Blowing Down Cities


Development can only take place when children are actively involved, when they are occupied with a high, non stop degree of concentration, when they are interested, when they give themselves completely, when they use all all their mental abilities to invent and make new things and when this gives them a high degree of satisfaction and pleasure. – Ferre Laevers

The wind group set out to create cities out of three different materials, to then see if they could withhold wind from a fan, which represented cities in a hurricane or tornado.

First they used unit blocks. J made a skyscraper, M made a river under a bridge, P added trees, F made roads and sidewalks, and M made houses.

They predicted that the city made out of blocks would be blown down by wind. 

Then we used paper. M again made a river under a bride in addition to a dead tree next to the bridge, J added a house on top of the bridge which F declared was a boat house, M and F made sidewalks and roads.

They predicted the city made of paper would be blown down by wind. 


Last was clay. The clay was a bit wet and they had trouble manipulating it as well as the other two materials. They ended up making balls, stacking them, and saying they were bricks squished together to make a bridge over the water.

They predicted the clay would not be blown down by the wind, “because it’s so sticky.”

Finally came time to add wind! We brought the fan over to each built city, gave a count down, and then watched as each city was affected differently by the wind.

The clay, as expected, didn’t budge even a little bit. The paper, to everyone’s surprise, didn’t immediately blow away. The tall or stacked papers blew away on the lowest setting, the bridge collapsed on the second setting, but the sidewalks, river, and dead tree didn’t blow away until the strongest setting.

The blocks, didn’t budge even a little! Two cylinder blocks eventually rolled away once on the highest setting – the rest stayed perfectly still.

After we sat and talked about how hurricanes and tornadoes affect real cities, and the inhabitants of the cities.

Me: So we have built three model cities and saw how they were affected by wind. How would real cities be affected by hurricanes or tornadoes?

“Buildings would fall down and be broken into tiny pieces.”

“We would have to fix the city.”

“We have to build new building.”

“They can be very terrible.”

Me: How can we prepare our city for hurricanes and tornadoes?

“You have to make the buildings…strong…so so so so strong. So they can’t be knocked over.”

“You can’t go outside if there is a hurricane.”

“Yeah or you will get blown away.”

“They are very destructive.”

Me: What about animals? Can they prepare for hurricanes or tornadoes?

“No, because they don’t have a home.”

“Animals are okay in hurricanes. They just…just go away.”

“Or they die.”

“Yeah animals can die but they are probably won’t.”

Me: What about people who don’t have homes?

“Oh well they can just find someone with a home and say, ‘Hey can I stay with you?’ and then stay in their home until the hurricane is gone.”

“Yeah they can find a building to stay in, or people to live with them, or family. Family probably.”

Me: So of everyone who lives in a city, who is most affected by hurricanes and tornadoes?


“Yeah, children.”

Me: Why are kids the most affected?

“Because kids are little.”

“Because kids can’t know what the weather is.”

“Kids can’t prepare for hurricanes.”

“Or tornadoes. Or volcanoes.”

While I have been straddling a line of concrete vs abstract explorations of wind and wondering where this project work is heading, it feels important to lay down some anti-bias work in the foundation of this project. Weather impacts different groups of people very differently. Growing up in Florida, I saw this in practice. It was interesting, though not all that surprising, that they believe children are the most impacted by natural disasters. I wonder about following this thread, and finding ways to predict, track, and make actions plans for various weather related events. I can also imagine once we find ways to do so, to pass on daily or weekly or as needed weather reports to the other classrooms.



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