- Associated Press - Sunday, July 16, 2017

LONGVIEW, Texas (AP) - The children gathered to hear “Jack and the Beanstalk” didn’t know they’d be given an engineering challenge once the story was over, the giant vanquished after Jack felled the magic beanstalk he was climbing down.

The Longview News-Journal reports that’s the problem the Longview World of Wonders museum gave the youngsters when the story ended.

“What if this fairy tale had a different ending?” asked Lynsey Lack, LongviewWOW programs and education director. “What if Jack could escape the giant in another way? Can you think of another way? How else could Jack escape the beanstalk? How could they get out?”

LongviewWOW has a program, through the end of July, at its Tyler Street facility to get its youngest patrons thinking about solving problems. The Fairytale Mysteries series combines a story time session with familiar fables with hands-on projects designed with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus.

“We get to ask the question ‘What if?’ ” Lack said. “What if the fairy tale doesn’t end the way we all know it to end as in ‘happily ever after?’ You can solve your own problems by creating a tool or designing a tool.”

Lack called the series an introduction to the engineering process.

“They start with asking that question and making a plan and testing it - then changing their design if they need to and talking about the results of why it worked,” Lack said.

A recent Thursday challenge had young patrons making their own parachutes - or hang-gliders - as a few creative-thinkers devised once they saw the Popsicle sticks and construction paper up for grabs in the museum’s Invention Garage.

“What could he do if he had a parachute?” Lack asked of Jack. “He could float down and get away from that giant.”

A long, green beanstalk hung down from one of the Invention Garage’s cage walls. Once the young children had finished their inventions, they walked over and watched as Lack performed test crash landings on each of their “Jack” cutouts.

Coffee filters, paper plates, Popsicle sticks, construction paper, string and cardboard were pilfered by each young MacGyver as they worked to design their parachutes.

Hudson Cook, 4, spent a few minutes flattening a lone coffee filter to get it to lay flat. His brother Noah Cook, 7, took three filters for his parachute, “so it won’t break as easy and so it’ll catch more air.” he said.

Lack complimented their designs when they came up to test them.

“Countdown for me and let’s see if he makes it,” she said. “Three, two, one. go, Jack, go! What do you think? Did he make it? I think that was an excellent design.”

The boys’ mother, Janet Cook, said the whole family had a great time at the event.

“I like it,” she said. “I was worried a little bit that … it wouldn’t match up for (my boys), but they love it and (the museum) made it real great for them.”

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Information from: Longview News-Journal, https://www.news-journal.com

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