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.