Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Attack on the Fort! A STEAM Program

This week, a battle took place at my library. In the program room, to be exact. Don't worry, the battleground was prepped and the skirmish was intentional. It was all a part of my school-age STEAM program, Attack on the Fort!

Our simple, unprogrammed program, which lasted an hour, consisted of four stages:
  • I told the story of the Trojan War. As a preface to the topic of attacking a fort, I told an abbreviated version of the Trojan War myth. I started with the goddess beauty contest judged by the Trojan prince Paris; told of the theft of Helen from Menelaus and the sailing of 1000 Greek ships for Troy; and the 10-year stalemate that finally ended in favor of the Greeks thanks to the strategic genius of the Trojan Horse. In favor of keeping the kids' attention, I just hit the highlights and focused on the culminating action.
  • We built catapults. The basic catapult construction requires 10 popsicle sticks, 4 or 5 rubber bands, a bottle cap (or other shallow cylinder), and something to affix the cap to the arm (we used velcro dots). Assembly instructions here. I demonstrated each step of the process with my own catapult, and I walked the room helping as requested.
  • The kids built forts. I had plenty of large sheets of construction paper, straws, popsicle sticks, tape, markers, and scissors to allow for creativity in the fort engineering process. Once again, I was flabbergasted by the ingenuity of the kiddos. Some made turrets, some made walls, some made total fortresses.
  • We had a battle. I had the children set their forts on the ground in a round; that way the battlefield was in the center of the forts, and all outward-shooting catapults would be sure to hit something. I handed out pom-pom balls as ammunition, then told the kids to prepare their catapults. I counted down for the opening shots, and from there it was total thrilling, soft, puffy war. The battle went on for a good 15 minutes, with little appearance of fatigue from any of the children.

After the program, the children were able to take home their catapults, a few pieces of ammunition, and their forts, which was obviously very exciting--the kids always love to take home their creations. I had lots of positive, enthusiastic comments from both children and caregivers who attended; they loved the simplicity and freedom of the program, and they loved the chance to get to make something that was "so cool." Attack on the Fort! was definitely that: simple, minimally-structured, and cool.

STEAM and unprogramming, two of my favorite ways to think about children's programs.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds so very exciting! I may be "borrowing" this idea in the fall...