Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Interesting toy inspires lots of creative thought!

So I found this new toy in the Target Dollar Spot last night.  Turns out its not really a new toy, it's just "new-to-me."  It's called ZOOB.  And ever since I found it, I can't stop thinking about how I could use it in my classroom.

It seems I am constantly showing my students new applications of the idea that a molecule's shape influences its activity.  But since we can't readily SEE molecules, how can we even appreciate that they have shape?  We teachers usually compare molecular shape to things that CAN be easily seen - locks and keys, hands in gloves, satellite dishes - anything that works with something else that only comes in a specific size and shape.  I've used colored pipe cleaners with beads, some foamy bendy stuff or we refer to Lego or pop beads and all kinds of other fit-together items that students might recognize and understand.

The ZOOBs are really interesting and cool because of their different designs.  Unlike Lego that stack together but are just basically the same shape over and over, the ZOOBs have different shapes.  Unlike K'nex that comes in different shapes and colors, the ZOOBs can move once they are snapped together.  So you can string a set of ZOOBs together like a protein's primary structure, then bend it all around into shape to show secondary and tertiary structure.

That's just one of a million ideas I have coursing through my brain since I discovered this toy.  If molecular shape is important in your class, you might want to RUN to Target and pick up some ZOOBs.  There are 15 in a pack for just $3.  And although this is cheaper than any online site I've seen, you can get them on Amazon or Ebay if there isn't a Target near you.

I'll be developing some science activities to use with these really cool toys.  Watch for them!

I'd love to hear how you use a toy in an unexpected way in your classes.


  1. Don't you love the dollar aisle at Target? We just completed a challenge in my STEM lab where the kids had to build a car out of a bunch of junk. We used straws as axles, but I also had a giant set of Tinker Toys and I let the kids use the rods for axles. And I recently picked up a package of plastic airplane propellers at the dollar store. It looked like something we could use in the STEM lab!

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Teachers Are Terrific!

  2. I love STEM challenges! I wonder if you could use the ZOOB. To me they just scream out PROTEIN SYNTHESIS! I cant wait to make up an activity using them! Thanks for your comment! Sharing ideas is so motivating.