Since our Lesson and Lunch on February 27th, we have been continuing to work on the Engineering is Elementary curriculum that focuses on Wind Energy. After discussing with you all what properties are important for a sail to possess, the students designed two separate sails to test on our nine foot raft track, which was set up in our library area. Monday afternoon, we were ready to test out the designs. The parchment paper did well as a material, as did a more rectangular/square shape. However, we had many different types of designs, and the reasoning behind their creations were very sound. The children all watched each other’s sail to see what they could learn from other people’s creations.
On Tuesday, we started a discussion of the Engineering Design Process. The five steps are “Ask”, “Imagine”, “Plan”, “Create”, and “Improve”. Students were broken into groups of two who would design blades for a windmill, utilizing the knowledge that they had learned from creating the sail. The two challenges presented to the students were to:
1. Build blades that would move in the wind
2. Build blades that when they move, will pull up a cup of weights.
Again, the students sat down and seriously discussed what the problem was, what constraints they had, and what possible solutions may work. Writing was an important component of this project as well, as very detailed notes about materials, design plan, test results, and improvement plans were expected to be kept. Teams of engineers filed up to test their design out with the “wind”. If the blades and hub spun, then weights (marbles) were added to the cup to see how many marbles could be lifted. At the end of day one, the high was 9 marbles.
Day Two started with a “free choice” at indoor recess of designing more sails for the raft track. Since this was the second day of indoor recess this week, this activity was appreciated by the children. After recess, it was time to get back to work on creating and improving designs from yesterday. The student engineers created some designs that I have not seen in my past two years of doing this unit. Some of them spun incredibly fast, and very quickly the ante was upped to 11, 13, and then 15 marbles. The small bathroom cups that we used were not large enough to hold many more marbles. Two students determined that two of the “mongo marbles” equaled 7 regular sized marbles. Constant design changes resulted in 21 marbles being lifted by the end of the day.
This curriculum encourages critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and collaboration. It has been very exciting to see the wonderful thinking going on in the room.