Monday, September 29, 2014

3rd grade builds with marshmallows and toothpicks

Our 3rd graders were challenged with building the tallest structure they could with 100 toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.  They worked on this project in teams after they designed their own plan.  We use the Engineering Design Process in our work on these challenges.
We first set up the "Ask" or the parameters of the challenge.  The students are given time to simply sit and imagine ideas.  Then they start their Plan.  This usually involves drawing out their idea in their journal or booklet.  After they have explained their Plan to me, I put them into groups where they can talk out a final plan that the whole group agrees to build.  Then they are ready to start the Create phase!  After they have built their first attempt, they test it and make necessary improvements.  We have decided that we need to add another step to this process called Share.  After every team has had a chance to succeed at the challenge, the teams get up in front of class to share their project and, more importantly, their process of getting to success.  

Here are some pictures of their presentations.  I was so proud of what they were able to build and the learning that came from the process of attempting several times, failing, and cooperation within the team.  Way to go, 3rd grade!

Here are some pictures of the process:

2nd Grade builds dams!

This month our 2nd graders researched, defined, and eventually built their own dams.  Their challenge was to design and build a dam out of popsicle sticks and clay that would hold water on one side of the tray.  They worked in teams to complete this challenge and sometimes that was the challenge itself!  They learned how to cooperate to achieve a common goal.  Most of the dams did not work when they tested them the first time.  They relied on their tenacity and creativity to come up with another idea and try again.  Many times it took 3-4 attempts before the dam worked.  I was so impressed with how they expressed their disappointment and how quickly they decided on a plan to try again.  I believe that the experience of failing at several attempts, getting back up and trying again, and eventually earning the success will be the biggest lesson that they take away from this assignment.  I'm happy that they also learned about the structure of dams, but it is this greater SEL (Social Emotional Learning) lesson that will apply to any other challenges they face in school or life.  I'm so proud of them!!
Attempt #1!

We think this might just work!

We are working together!

He demonstrated tenacity by trying 7 times until he got it right!

This team overcame difference in design preference to come up with this great dam!

Every one of them added their own flair to this dam!

This was our dam testing station.