Science - KaBOOM! News

What do babies and scientists have in common? According to Laura Schulz, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, they both go through “a systematic process of forming hypotheses and testing them based on observed evidence.”

Though child’s play is naturally compatible with scientific exploration, the United States is failing to nurture its little scientists. We rank 23rd in science among developed countries, diminishing our ability to compete in the global marketplace. 

We obsess over test scores, but we should really be encouraging more students like Lauren Rojas (pictured above), a seventh grader in Antioch, Calif., who set out to test the effects of altitude on air pressure and temperature for her science fair project. And what better way to do that than to launch a homemade “rocket” into space using a do-it-yourself balloon kit?

Lauren added her own creative touches to the balloon, fashioning a shiny rocket structure that included a Hello Kitty pilot. "I liked her ever since I was 6 years old," Lauren told the New York Daily News. "My love for Hello Kitty has never gone away and I thought it would be really fun to add a toy inside the rocket." The doll got quite a ride, reaching an altitude of nearly 18 miles. As the balloon expanded to 53 times larger than its original size at takeoff, it eventually burst open, landing in a tree 47.5 miles from the launch sight.

You can watch the journey here:

Lauren was named one of four top award winners at her science fair and will go on to compete in a regional competition. While she learned an unforgettable science lesson on altitude, air pressure, and temperature, we stand to learn a valuable lesson too. Child’s play is not a ‘frivolous’ activity that distracts from ‘weighty’ subjects like science and math. Rather, it is a core component that we must nurture from pre-K to high school—and beyond.

Photo via Contra Costa Times.

How do you recreate the value of playing with sticks and dirt? When it comes to playing, industrial designer Cas Holman admits, "You really can't beat letting kids play in nature." But that hasn’t stopped her from trying.

The Workyard Kit, Holman’s latest invention, riffs on the idea that “play is children’s work.” Consisting of wooden planks, ropes, pulleys, hooks and pails, the kit is designed for deeply engaging, open-ended play. Or, as Holman puts it: "cooperative, constructive imagining."

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

A key creative force behind Imagination Playground, Holman was approached by Friends of the Highline and asked to come up with a way to engage families and kids in New York City’s High Line  Park, which converted an old railroad into green space. She wanted to take advantage of the narrow park’s many nooks and crannies and harness its industrial spirit.

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Photo by Joan Garvin, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

And so the Workyard Kit was born. Seeing its success, Holman realized that the kit could have potential beyond The High Line and set about designing it for mass production.
The kit is currently being tested at a number of pilot schools around the country, where Holman hopes it can enhance STEM curricula. In fact, Holman says, STEM should really be STEAM, because without an ‘A’ for ‘art,’ how can children flex the creative muscles they need to excel in science, technology, engineering and math?

The Workyard Kit has no “right” solution. It’s not a puzzle. It’s designed for open-ended prompts that help children think spatially, use their imaginations, and work collaboratively. Examples include:

  • With these parts, how can you make something that would hold a 10-pound bag of potatoes?
  • How can you make something that would fly to the moon?
  • What can you build with 10 parts?

Left photo by Rowa Lee, right photo by Adriana Stimola. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

If we here at KaBOOM! got our way, every classroom would have a Workyard Kit and every schoolyard would have an Imagination Playground. Because when it comes to true learning, hands-on, creative, collaborative play beats a standardized test any day of the week.


Cas Holman teaches Industrial Design at Rhode Island School for Design and is part of its STEM to STEAM initiative. For more information about the Workyard Kit and to learn about a backyard version, visit To see Cas Holman’s other projects, visit To find the Workyard Kit on the High Line, visit

"If we don't let our children play, who will be the next Steve Jobs?" Last year our CEO & Founder Darell Hammond posed this question in his Huffington Post blog. Judging from the nearly 25,000 readers who shared the post via social media, clearly some other folks are wondering, too.

Well, we just may have found him. Audri, the seven-year-old featured in this video, has built his very own "Monster Trap," similar in concept to the mouse trap in the popular board game of the same name -- except way cooler.

As Dr. Alison Gopnik aptly noted in a recent presentation at our annual Play Academy, "The point of play is not getting the right answers, it's getting all the wrong answers." Audri seems to intuitively understand this, remarking of his contraption: "I think it will have 10 to 20 failures and two successes. That's my hypothesis."

See if Audri's hypothesis proved correct: