Quick Bit of History (for those who want some): As far as I can go back through my bookshelves, it was written up as 'Half Pipe' in Karl Rohnke's FUNN STUFF, Volume 2 in 1996. Karl gives credit for this 'move-a-marble-from-point-A-to-point-B-using-PVC-piping' activity to Larry Brown who shared it with Karl around 1981. (Cutting the PVC tubing in half appears to be Karl's idea?) When Karl bumped into Larry in the mid-90s, he shared with Karl that he added a version with different sized marbles "to represent different kinds of metaphorical problems at home or in the workplace." Materials Move plays off of Larry's idea (and I didn't even know it!).
Quick Prop Note: Cutting PVC tubing in half is not for everyone (this usually involves a table saw with a fine-tooth blade, steady hands and a brave soul - and, if you do this, wear a mask to prevent breathing in PVC dust. Apparently this dust is not good for you!). There are lots of vendors that will sell you 'half-pipes' - Training Wheels has a marvelous colorful set. You can also use the full PVC tubes (not cut in half). The big-box hardware stores sell 10-foot lengths of PVC tubing you can cut up with a PVC cutter (it looks like a pair of scissors). Options: You can use pool noodles as shown in my favorite variation above. I've also used paper towel and toilet paper rolls as 'marble-tubes' and spent time with groups personalizing the tubes with colorful markers. And, check out the corner molding in THIS 'Bridges and Traits' version (scroll to the bottom of the post). All you need is a handsaw to cut the molding.
The set up (above) for this one involves four buckets. (I'm a big fan of buckets!!) Other containers, of course, can work as well. There is a center 'Destination' bucket and three 'Warehouse' buckets. Each Warehouse bucket contains three different kinds of material. (See right.) When I came up with this variation I had small bouncy balls, medium sized plastic (hollow light-weight) golf balls and tennis balls on hand. So, that's what I used.
NOTE: Of course you can use other resources you have on hand like marbles, real golf balls, pool balls or baseballs. What I like about the light-weight plastic golf balls is that they are very susceptible to wind - the wind can blow them right off the tracks! A problem to solve.
You will also need one 'half-pipe' (channel, gutter, tube) for each person in your group.
After the story, I share the 'rules':
- To limit transportation damage, if you are moving supplies your feet must be stationary - you may not move your feet if you are in contact with supplies. If a foot moves, all supplies in contact with the person who has moved must be returned to the nearest warehouse for damage assessment before it can be transported again.
So far with every group I've observed (5 groups so far) during this planning and practice time, they've divided into three groups, each working on how to move one of the different supplies - 'skill specialty' is not a bad approach, but it has its limits, so they've found. One group, I recall, actually did decide that everyone should practice moving each of the different supplies, but not everyone took the time to do so. (In the end, practicing with each supply - using best practice ideas - would have been beneficial.)
After the planning and practice, I prepped everyone for the 'seven-minute' move. I ask for any last questions, reiterated some of the rules (e.g., "you can only touch your resource") and then said, "GO!", starting the timer. I then monitor the rules for compliance. (Or, let them hold themselves accountable if you want to focus on this objective.) After seven minutes I said, "Stop!"
- Groups realized they did not use their 'practice' time well. They spent far too much time talking and not enough time 'doing' in order to get data on their skill development.
- Moving the water (on the backs of the resources) is the most challenging task - it takes the longest time to get to the village. This was not identified by any of the groups during planning and practice. Reallocating group members to this task, they discovered, would have been helpful.
- Groups also determined, after the attempt, that learning 'best practices' from other small groups would have helped them integrate and help other groups still working on moving a particular supply. For example, the food was the easiest/fastest to move. Integrating into another group's process took valuable time - group members, the food-movers, had to learn how to help the other groups.
- Groups determined, too late, that they allocated more personnel than they needed at first for their supply movement. In other words, if people were waiting for any length of time to move a supply (e.g., moving the food), they actually could have been more help with another group (e.g., moving the water).
- (My Favorite Insight) Some people in all the groups I've been with admitted they avoided the most difficult task (moving the water) because there was more failure involved - working with another person to move the water took more coordination and often resulted in more drops and restarts. This brings up the idea of 'doing the hard work first' so it will be less stressful (in most cases) towards the end of task when the easier things remain.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.