Big Imaginations = Fabulous Creations

On a recent morning, Chapin’s Class 2 homerooms were filled with piles of recycled materials and students deep in concentration. “We’re using our imaginations!” one enthusiastic participant exclaimed as she fiddled with an empty soda can.

As part of their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum this spring, Class 2 participated in open-ended “build-outs” that allowed their creativity to run free. During each session, the students were asked to work independently with an assortment of recycled objects to create items of purpose, leaving their teachers to observe what they came up with when left up to their imaginations. To do this, the students followed the design process:

1)    Imagine

2)    Plan

3)    Create

4)    Revise

First, the students brainstormed ideas and drew plans. “We talked about how sometimes, as you begin to create, your plans won’t work out, and that’s okay! We can change the plans as we go,” one teacher explained. They also discussed the different materials they would be working with and the ways they could be altered to make something new. After thorough brainstorming and planning, the group was ready to create!

In one classroom, students worked with tin foil, pipe cleaners, and soda cans, making everything from necklaces and toy cars to a model of a bridge and a purse. “I’m figuring it out as I go,” one student explained as she filled her can with small balls of tin foil, creating a noisemaker. “I’m making something for my brother,” added her friend. The students worked entirely independently, and teachers only stepped in to help with difficult adjustments like cutting the cans.

In a room down the hall, students used Q-tips, plastic dining utensils, and Crayola Model Magic modeling clay to build their objects, resulting in a catapult, toy bunnies, and a model of a building, among other thoughtful creations. “You’re such a genius,” one student proudly exclaimed as her friend displayed her finished work. 

And finally, in the Lower School Science room, a small group used rubber bands and long, thin wooden dowels to create a slingshot, a giant bubble wand, a fishing pole, and a tent frame. “I’m just trying my best to work with what we have,” one young inventor explained as she looped an assortment of rubber bands around a dowel. The students were extremely supportive of their classmates’ ideas, and even gave helpful advice along the way. “I think it would be more stable if you added another dowel at the bottom,” one girl encouraged her friend as she built her tent frame.

These purposefully unstructured build-outs taught the Class 2 students to work with what’s available, to think creatively and resourcefully, and to take initiative when given little instruction – skills that will undoubtedly be crucial as they continue their STEM studies next year in Class 3.

Browse photos of the build-outs below: