3/15/2010 We’re about to start our engineering challenge where students design, make bluepirnts and build spaghetti bridges that will be tested for efficiency in their ability to hold weight (or a live load). This week students will learn about truss bridges and basic bridge construction tips. They will see some videos of students in grades 7-university testing their spaghetti bridges. Then we’ll be ready to start.
One of the highlights of this year was watching this class work together to build a tent in our room last Thursday. After spending some time cooking up various proposals with sketches, they debated which idea we should build. Once decided, they went into action. We lifted a few ceiling tiles to find heavy duty bolts, and then attached our strongest cord from one bolt on one side of the room to another on the other side of the room. Then we attached four separate cords that reached to both sides of the room along the original cord that stretched the length of the room. Soon the sheets (brought from home, thank you) were clipped onto the cords. Problems arose and kids were quickly figuring how to solve them. Too much compression in the middle! Not enough tension on the sides! Kids were talking like engineers, drawing up plans and testing them out. Finally, it was built, filling the room. It was tall enough for me to stand with plenty of room, and big enough for all 25 of our students to sit comfortably and hold a meeting.
Though dismantled now, the building is erected in our minds’ eyes and we now know, we are unstoppable!
First we will start by testing our materials. We’ll test several different brands of spaghetti to see which brand is the strongest under compression and tension. These tests will actually be written up as formal labs.
After we review our data from these tests, we will select a spaghetti brand and all students will build their bridges from that brand. From there, students will work in pairs or individually on their bridge design and blueprints. Once their blueprint design is approved, (There are specific criteria for size, symmetry, etc.), students will layer a piece of wax paper over their blueprint and build directly on the blueprint with spaghetti and glue. We will be using glueguns so students need to take a ‘safety lesson’ before they are allowed to use the gluegun.
This project will take about 2 weeks or more. I’ll keep you posted. Here too, I will send you some computer links so you can get a feeling of what the project is all about.
- how they followed the checklists and rubrics
- their daily work on the project including long term organization and record keeping
- the responses from the 120+ 5th grade students who filled out forms that asked them to tell what they learned about each exhibit they visited
- our teacher rubric evaluations (most kids were evaluated by at least 2 teachers)
- finally the student’s self-reflection and self-evaluation
Being able to honestly evaluate our own performance at a task is an essential long term skill that I would like my students to learn this year. Above all, I hope that all of my students begin to live their lives as scientists: developing meaningful questions connected to their life/world and testing those questions over time. Bravo 5D!
This week two students will present their Science Fair projects to our class as full class labs. One of the labs, presented by Alison, will explore the question of how we melt ice on our roads. Students will work in small groups on their patch of ‘icy road’ with a miniature car that has to travel on a slope. Students will test salt, sand, and other mixtures to see which result is the best. They will also have to balance the effects of their choice and 1) how it impacts the environment 2) safety for citizens in the community. This is a problem we face in our community at this time of year. What will the students decide? If they feel strongly about one solution, they will take the next step of social action.
Secondly, Rebecca will present her topic to the class as a full class experiment this week. She asks the question : Which is better organic or nonorganic fruits? She has set up a variety of tests from looking at rate of decomposition of the two, to taste tests.
Since Trey studied compost for his project, he will help us set up our class compost this week. All fruit/ vegetable and other organic trash will go into our bin. This will eventually be added to our class garden when we break ground again in the spring. By the end of March, our class hopes to start composting the lunchroom garbage as a school-wide initiative. It should reduce (according to Trey’s research ) our lunchroom garbage by at least 45%.
1/11/2010 Human Impact Science Fair projects are due in 3 weeks, so let the work and fun begin!!
Every day we’ll share what the kids are doing with their science work at home. We’ll have small group discussions where kids will work together to solve the problems their encountering, to extend their thinking and to find resources.
I have asked several teachers in PVC to serve as mentors for students who may need help. Dr. Ulm, Ms. Brennan and Mr. Ardito are all willing to help students who need some advice on their projects. Obviously I am also a mentor. Are there any parents who have a background in science who would be willing to come in this week as possible mentors?
Or are there any parents (or friends of families) who are scientists and would be willing to engage in e-mail help sessions with students who need advice? Please let me know.
We want to make our science fair rigorously scientific. Each child’s work should truly reflect 3 weeks of research, inquiry, experimentation, and reflection, so that every child will become an expert on their topic.
Here is a sample of our scientific inquiries that kids will be testing over the next few weeks:
- testing where dust and indoor air particulates collect indoors and designing an improved air filter
- researching deer repellents and creating repellents variations
- consumer research on which project melts ice the best without harming the environment
- how to clean up oil spills in storms
- how to filter smoke stacks to prevent acid rain and pollutants
- consumer research on biodegradable vs. regular plastic ware for eating
- how can magnets generate energy
- how does detergent run off effect plants
- storm water contaminants and using rain barrels