Pipe Cleaner Geometry

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I have a confession to make:

I have a hoarding issue with pipe cleaners.  

Thankfully, I have kids.  So I can say that I am buying pipe cleaners for them.  When in reality, these pipe cleaners are mine!  

I don't even really know what I should do with pipe cleaners.  And I mean that.  I always think that a brilliant idea will invade my mind and then I will be so happy I was pipe-cleaner-prepared. But-no.  That has never happened.  I just like to have them laying around the house. It's important to me that when you open our craft drawer, there is a whole package of pipe cleaners.

And I can't even explain to you why I think that.  

Look, I didn't say I was normal.
Well, today I saw them sitting in the drawer, waiting to be used.  They looked calm all right, but inside I am sure they were bursting.  Have you ever been in a grocery line with a carton of ice cream softening by the minute.  The checker is chatting with a customer, receipt in hand and swinging wildly with the story she is telling. You smile at the people around you, but inside you are screaming as you see vanilla ice cream drips on the ground below.   

Anybody been there?  Well, I have.  

I imagine the pipe cleaners were doing that.  All calm on the outside, but on the inside, shouting at me, saying, "If I have to wait one more minute to fulfill my life destiny, I will strangle something!"  Today was the day.  The day that I finally used them.

Yes, applause is appropriate here.  But I can't promise I won't buy a whole brand new package to replace them tomorrow, along with an extra pack to hide from the kids.  

Again--not normal.

I also grabbed a bunch of drinking straws and a ruler and a pair of scissors.  

I asked the girls to measure the straws and cut them.  I gave them 3 different measurements to stick to.  

I stuck the pipe cleaners and the straws off to the side for now.

Then, I placed shape flash cards in the middle of the table, face down.  I printed these off from my new favorite printable site!  One-by-one we picked one and we studied the shape.  What is the name of this shape?  How many sides does this shape have?  Does it have any lines of symmetry?  How many? (click the link for an awesome tutorial on lines of symmetry!)

After we talked about each shape, I asked them to grab one that interested them.  Then I piled the pipe cleaners and the straws in the middle of the table.  I tried to keep the different lengths separate.

Then, they slipped the pipe cleaner into the straw and formed the shape featured on their card.

One of the shapes overwhelmed one my girls.  She didn't know where to begin.  So, I had her place the straws in the shape before messing with the pipe cleaners.  That seemed to help. Here is the finished product:

And another:

It was great fun!  Next time we will work at finding the perimeter of the shapes they make.  We will measure each side and then add the totals together.  

My older girl made three different shapes and then I challenged her to make a 3-D shape.  This was awesome practice for her.  Another great idea, for older kids, would be to create a 3-D rectangle and find the area of it by measuring the sides.    

Important:    I did have to remind the girls to use the same sized straws for each shape.  You can eliminate confusion by making all the straws the same length.  

Can you imagine the fun you would have with these on family night?  Just a big pile of pipe cleaners and straws!  Think of the towers and the cars that would be built.  Or the pentagons.  

Or the freestyle shapes.  :o)  

I don't want to speak too soon, but my days of keeping pipe cleaners in their neat and tidy packages may be coming to an end!