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Storytelling meets engineering in Dover

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On August 3, the Dover Town Library hosted a Storybook Engineering event, during which visitors were challenged to build a chair suitable for Baby Bear from the popular fairytale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Liz, the Storybook Engineering instructor, told a modern day version of “Goldilocks” with prosody, keeping the children entertained despite their already knowing the story. However, Liz added an extended ending to the story, which traditionally ends with Goldilocks running away from the bears’ home and never returning to the forest again. In this extended story, Goldilocks runs home to her mother and confesses that she has sneaked into the bears’ home, eaten their porridge, broken Baby Bear’s chair, and taken a nap in one of the beds. To mend her wrongdoings, Goldilocks decides to build Baby Bear a new chair.

The Storybook Engineering participants were eager to take on the task of building the chair for Goldilocks.

The challenge also required that the chair be strong enough to hold a half-pound bag of flour, which was adorned with a yellow tissue paper wig and a smiley face to look like Goldilocks. To build Baby Bear a new chair that could support the flour Goldilocks, the children could choose from a variety of materials, including pipe cleaners, paper cups, straws, construction and copy paper, popsicle sticks, and felt. Masking tape and scissors were set up on the tables before Liz told the story, so that the participants could get straight to work. Ideas immediately began flowing to some of the children as they raced to the supplies table to grab their chair-building materials.

Many of the successful chairs used paper cups for the legs of the chair, followed by some kind of platform on top to hold Goldilocks for the test. Some even used felt to upholster their chairs, making sure Baby Bear would be both comfortable and stylish in his new seat.

Nine-year-old Renée, who is already considering a career in engineering, chose to tape the ends of the paper cups together to make the chair legs and added a felt-covered board of popsicle sticks to the top to make a tall stool for Goldilocks. Meanwhile, six-year-old Sabrina and her four-year-old sister, Ariana, chose to create a different style chair, which included a backrest.

For the participants who were able to create a chair to hold Goldilocks, Liz challenged them to build another without using any of the paper cups. Although the children were excited to take on a harder task, time constraints for the session did not allow them to finish a second chair for Goldilocks.

When one girl’s design could not quite hold up the weight of Goldilocks, Liz made some suggestions as to how she could modify the chair to make it more stable. After a few additions to the design, Goldilocks could sit comfortably on top of the chair. “This is what real engineering is all about,” said Liz to the girl. “You found a place in your chair that didn’t work and you found a way to fix it.”

The Storybook Engineering activity was certainly well received by both the parents and children in attendance. It allowed the kids to harness some of their creativity and resourcefulness to imagine and build a successful design.

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