Tangrams and Water Towers

What do these two things have in common? Monique is resourcing our daughter who is home-schooling her children this year. Some of the supplies and practice sheets were on a unit of study utilizing “tangrams” and “pattern blocks.” What do the use of manipulatives like these teach a child? We might need to ask first of all, what is a “tangram?”

Image Credit: tangram.template.ALSCBlog

A tangram is a Chinese geometric puzzle that uses seven polygons, called tans, to form shapes: 5 triangles (2 large, a medium and 2 small), a square and a parallelogram. The objective is to replicate a pattern usually from a puzzle book. All seven tans must be used and kept flat at all times, although they may be rotated or flipped when necessary to complete the shape. 

This deceptively easy exercise builds skills in puzzling, problem solving and understanding "window spatial" relationships. Some believe it also enhances student performance in mathematics and engineering!

I had a most engaging assignment in the spring of this year. I serve in a workplace chaplain's ministry that relates to numerous kinds of businesses. This particular company builds water towers. As we know, these "tanks" provide communities with a much valued water source that comes from an above ground container looking somewhat like a huge metal mushroom. When completed, these structures can hold a million gallons of water that enhance the pressure and delivery of this precious resource to homes and businesses.

Photo Credit: friend and foreman, Mitch
My job involved meeting regularly with a team of 5 or 6 welding specialists contracted to take heavy, partially welded pieces of metal off the ground and hoist them nearly two-hundred feet into place at the top of a tower. They would then position the pieces and weld them to the whole structure. This several month project was dangerous and challenging due to changes in the weather and the whole matter of positioning, like in a puzzle, the heavy, thick-gauge steel, to complete the tank.

I met the crew on their lunch break every other week in the rugged setting of their construction trailer. This was a voluntary time to chat, share a brief devotional thought and pray for safety and any personal/ family needs. It was gratifying to see how these men respected me and each other. We usually had a hundred percentage attendance! I came to appreciate these workers who had come from near and far to carry out this vitally important infrastructure project. 

On a recent Friday evening, Monique and I drove up to eat at a restaurant in the nearby community where the newly constructed water tower stood tall and proud as a completed structure. I took a picture and attached it with a message to my friend and foreman, Mitch, telling him how good the tank looked towering forth in the early evening skyline! I mentioned how this project was a testimony to the hard work and skillful labor of his team of craftsman who had made it possible. I also shared how proud I was to play a small part in it all!

I thought of the passage in Matthew 25 in the parable of the talents when the employer-master commended the faithfulness of his employee-servant with the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (25:23). This is a commendation that each of us as Christ-followers long to hear when our life's journey is complete and we enter through the gates of Heaven.

Fanny Crosby wrote an old revival hymn that calls each of us to faithful service for Christ, our Lord... "To the work! To the work! We are servants of God. Let us follow the path that our Master has trod. With the balm of His counsel, our strength to renew; let us do with our might what our hands find to do. Toiling on! Toiling on! Let us hope, let us watch, and labor till the Master comes."

Indeed, let's be faithful to the One who is ever faithful to us! To the work!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 


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