It all started with a bear on a unicycle. As one of the activities for this month's toy theme, the classic "Ernest the Bear" inspired us to work with visitors, helping them create their own balancing toys. We first spent some time messing about with ribbon spools, washers, and wire to create Ernest-like pieces that could travel up and down a length of string. After a few afternoons in our workshop heading down that road, we decided as a group that it would be more fruitful to simplify the goals and focus on building stationary balancing objects with corks, wire, feathers, puff balls, washers and other assorted materials.
For the Open:Make event, Sebastian and Antonio built a beautiful organic wooden sculpture so that people could place their own balancing objects on a special perch and leave them there to inspire others. We liked how visitors could easily have a feeling of quick success in getting something to balance. But many others made their toys more complicated both with small adjustments that affected stability as well as by adding personalized elements to their creations.
We tried the activity one more time out on the floor the next week. This time, we added some of the leftover fingerlings from the DIY potato head machine to the materials set. On an afternoon without all the distractions of the other open:make activities, people spent a longer amount of time, making even more complicated balancing sculptures with decorations on both the bases and the weights.
As we continue to work on this new activity, I'm interested in exploring different types of designs (maybe emulating the plastic toy bird that balances on it's beak), expanding the material set and finding interesting ways to display the creations in the tinkering studio for a longer period. We'll keep playing around with this idea in the last few days of the month of toy explorations and hopefully beyond.