Problem Solving in the Spark Studio

Our morning started with a short video about volcanoes and how they erupt. They were riveted. Before the video was even over, learners shouted out their ideas for their morning project. Without prompting, they started suggesting ways they could make a volcano with the materials they had brought from home. They agreed that they were up for the challenge!  

The materials were simple: each table held recyclables, water, baking soda, tape, and ketchup. They quickly formed groups and got right to work. One group used a milk jug, tissue roll, shoe box, and a piece of cardboard. Another group picked out a yogurt container, plastic, a fruit cup container, and scissors. Other learners decided to go solo, and experiment with the magic for themselves.

An amazing thing happened. Without instruction on what proportions of ingredients to use for lava, learners started experimenting and problem-solving. When the first round of plain ketchup and baking soda did not work, learners added water, then more water, then hot water, then vinegar. They changed the size of containers and cut them into different shapes. They punched holes in the middle of containers and solutions poured out like waterfalls. They excitedly stood around their potions, waiting for the solutions to bubble and erupt. They experimented and experimented while never giving up.  

“It’s about to explode, I just know it!

“Oh, yay!”

“Ketchup is lava.”

“Oh, I see the problem. It’s stuck”

“Can we just make a normal one?”

“We made snow.”

“Ours exploded on the bottom, not the top.”

Although water flowed from every container and box on the table–and the Spark studio was a bit of a mess–the learners had a chance to work in teams, think scientifically, and have a rollicking good time. Naturally, the wonder, discovery skills, and exploration occurred through their eagerness to dig in.

The ability to get messy means that learners can think messy, which translates to creative problem-solving down the road. That is one of the major goals in Spark Studio, to get learners thinking outside the box. This profound effect will keep learners open to new ideas, experiments, and solutions in our ever-changing world.

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