Last weekend I found myself in a hardware store with my husband, and not just any hardware store but one that focused on tools for customers who knew what they were looking for (few items had instructions on their packaging).
We spent some time on the welding aisle. It was amazing! There were so many objects from floor level to all the way overhead, whose purposes were a mystery to me. It was fascinating.
There was something called a “Chipping Hammer” that had a spiral metal wire handle with a rod and a hunk of wood located at its end. Pointing upward from the wood were bristles like on a hairbrush, only they were made of metal. Protruding from the end of the “hairbrush” base was what looked like a hatchet blade. Hmmm. It got me thinking. What is this used for? What could I imagine it to be used for? What would some space alien, coming upon it, hypothesize it was used for?
There was a welding helmet shaped and painted like a skull with silver teeth and a rectangle where its eyes should be and a cool 24 inch magnetic claw that I know a bunch of third graders could have a lot of fun with. It had a spring powered handle at the top and a bright orange casing that held two little magnets at the bottom and from which emerged a little metal spider-hand when the handle was activated.
Suddenly it hit me. What a great family field trip this would make. You could go to a store that sells things you know nothing about (a farm machinery or tractor parts warehouse, an auto shop, or craft store). Each person should take a piece of paper and something to support it for writing, a pen or pencil for taking notes, and if you wish, an eraser and color pencils for drawing your finds.
Each person should select an object. (You might want to choose an aisle to focus on so you won’t have to split up.) Each person should take notes describing their object, speculating on its uses. Then go somewhere you can sit down and write. Each person can write a catalogue description of their object, including a physical description and instructions for how they think it is to be used, or a short story, script or chapter of a novel showing their object in use in some meaningful way.
Then, of course, share your masterpieces with each other. Read aloud and praise one another, specifically highlighting where each person’s writing really shines.