In complex systems science, "scaffolding" are those structures necessary to move from an initial state to an emerged form. For example, when recapturing an area of land and bringing it back to its natural state (e.g. prairie), you will find that certain birds and plants have to be present during the transition time in order for the old form to re-emerge. Once the new state has emerged, the scaffolding comes down... BUT, without the scaffolding, no change would have occurred.
Another example: Mary Poppins.
The concept of scaffolding has attraction to social scientists and educators too. From: condor.admin.ccny.cuny.edu/~group4/
"Scaffolding instruction as a teaching strategy originates from Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and his concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). “The zone of proximal development is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance." The scaffolding teaching strategy provides individualized support based on the learner’s ZPD. In scaffolding instruction a more knowledgeable other provides scaffolds or supports to facilitate the learner’s development. The scaffolds facilitate a student’s ability to build on prior knowledge and internalize new information. The activities provided in scaffolding instruction are just beyond the level of what the learner can do alone. The more capable other provides the scaffolds so that the learner can accomplish (with assistance) the tasks that he or she could otherwise not complete, thus helping the learner through the ZPD."
(Image of Philadelphia City Hall. August 2007)
(Explore 1.18.2008--Thanks friends!)