Marble Machines is one of our tried and true tinkering studio activities, but we are constantly experimenting to figure out the best way to take this venerable workshop activity and make it run smoothly on the museum floor. We went through several iterations in the prototype space in the palace of fine arts and have lived with a version in our new home for a little more than a year. After reflecting on our current environment as a group, we've started to enter a phase of revisions, hoping to make some small and large tweaks to the space to enhance the opportunities for visitors to have the best possible experience.
The first thing that we've been looking at is the shape of the room. While there is plenty of space for building, we've noticed that the narrow angle of the walls makes for some very cramped areas with little room for facilitators to get involved with visitors.
At our old studio, we favored a set-up with more open angles which could allow for more chances for facilitators to interact with people building in the space and let visitors be a little bit more comfortable as they are getting involved in the activity.
Another thing that we've noticed is that the scale of our current iteration is quite large and there is a lot of under-utilized space at the top of the board. We've been wondering if shrinking the tall walls might make for a more intimate and cozy space. We want to strike the right balance, because another goal is to have an immersive space.
A question mark we've had since the first version of the exhibit on the museum floor is if we should have a space set aside for parents and guardians to sit while their kids play at the marble boards. On one hand we want to encourage adults to get involved with the activity, but on the other hand we know that the activity takes a while and that giving parents a comfortable place to rest makes it more likely that the kids will stay and play for a longer period of time.
Taking all the ideas into consideration, as a first attempt to reconfigure the space, we brought in a couple large pieces of pegboard wall and used them to create a shape more like a marble fort. This was a quick adjustment that we could make and get the space back up and running as soon as possible. For now we covered up some of the pegboard, thinking that less space in total might lead to more focused building. So far it seems to feel a bit nicer to work in this configuration.
Something that we still need to work on is how to store and organize the materials. We have two wooden carts that we've been using since the PFA but they are usually empty and people do not naturally put the materials away. Some strategies that we may think about are creating a ledge around the board for materials to fall or constructing multiple locations for material storage somewhere closer to where people are working.
I like that even with an activity that is fairly well developed, we are constantly tinkering with the environment and materials. Some other things that we will continue to experiment with include providing experienced for younger kids, inspirational examples, and ways of incorporating the space into the rest of the gallery. Stay tuned for more marble machine updates.