Recently I wrote, "If we can keep playfulness at the core of what we do, if we can look for ways to incorporate play and fun into lessons and activities, I believe we will encourage creative thinking. Another huge benefit is that if we enjoy what we do, we are more likely not only to remember it, but to persevere with it."That's a core belief of mine, and one that drives many of my articles here at The Book Chook.
As a teacher, one science lesson I knew I could rely on to use play as a spark for learning was exploration of the principles of flight. I wrote about some resources for this in Follow Directions and Fly. I found that getting kids to invent paper aeroplanes BEFORE we looked at the principles involved resulted in engaged and involved students during the research part of the lesson.
A similar lesson I could rely on to get kids hypothesising and inventing, adapting and testing, was one where I introduced them to paper boomerangs.
You probably know the real boomerang. It's a wooden weapon used traditionally by Australian Aboriginals. So what's a paper boomerang? It's a piece of thin card or paper of boomerang shape that you flick so it flies. If you're particularly clever, you can catch it on its return.
Today, to celebrate Australia Day, here is an activity I predict will get your kids thinking creatively and keep them occupied with learning for ages. (I gave some other ideas for playing last Australia Day, or you could try one of the trivia quizzes at The Australia Day website.)
Here's how I would do it. Show your children some different boomerang shapes and real boomerangs or pictures of boomerangs. Wonder aloud if a cardboard boomerang would fly, or even return. Have them experiment with drawing and cutting out different shapes - curved ones, symmetrical and asymmetrical ones, geometric ones etc. You'll hear them hypothesizing, predicting, analyzing - all the wonderful thinking skills we want to encourage. They might suggest trying different materials, or different thicknesses of the same material, or different ways to launch the boomerang. They might also want to decorate their boomerangs - graphic designers in the making!
I haven't tried large sizes like the *NASA four- winged boomerang below - my preferred size is around 3 or 4 cms. I like to launch one by making a fist with my left hand, laying my paper boomerang squarely on the back of my hand, and flicking one corner quite hard with my right thumb and middle finger. I took a photo top left to show you. (I used card from the back of a greeting card.) NASA have two they call finger boomerangs and they suggest launching on a book.
Next you could introduce some existing templates for paper boomerangs. Try googling "paper boomerang template" to see a good range, download an Instructables pdf, try this different shape at WikiHow, or check out this *NASA lesson which has a four-wing boomerang template. Do have a good look around at what NASA have to offer on Aeronautics while you're there.
Once you've experimented with some existing templates, I guarantee kids will be keen to modify these and invent their own. If they want to try even more models, here's a video about making an origami boomerang.
Susanne Gervay, author of I am Jack, is excited about being the Australia Day Ambassador for regional Australia in Wakool. She's flying by charter plane from Sydney on the 25th January, then it’s all day celebrations in Wakool on 26th January, including citizenship presentations at the Australia Day Breakfasts, flag raising ceremonies, official presentations & even a duck race on the Murray River. How kool is that!