June 7, 2011

In Balance

This past Saturday Little Read Wagon staff participated in one of KLRN's many community events. As part of the festivities, children had the opportunity to decorate their own balancing butterfly. This was one of our most enjoyable activities for a number of reasons:
  1. Both children and adults were fascinated by the way the butterfly balanced on the tip of a finger. This fascination, the joy of discovery, the sense of "wow, I really didn't think it would work, but it does!" made the hours spent at the die cut machine and hot-gluing pennies to the undersides of the cut-outs worthwhile. But there's more!
  2. While the cut-out was perched on a fingertip there was an opportunity to introduce vocabulary such as: balance, center of gravity, symmetry, weight, lighter, heavier... The name of our activity also just happened to have an alliterative quality, so we made sure to point out the sounds at the beginning of balancing and butterfly.
  3. When there was finally room at the table (the crowd was so big we brought an extra table from our van to provide more space for decorating the butterflies), children had an opportunity to express themselves through the colors they chose, the patterns they designed, how fast or slow and meticulously they went about their embellishment. A simple collection of markers, crayons and a plain white butterfly cut-out generated an astounding variety of finished products.
  4. The children also had a chance to indulge their scientific curiosity as they experimented with the balance scale. Some were satisfied with a quick demonstration while others expanded the range of possibilities by adding crayons, markers, and other objects to the scale.
Would you like to make your own balancing butterfly? Instructions for many variations can be found on the Internet. The key points are to use card stock or lightweight cardboard (like from a cereal box) to make a symmetrical shape with wings that extend forward of head of the butterfly (or bird, or other symmetrical creature), and attach weights such as coins or metal washers to the front tips of the wings. A toothpick taped to the underside of the cut-out helped us support the body of the butterfly.

Finally, the library has many books about butterflies, symmetry and equilibrium. Surely there are a few that you and your child would enjoy! You can find them by visiting mysapl.org.

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