Explore what it takes to make a top by building your own spinning creation. The simple act of joining a stem to a base can get amazingly complex with the additions of extra arms, washers used as weights, and whimsical decorations. Our tops are made with dowels, skewer sticks, pipe cleaners, marbles, plastic containers and other common objects. Each one looks a little bit different and spins a little bit different.
Why We like It
What are the qualities that we value in this activity?
Goals/tasks that build on prior interests or knowledge
Almost everyone has played with a toy top sometime in their childhood and has experienced the simple joy of the spinning motion. This gives people a shared history with the object they are creating and an innate understanding of how a top works. Constructing your own top allows you to more fully appreciate the beauty and simplicity of one of the world’s oldest toys.
STEM content is a means not an end
Building a top gives the maker direct experience with creating balance, finding an axis, gyroscopic forces, and angular momentum. But these complicated topics manifest themselves in clear observations, because the learner can see how long the top spins for and how much it wobbles.
Strengthening understanding and purpose through reflection
Visitors will often spend equal time building and some time testing their creations. Through watching homemade tops and other examples, participants can build an understanding of what makes different tops behave differently and how to affect those changes. The playful reflective space allows people to form new questions and develop individual strategies for solving them.