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Stickin' Up for Structures

 

Today's Snack: The skin of a baked potato is the "structure" for a snack! Since we're studying structures, it's fitting that we try a Mexican Potato. First, scrub a medium baking potato under running water. Poke it with a fork a few times. Put it on a plate and microwave it on high for seven or eight minutes. Poke the fork in again; it should slide in and out easily. If not, put it back in for another couple of minutes. When it has cooled a little, slice it in half and save the top half for tomorrow's snack. Mash the other half around, inside its structure, the potato skin. Now top it with two tablespoons of salsa. You can sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese on top, too. Eat the whole thing, skin and all!

 

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Supplies:

 

Paper and pencil

Craft sticks

Toothpicks

Sugar cubes

Cardboard or plywood for a base

Glue

Tape

 

 

Structure is the way that the parts of anything that's built come together to take form. Structure is what gives shape and organization to things. There are structures all over our world.

 

Your skeleton is the structure for your body.

 

The way a football team lines up around the ball - where everybody stands -- is its offensive or defensive structure for that play.

 

Your classroom rules give you structure for proper behavior: don't talk while the teacher's talking, don't chew gum, and if you forget your assignment notebook you'll have to stay in from recess. You can probably add many more rules that add to that structure.

 

A tall, sturdy stem is the structure that supports a flower, and makes the flower attractive and available to insects flying by.

 

Similarly, different kinds of music come in different kinds of structures: a hip-hop song has a certain kind of rhythm that makes it different from a polka or a jazz improvisational piece, while a symphony usually has three completely different movements. You can't see those structures, but they are certainly there, and "shape" the way the music sounds.

 

All music is made up of the same notes that we can hear. But it is the different structures within which those notes sound that can make different pieces of music so vastly different.

 

Structure helps us understand the past in many ways. Geology, the study of rocks and the Earth, consists of scientists looking at a lot of structures to understand how mountains were formed, how pools of oil were collected, and so on. The more we understand how the structures came together, the more we can understand how to use our natural resources wisely, and maintain the beauty of the Earth.

 

Also in science, the structure of molecules reveals how atoms come together and you can understand different substances.

 

And in another example, your set of friends is your social structure - within that circle is where you hang out, have fun and feel comfortable.

 

But, to be realistic, when most people think of the word "structure," they think of something manmade:

 

A building

 

A bridge

 

A dam

 

A parking garage

 

A stadium

 

A hospital

 

A college campus

 

Are you thinking of even more structures? There are many, many, and structures have different functions within them, that make them more useful to people. There are quite a few things to think about when you consider the design of a structure, too.

 

Of course, you want a structure to be strong so that it'll stay standing.

 

And you want it to fulfill its purpose, so it has to be planned out, and built, to do the things that it was meant to do. For example, you wouldn't design a movie theatre with the seats facing away from the screen instead of toward it. That wouldn't be a successful structure for the purpose of the building, which is to watch movies.

 

Now, we've all built with toy blocks, and that's fun. We "build as you go." We don't plan anything out.

 

But in the grown-up world, we can't do that. We have to plan!

 

For instance, the taller the structure is going to be, the heavier it will be, and the more likely it might topple unless it is supported. A key way to support a building is to have a deep, strong foundation.

 

Look at nature: the tallest plants, like trees and prairie grasses, have the deepest and widest root systems. That's to anchor them in place, in case of high winds and so forth.

 

Also with structures, the heavier the material that you use for the roof, the more vertical columns there have to be, to hold up that heavy roof.

 

The more weight, from walls and roof, that the joints and corners have to hold up, the stronger they have to be.

 

And if you need the inside of a building to stay cool, you'd better watch out on including too many windows. How many indoor ice skating rinks have large picture windows and skylights? Not many, because that sunlight will pour in and warm up the air, making it more expensive to keep the ice frozen.

 

So there's a lot to think about, with structures. But the main rule, architects say, is this one:

 

"Form follows function."

 

That means when you plan a building, you should think hard about how it is going to be used - how people will interact with it, and make things in it, or do certain things.

 

So now it's time for you to think about a structure that you would like to plan, and then build with craft sticks and such.

 

What will be its function? Its purpose? What it's for?

 

You can be silly and creative - you don't have to design and build a structure that you really think might be built, in real life. Then again, look at your supply of craft sticks, and figure out that you might not have enough to build a 30-story skyscraper. So try to match your plan to the supplies you have on hand.

 

Draw out your structure, give it a name, list its purpose or how it'll be used. Go ahead and erase and re-draw until you are happy with your sketch.

 

Then build it, on a sturdy base . . . and show it off to friends within the "structure" of a party!

 

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.AfterSchoolTreats.com Building 06 2008

 

 

 

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