Learning the Basics of Zome Tool Through Free Exploration

zt-education-logoZome Tool is a unique building material.  It was totally new to both me and the school last year.  Honestly, we didn’t get our first kit until nearly the end of the school year and I only had the chance to explore it with the fourth grade students.  I had zero experience with it and so had they.  Together we explored and this year I knew that I would be looking forward to even greater exploration with my younger students.  Their website has a TON of resources for educators! I do take exception to one of their images that states: “You once outgrew blocks, now go beyond bricks.”  To me and to educators everywhere, there is no such thing as outgrowing blocks, or bricks.  In fact, one of the most important elements I had in my 9-10 year old student’s classroom was the blocks.  They modeled everything from cities to room designs.  You can NEVER outgrow blocks or bricks.  You CAN add a new tool, and that’s what I did with Zome Tool.

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The first thing we realized when I introduced this to second graders is that the pieces are far more fragile than K’Nex or Lego or other building tools. (I just discovered that Zometool will replace all broken parts for free!) The ‘hub’ is also a bit of a puzzle to figure out.  Each color piece has a unique shape at the end that is the connection to the hub.  Once we understood the two basic rules of Zome Tool, the whole process seemed to go more smoothly.

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These simple rules work well for just about any kind of building tool, from Lego to K’Nex!  I started by showing the kids some images to get them excited.

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Their response was precious.  As each subsequent and more complex image was shown on the screen, their audible gasp grew.  When they saw the image of the man inside the Zome Tool structure they were so excited they could barely stand it.  The room size sculpture totally blew their mind.  They were so eager to get started I could see them slowly moving toward the tools!  With the simple cube on the screen behind them, they began building.

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I let the students keep their structures intact at the end of their class.  They used the iPad to put a photo of their project into their Seesaw portfolio at the end of class.  The classes that came afterward added on to the structures of the students who came before them.

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At the end of the classes I asked the kids what they thought:

“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

“It was fun trying to see if you could fill each hole on the hub with a different piece.”

“The structures are super complex!”

“It was really fun building on to other’s structures.”

“I’m glad we added them to our Seesaw portfolio so that we could ‘keep’ our structure.”

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I’m glad we bought the kits.  I think they were a tremendous success.  I received a grant to explore Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic creations and I am looking forward to purchasing twenty Bucky Ball Kits to haves the students explore making geodesic domes.

I think out students took to the tool naturally.  They have a history of working with unit blocks, Lego and Froebel Blocks as well.

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It will be fascinating to see how the older students experience this learning tool.  I am sure they will build magnificent things too!

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