Can I use a coat hanger?

I have a giant tangle of coat hangers hanging in my room.  We used them for a creative thinking activity earlier in the year (what else could it be? game)  and then my kids tangled them up and hung them from the window of the classroom.  They have been sitting their staring at us for close to three months now.

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Since Decemeber, on three separate occasions I have heard the question, can I use a coat hanger?  The answer has always been yes.  When in the midst of a puzzle or a problem, human eyes immediately scan the environment for something that may assist them.  This form of consciousness would have an evolutionary beginning in what Merlin Donald calls Episodic Consciousness.  It is primitive, yet it is very much a part of us.  Those coat hangers have proven useful three times so far this year, and helped a student out of a jam.

First, it was a math problem.  A student was trying to figure out how find the area of a circle and needed a circle template to move from place to place.  She made a circle out of the coat hanger (not an easy task in and of itself!).

Second, it was making a model airplane out of cardboard.  The coat hanger was substituted as a bone, similar to a bat wing.

Third, a student was trying to think of way to make a model of a planet with a moon.  She used the coat hanger to hold up the planet, and a paper clip to hold up the moon.

A colleague asked me, why do you keep that big tangle of coat hangers around?  I responed with; first, I think it looks beautiful.  And second, you never know when you are going to need a coat hanger.