A blue and black soccer ball grabbed my attention as it flew through the 8 degree air ahead of me. Two happy eight-year-olds chased it down. “You missed the target,” one yelled, “I bet I can hit it.”
As I drew closer, I could see the rest of the story. In the cold dusky hours of this winter Wednesday they had built a ball launcher with available loose parts. They had positioned a large hunk of firewood on a flat spot in the house’s small front yard. On top of and perpendicular to the firewood hunk, they placed a snow shovel so that it’s handle was on the ground and the blade was up in the air. The ball was then carefully balanced in the shovel’s handle. With a quick stomp on the shovel blade, the ball flew into the air towards a target I was unable to identify.
The tracks in the fresh snow indicated that they’d been at this exploratory play for a while–repeating their experiment, refining the position of the lever on the fulcrum, varying the amount of effort used to move their load, learning STEM without even trying.