Saturday, March 28, 2015

City Planning & In the Air

In February, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students began a multilayered, collaborative city-planning project. After many fruitful discussions, debating the components and infrastructure that are needed to design a livable home, neighborhood, and city, students were divided up into 6 neighborhood teams. As each team is working on a separate but connected neighborhood, the students will need to conference with one another throughout the process. The landscape has been determined; students decided that it is a coastal city with a nearby mountain, river, and a watershed! They are in the midst of debating issues such as placement of roads, bridges and sidewalks.

In early March the K/1s set out to design mini parachutes and began experimenting with gravity and air resistance. Before starting construction, they tested the drop rates of different canopy materials including: textiles, tissue paper, thin plastic, and paper. After students settled on canopy material, they began testing canopy shape. Some chose rectangle pieces while others cut canopies into a circular shape. Once they had cut their canopies to optimal size, they tested how varying the attachment site and the number of suspension cords, changed the drop time. We tried a parachute with the suspension cords attached within the canopy piece and then retested the same parachute with suspension cords attached to the very edge of the canopy. Students also found that, by varying the suspension cord length to the load, they could see a difference in how their canopy dome would open during test falls. The K/1s made their own minifigure parachutist out of clothespins and teachers planned a test-launch from 15 feet!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Building Bridges & Catapults

Through our studies of arch construction, a natural transition to architecture and bridge design occurred. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students focused on the history of bridges and began designing and building their own truss bridge. As they recalled the principles behind load, tension, and compression, we noticed the central role that triangles play in bridges that are designed today. Using balsa wood, students measured, marked, and then re-measured each piece of wood before teachers cut their requests.

Construction was a heroic multi-week project and their commitment paid off when they were able to test and proudly report the surprising load-strength of their bridges!
Meanwhile, the Kindergarten and 1st graders were busily designing and tinkering their own best catapult in February: using popsicle sticks, rubber bands, glue, and a small bucket, students performed test launches with different weight objects (pompoms vs. tinfoil). They played around with stop and start angles, tension, and throwing arm length. Some students wanted to propel objects to the farthest distance while others were interested in having objects achieve the greatest height. After students were happy with their catapult designs and implementation, teachers set up a challenge course that included 1. Target Practice (using different width containers as goals), 2. Going the Distance (using measuring tape to track their landing results), and 3. Add them Up! (3-rounds of landing on a number mat and finding the sum). 

We found that through several rounds of trial and error trouble shooting (Ha Ha!) that they were able to improve upon designs and modify propulsion results.