As part of its spring break programming, and as an extension of Science Club, the Harker Heights Public Library and children’s librarian Amanda Hairston brought a very cool program to area children on Wednesday afternoon called “The Science of Jenga.”
This program, while teaching basic engineering concepts, had a little something for every one of the almost four dozen children in attendance.
“This is a newer program,” Hairston said. “We talk a little about how Jenga was created, what the word “Jenga” means, how many pieces it has, and basic engineering concepts such as force of gravity, determining load, foundations and strong bases, and earthquake forces, and we’ll talk about materials used when building. And then we’ll play … this will be fun.”
Hairston began the lesson with a question: “What is the most popular board game in the world?” The answer is Monopoly. The second most popular board game is Scrabble, and the third most popular game, worldwide, is Jenga.
She then gave the gathered children some Jenga facts, which would be the basis for the rest of the afternoon’s lesson.
Created in the 1980s, Jenga was conceived by a British woman who had been born and raised in Kenya; the word “Jenga” actually means “build” in Swahili. The game has 54 wooden pieces which are stacked three across and 18 levels high, andrelies on balance and gravity.
Hairston’s next question, “Who is ready for more science?” prompted Science Club regular Melanie Tjaden to raise her hand up high, and the engineering concepts began in earnest.
Hairston discussed loads — dead loads (for instance, the beams and dry wall in a building), live loads (for instance, the people in a building), and dynamic loads (live loads that occur with great force, for instance, hurricanes or earthquakes).
Then she discussed foundations, this time with a visual. She had two children from the audience each test a different table, which had small versions of Jenga set up on them.
The first was a rather rickety card table, and the Jenga game fell right over; the second was a more stable rectangular table, and while the Jenga game stayed upright, it still wobbled.
Then she pointed to the floor. “The floor is the best foundation,” she explained. “It’s the sturdiest; it’s not going anywhere.”
After a bit of Jenga trivia, Hairston enlisted help from her audience members in setting up a giant Jenga game.
One by one, children took turns taking out the pieces until finally, the structure fell (due to its size, it fell with quite a crash). Then all the children were turned loose to take turns at the three different stations, two of the regular-sized Jenga games, and the one with the giant Jenga.
Nine-year-old Alexandro Alvarez was here from Houston visiting his grandmother, Carmen Flores of Killeen, for the week.
He said, “My grandmother told me about the library’s events and I looked it up on the website.” He not only got to help in the foundation exercise, he also helped with the initial giant Jenga demonstration.
Alexandro said he had a lot of fun, and expressed surprise when he found out he had been learning engineering concepts all along. After trying both the regular-sized and giant Jengas, he said, “I liked the big one the best.”