot of time obsessing about "waste," but experience has taught me that this sort of project tends to run through a gallon or more of liquid, which puts a big dent in our paint budget. White glue, however, costs about half what paint does and its thickness makes for a slower, oozy-er flow. The idea is to mix a little tempera into cups of glue, then for the kids to take turns pouring it over the marble run.

It's been two years since our last marble run painting project. That first class was one of the most mess averse groups I've ever had, so while the project was popular, none of them were willing to get their hands involved. This year's class, however, is all about sticky, gooey, messy play.

It started with pouring and studying the colored glue as it flowed, swirled, and dripped it's way down the run. There is a kind of castle drawbridge at the bottom, which the kids kept opening and shutting by way of controlling it. Soon they were using their fingers to help the glue along it's track. Finally, they played in the grayish-purple paint that pooled at the bottom.

We did it for the three days leading up to the our winter break. I took it outdoors for the final coat, which is where it has set these past two weeks. I'm kind of hoping the rain washed it clean so we can do it again.

In the meantime, if you have any old marble runs, send them our way . . .

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Tammy said...

Early years teachers are always able to see the potential in random "junk"

What do you do with the kids that are reluctant to get their hands dirty? How do you get over their mess-aversion?

I'm finding so many of our kids (and the parents) don't like to get messy.

Our kids live in high rise, they spend the day inside probably on tablets and watching TV, so have little experience of getting dirty hands :(

Teacher Tom said...

@Tammy . . . The kids who don't want to get their hands dirty usually choose to not participate. As for the parents, they know going in to expect their children to come home each day covered in "paint, mud, water, snot, and blood." Most parents are just thrilled when there is no blood. =)

Anonymous said...

Teacher Tom, that particular Marble Run (in the picture) is Castle Marbleworks from Discovery Toys. It comes with a lifetime warranty. :-)

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