What you need:
- Fort building options (for example: blankets, sheets, pillows, clothespins, brooms, furniture).
- A box fan with blades covered. Adult supervision recommended!
- Use furniture, blankets, and other materials to create a fort to fit the entire family!
- Check out Fort Building 101 for tips!
- Include a fan on one side of your structure. Use the air to expand the area within your structure.
- Don’t forget forces! A sheet has to have equal forces pulling on it for it to stay in place as your roof. This includes air that is pushing against your structure.
Ways to expand:
- What happens if you put two fans into the fort? Does anything change?
- Find a few light materials like paper, a feather, balloon, or leaf. What happens when you let it go inside your air fort? Does it remain in one place?
What kids learn:
- They experiment! When kids experiment, they're learning how to learn. Failure is an important part of experimenting, so let kids try things that won’t work. It’s how they figure things out!
- Basic engineering skills. Engineers solve problems with constraints, in this case, limited materials and space. They learn to solve problems by using the engineering design process: asking questions, coming up with solutions, building, testing and improving.
- Fort-building is a great lesson in force. Kids tend to spend a lot of time figuring out how to keep their roof from slipping off one side of the fort or the other. If a roof isn’t equally supported on both sides putting even force on the sheet, it won’t stay put. Adding airflow to the fort creates new challenges.
- Spatial or visual thinking. Being able to imagine the positions of objects and how they interact is an important skill for learning math. Asking if the fort is big enough for a grownup to stand up in encourages spatial thinking.
- Force. Energy caused by a push or a pull. In this case, force is the energy caused by the pull created by gravity and other supports on the roof of your fort!
- Constraint. A limitation or restriction. Materials, time, and space are common constraints. Real engineers have to work around constraints all the time!