Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Many Arches

This is from a design (illustration 5.3) in my current favorite book: Exploring Learning : Young Children and Blockplay
A little girl is described as spending several days exploring what she could do with just two Unit Block shapes, and three drawings scattered through the book indicate that she is devoting herself to the Roman Arch (sometimes known as the "unit arch") and the Half Arch.

The mixed designs show her using 16 Roman Arches and several half arches. This design shows 20 Roman Arches, which I think is an error: from other discussions in the book, I think that there were only 16 Roman Arches available - 8 each from two large unit block sets that were mixed together. My guess is that some or all of the lateral pieces in the lower part of the design (yellow blocks in my reconstruction) were half arches, and the artist creating the ink drawing from the rough sketch misinterpreted.

It is a lovely design, surely even more attractive with the proper arch proportions providing an opening exactly one-half the length, with one-quarter length bases at each side. My blocks, combining smaller, cheaper sets, have the opening too wide and "feet" too narrow, so the proportions suffer, especially in the side lobes at the top, which should not overlap.

A big question for choosing block sets is "how many pieces?" Which breaks down into "how many different pieces?" and "how many of each piece?" We can't help but wonder what this child would have done with a few more, or many more, roman arches instead of 16 (or 20).

On the other hand, it is often in the struggle against limitations that creativity blossoms best.

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