Friday, 1 June 2018

The story of a tower...

This is just a quick post in response to a question asked in the group The Reggio Emilia Approach that I am admin for on Facebook..
what started out as a way to help a person discover that there were years of inspiration and experience available in the group if the search function was used has turned into an interest in towers of my own... this is probably due to the fact that since I was a very young child I have loved castles and ruins and history in general...

So looking at everyone elses experiences, provocations and inspiration I started getting more curious about what IS a tower... and started to look at the history of the tower - and discovered that a tower has many purposes... for visibility (clock towers), for protection (watch towers) for hunting (observation towers) for support (bridges) to transmit (electricity, satellite) to access (climate, air) to expel (chimneys) to cool (cooling towers at power plants) for play (climbing towers) for art (yep, some are built for this purpose too) to store (water towers etc)... and there are more

Some places like San Gimignano in Italy towers were about status (I have wonderful memories being here and eating the most amazing meal just outside the walls... but no I digress)

So when we want to create a project or a provocation to explore towers we, as educators, need to think about what it is the children are exploring... is it design, is it the start of play (I worked with a  group of children that were very clear with me that when they were building towers and castles they were not playing (even if it looked like play to me) but that they were preparing the scene for play) - or maybe it is about status... about how high that tower can get?

Maybe it is about exploring how to knock down the towers, rather than building the towers...
about creating towers big enough and stable enough to put things on... a toy, or maybe even a child...
how are the towers going to be built?
Does the teacher allow them to build towers in order to reach the top of the original tower? or introduce a step ladder? Does the teacher offer advice, or wait for them to work it out for themselves... is it about team work or individual effort? How are other play opportunities linking to the interest in towers... do you read books about towers, or where towers are featured - like Rapunzel... how do the children feel about this tower... is it a place of safety or a prison...
would they like to live in a tower?
Are there any towers in the town/village where they live - have they been up this tower... is it even possible to go up that tower? why is that tower there?

Do towers look different depending on their function? Are there good towers, or evil towers? If a evil person built a tower how would it look, if a good person built a tower how would it look... why do the children think there are these differences...

There are free standing towers, towers that are a part of a wall or a building...
Do all castles have towers? Do all walls have towers?
What shape are towers?
Ziqqurats were the first towers... and even inspired the pyramids... does this mean that a pyramid is a kind of tower?




some inspiration...
plusplus and blocks

stop motion filing to observe how towers are built...

slow motion to observe how towers fall - and here too

using a tower to gain height... helping each other on to it...
there are many towers of different kinds in playspaces

snow tower

lighting them up

step ladder as a tower... to jump from... a different purpose for the tower - not to build but to fly

designing towers on paper in various materials - with various kinds of images to support ideas

using paper and tape to create towers

towers of air to explore
more paper towers

various materials in various sizes... and then the lighting can also change how you build

creating towers to make shadows

exploring light and shows on towers... so the tower is a source of exploration...

mini tower... exploring light down the tower, behind and in front etc etc

using bowls to build towers... what else can you build towers with

thinking about mixing transparent and solid in towers to explore light... exploring balance


ice as a building material... naturally occurring in freezing winters... otherwise a great way to cool down in hot summers


using natural materials

trying to get towers to be the same height

colourful towers... using light materials outside, the risk of them being blown over... the children will need some problem solving skills

stone building, can you stack to a certain height EXACTLY?

how to check if you have got it the right height....

playdough towers with other materials...

magnetic towers

a city of towers... we actually had to stop using old CDs as we had children who started playing with CDs and DVDs etc at home and destroying them accidentally... this is NOT always the case, but we have to respond to the needs of the children and families we work with...

stacking cans... is it easier with or without filling them with water...  should they be full of half full... lots of strategies to try out

stone stacking on a mini scale

towers of wood

young children building big with empty moving boxes

and the joy to knock them over... time and time and time again... turn taking, collaboration

testing how tall it will go...

using a window as support

a wall with towers...

visiting real towers... this is a Roman tower in the City of York, UK

visiting castles and palaces... to discover not all DO have towers... and drawing observations - so still cannot move away from the idea that castle needs towers, even when the reality in front of them has none.

more paper towers... sometimes we built them with just tape

can you re-construct a tower you built before based on a photograph? and later build a tower you have not built before based on a photograph... the idea being with only one perspective it is hard... a focus on team work and interpretation

visiting towers...

a tower of light... using photography to create light towers...

children documenting their own tower builds... in normal time filming, and also in stop motion.


This is far from everything that can be done with tower building... but hopefully triggers some ideas of your own...

do you want to see how high? - why not look into different forms of measuring (look into how mountains used to be measured)
Do you want to explore the use of towers, or the design, or the stories that can be created using towers?
Are the children interested in competing about how high they can build... where does the need for competition come from, will they be able to get higher if they work together...
How many different materials can they build with... can they draw a design, then build the design and then draw a version of their construction? Does the final drawing look like their first design? Why, why not, what changes did they need to make, and why?

use film or light (technology) to explore towers and their properties

work with gravity... water, air...

I will leave you there with your thoughts...

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