Teaching with flexibility of mind…connections to Rube Goldberg

Thanks again to Dr. Elaine Decker who came to work with us last night. She began by introducing Rube Goldberg-like machines.

Elaine explained that imagination is key to working with children and getting the most out of life!

Each person in the group put the name of one household item on a small piece of paper. After groups were randomly created each group was given 4 of the pieces of paper and had to include those 4 items in their illustration of a Rube Goldberg machine where the goal was to toast a slide of bread (whole wheat or gluten free, take your pick).

I walked around and picked up pieces of conversation over the hour as the participants worked with one another.

So the mouse will come out…
And the hammer will hit the computer….

(groans…how awful).

Then the pot is upside down on the counter with a slinky on top….
But we haven’t got to it, where is this paper coming in?
Couldn’t the book be something not bound?
Maybe just let’s scrap the paper idea.
We could toast the bread on the TV if the TV gets overheated.
It’ll have to be lying down.

(laughter…good point).

So, the window with the bird…
It would be funny if the toast lands on the burner and then something has to turn it so we’ll need something to turn it over.

(roaring laughter).

What do you think about pulling the cup with water and then the liquid pours on something and then the energy lifts something else.
Does that mean there’s string attached.
How’s that?
Does she trip or something?

Laughter….Oh I sure hope not, well, maybe as long as she doesn’t get hurt (more laughter).

My idea is that there is a box and a window and then it hits the swing and then the tree and then the chair and then the water and then the boat

(WHAT boat? Laughter).

Let’s not have the top of the box. Instead of the spring we can put the thing on top of the spring thing. That’s a LOT of things!

(hand gestures showing a lot of winding going on responded to with laughter).

Elaine pops in to the various groups.
Did you make a decision?
You can add anything!

Something’s going to happen there with something sharp (knife or scissors)…oh it’s to cut the string.
So we have 20 things to put in our drawing.
Let’s fix it. Do have an eraser or… here’s a black marker.
You can do it. OK. I can try
Yes, that’s much better.
Now I think we can draw the little bread.
I like this (laughter)
I grew up with cats but I don’t know if I have ever seen a cat do THAT!

We have this elegant idea that the toast could be on a tetherball post, it’s wound at the top but how to unwind it. A bird will come…but we need a trigger. The bird will be in a cage and the cage will be opened (laughter…stops them from rationalizing).

….We’re going to explain it anyways so it won’t matter.

Continues…but we know cats like to chase birds to so that could start it; as long as the birds aren’t the babies. It’ll have to be the mother.

(back to the group trying to toast the other side of the bread) Something is going to bump the back of the bread. Maybe a box of cereal or a can ..let’s draw it first and then we can see where to go next.

Image of rube goldberg machine

making the Rube Goldberg machine

Question: Why is this kind of work important?

 Answer. We need to use flexibility when in difficult situations and we can practice these in all sorts of ways.  It’s like when the children play “Let’s pretend” or “What If?” games and then this is like forming hypotheses in research. It’s all about opening our minds to ways of doing things and releasing yourself from criticism.


From working in early childhood

  • When did you last get completely immersed in your imagination?
  • What ways do you hear the group members collaborating? Does your team collaborate in this manner?
  • How much laughter do you have each day?
  • How often do you congratulate your team members on something they have contributed to the delights in your day?
  • How do you bring your personal experiences into your work and have them celebrated?
Recent Posts