Friday, July 09, 2010

The Water Wall Extension And A Home Made Ladder

Back in May we built our water wall using peg board, zip ties, plastic bottles and tubes. 

It was an amazing process, genuinely child directed, and ultimately the kind of contraption with which only a group of preschoolers could come up.

It was tall enough that we needed to use our flight of stairs to reach the top of it. It's been a ton of fun, but as with most things, it's started to lose a bit of its original allure over the course of the subsequent months, being, as it is, something of a one-trick pony. We have plenty of peg board, zip ties, plastic bottles and tubes, however, so I thought it might be fun to build a companion/extension to the original.

This all started a couple weeks ago and I've delayed posting about it, hoping to get some better photos, but unlike the last water wall project, I found myself in the middle of this one too often to snap pictures. Day after day I told myself that this would be the day I'd get some great water wall action shots, but that day simply hasn't arrived, and I'm too eager to share to let it delay any longer.

Here is our addition, standing beside the original.

That's right, it's much taller, although less complicated than our first one. With much fanfare we installed the two part water wall in our sand pit, only to discover that our stairway was inadequate. Only our tallest child was able to dump water into the top and even he nearly toppled off the stairs in the process. So we dragged out our step ladder. Certainly this would work, but alas, I had to assist each bucket of water to its final destination.

We still celebrated when Teacher Tom poured water into the top for everyone to see, but it really wasn't as satisfying as doing it ourselves.

After studying the way the water flowed, he put on his rain coat 
and hood to stay dry as he made some final tweaks.

At this point Fletcher said, "We need a taller ladder."

We agreed and the following day got to work building a ladder. I really wish I had better photos of this process. Lots of kids participated over the course of two days measuring . . .

. . . and sawing . . .

We set up the caution cones to warn our classmates we were
working with tools.

. . . and sanding to avoid splinters. We started with our sanding blocks, but Zachary requested that I bring in the vibrating mouse sander for the second day and things went much faster. Knowing what tools are potentially available and what they are capable of doing is half the battle when it comes to building anything.

At the end of day one, we had three rungs. I tested them first under the assumption that if it could hold my body weight it could handle a preschooler. As it turns out, I was correct in that assumption.

The following day, we added the rest of the rungs and got it installed.

We found we had to separate the two parts, adding a longer piece of tubing the connect them.

Now here's the interesting part. The lion's share of the construction of this ladder was carried out by a group of older boys, but since it's been installed only one of them has had the courage to actually try it out, and he only made it to the second rung, needing me to help him with the actual bucket pouring.

On the other hand, our 2-year-olds have scampered right up.

Since they need two hands to climb, an adult hands them
their bucket when they get to the top.

We've found that an adult needs to hold the ladder to the wall when the littlest kids climb up: their center of gravity being concentrated so high up on the ladder makes it want to fall backwards. We're brainstorming ideas for making it more secure. Thomas, one of the older boys who helped build it, but who doesn't seem to trust it, suggested that he would feel better about the whole thing if we added a platform. He also thought we could use a pulley to hoist our water to the top of the ladder.

Jobs for next week perhaps.

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Mrs. Karen said...

LOVE THIS! What a great project for "W" and "Water Week". You can bet I will be doing a scaled down version of this with my 3 year old class!!! Don't worry, I'll post pictures!!

THANKS TOM! You are a wonderful inspiration!

Unknown said...

How funny is that? The older kids are a little fearful while the younger ones scamper right up. Perhaps they have not learned to fear falling yet as the older ones have.

Very cool addition to your outdoor classroom Tom!

Scott said...

Very cool. I like that, when the kids needed a ladder, you led them to BUILD one. So much more gratifying (and so much more learning) than just BUYING one. Which, I must admit, I would probably have done. You are all about giving the kids those learning experiences, Tom.

BellaDaddy said...

Platform and pully? That kid is Brilliant! :-)


Barbra The Bloggess said...

We want one of these, too! Love it!

Michelle said...

I *love* this. I so wish that you were closer to me so you could do my wee ones for preschool. On the other hand, I have friends with a not quite one year old who ARE in Seattle who I will be telling about you.

It always cracks me up when the little kids who have no idea of the danger freak out about stuff and kids who are older and should be able to more safely do something are too afraid! I feel the same way about skiing now.