Hands on Activities Equal a Big Kids Playground

catherine.stanton's picture
The recent emphasis on maker spaces and maker events brings
home the idea that using multiple senses and problem solving allows greater
learning and better retention. Whether it’s electrifying a banana, creating a
whirli-gig, whipping up a batch of marshmallows, or putting together a 3D
puzzle, hands on activities allow adults to engage in ways often unavailable in
their daily lives.

At the Madison Library, we recently had a series of science experiments requiring active participation geared for adults. While the activities weren’t inappropriate for children, we’ve found that if even a single child is present, they become the focus and older people won’t play. We really wanted the big kids to let down their stoic facades and get into it, so no one under eighteen was allowed.

It worked. The evenings were a huge success.

During our first evening of physics experiments, passersbys stopped when they peeked in at the strangeness and ended joining in. We played with centrifugal force, electricity, sound waves, light waves, and inertia. Out of a group of wheels of identical size and weight, differing only in placement of the weight, which will go fastest? Can we really move a two by four with the static on a comb? Can you suspend a ping pong ball by blowing on it? Minds scurried as they tried to make the experiments work.

The next night's attendance grew as the previous night’s participants returned with friends and neighbors for an entertaining taste of chemistry. We dissolved egg shells, played with Geiger counters, and learned why party balloons are filled with helium instead of the lightest element on the periodic table, hydrogen. (Hydrogen explodes.)

We’re looking at more ways to physically as well as mentally engage our patrons. Arm knitting? Indoor roping? Who knows what’s next?