Pool Noodle Boats and Tinfoil Rivers (STEM)

One of my very talented teacher candidates was working on a provocation for the children in math. We were deep into our learning about and working with 3D shapes. The children were loving building 3D shapes with a variety of different materials. So, my teacher candidate asked me if we could cut up the pool noodles with exacto knives and build a 3D Shape Town. After Shape Town my DECE, EA and I were chatting and somehow, through the magical collaboration we have together, we thought how thrilling it would be to challenge our early learners with an outdoor learning STEM provocation: Can you build boats with pool noodles and toothpicks? Flocks of children came for the challenge.


They drew designs and wrote theories of their boats. They worked on and wrestled with symmetry, balance and weight. Then, the children pushed all of our thinking forward, like usual, saying they needed more than the water tables and tubs we had outside. The children wanted a river. We didn’t have a  river. We had tinfoil. IMG_7842

The tinfoil river emerged and more predictions, problem-solving, collaboration was welcomed.


HB: “How about we move the river so it can go down the hill more? Than our boats can go faster.”

DH: “I need to put these (floats) on the sides so that my boat doesn’t tip over.” DH picked up toothpicks and broke them. He inserted them to either side of his boat and attached small pieces of pool noodle turning the noodle so the round part was in the water.

RM: “I need to get something. I’m going to put it on my boat to make it heavy. It might go faster like the bigger car went faster down the ramp.”



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