Her response was to try a different kind of block for the
top, and this time it worked! Then Reuben came over and
began to copy Alina’s explorations, beginning with the
foam blocks. I’m beginning to see more clearly how the
materials I present guide children’s science explorations.
There are towers everywhere and kids are building tow-
ers with any kind of material they can get their hands
on—cardboard blocks, foam cylinders, wooden cylinders,
and unit blocks.
Today as I watched Reuben, Alina, and Joy building, I
decided it was time to give them a challenge. So I pulled
out some unit blocks, foam squares, and circles and asked
which they thought they could use to build the tallest
tower. I guess I was trying to help them think about the
different materials—their properties, their limitations, and
their possibilities. They really took up the challenge, trying
to figure out what materials and strategies work best for
building high. And now they’re building even higher!
Today during group time we talked about towers and
what it takes to build high. Here are some of their ideas:
• You have to put the blocks right on top of the other
• The tower stands up better if you build it on the
roof-board blocks instead of the rug.
• Sometimes you have to move the blocks back and
forth so the tower will stop tipping.
• Sometimes you have to take some blocks off.
• The tower will stand up better if you put some more
blocks right next to the tower to help hold it up.
I wrote these ideas down. They will make a great docu-
mentation panel along with the pictures I took.
Kids keep building towers. Some kids built straight up.
Kenya had a real design going and still got tall. Joy de-
cided to build a brace. Miguel’s was the simplest but the
And ever since I hung journals next to the blocks, kids
have been drawing their towers too. Today they drew
their structures from a couple different angles. They are
working on drawing the exact shapes of the blocks they
have used. We also started thinking of ways to measure
their towers. I used the digital camera for the first time,
which was neat because the kids could see everything
from a different perspective right away. (Miguel could
see how tall his tower was compared with his own height!)
Today Kenya, Avi, and Chris built a tower of large cylinder
blocks. It was so tall they had to stand on chairs, trying to
hold the tower to keep it up. When they asked me for
help, I said that we needed to figure out why it won’t
stand up. After a few minutes, they balanced it, and it
stood by itself.
When I asked how tall their building was, they got the
poster of Miguel’s tower. In the poster, the tower goes up
to Miguel’s mouth. So then they needed Miguel. Mia got
him and asked him to stand next to the new tower. It
came up to his shoulder. “So his is bigger,” said Mia. But
Chris can’t believe it. He says, “Prove it.” So Avi counts the
blocks. He discovers that the photo tower has thirteen unit
blocks. The new tower has eleven.
So this building stuff leads to new investigations—it’s
like new doors keep opening. In a way, it’s about being
there and really hearing kids’ questions to figure out what
they are working on and what they are trying to figure
out. So what they need from me are the materials to
work with, some guidance on method, the mechanics of
how to systematize their explorations, and help docu-
menting their discoveries.
Carson, Rachel. 1965. The sense of wonder. New York: Harper & Row.
Eisenberg, M. 2000. The influence of materials on children’s
play: Explorations at the water table. Unpublished study, Tufts
National Research Council. 1996. National science education stan-
dards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.