Kai is a regular visitor of the Museum. He is the kind of visitor who really enjoys tinkering with anything and everything. On this particular day, we were experimenting with making light-up cards using copper tape and LEDs. Kai was very interested in exploring what could be done with the copper tape and a piece of paper. He already had some knowledge of circuitry, so he was able to understand the idea of connecting a light to a battery. I showed him the importance of drawing a diagram that can be followed with the copper tape to create a simple circuit. He tinkered with these materials for awhile. As he was tinkering, he told me about a motorized boat he had built during a special class that he took.
I decided to get him a motor and a AA battery pack to tinker with as well. We experimented with different forms of propulsion using the motor. Kai wanted to attach the motor to a piece of recycled foam and then use the motor to make the foam move around. He came up with the task and I let him spend some time trying to figure it out. He tried several different things to attach to the motor to make it look more like a propeller. He quickly discovered that craft stick and dowel rods would not work. I asked him to try and find something that could possibly be squeezed onto the shaft of the motor. I found an eraser and a glue stick and let him experiment with those. He discovered that the glue stick would cause the motor to shake which would in turn cause the foam base to move around.
I could have easily have given him a glue stick and showed him how to attach it, but true learning comes from exploration and failure. You need to really mess around with something before you truly understand it.