Thursday, October 1, 2015

4th grade and their last two engineering challenges

Fourth grade's final two engineering challenges brought out their empathy, tenacity, and self-reflection.  Their first challenge was to take a cup of marshmallows and 50 toothpicks and build the tallest tower they could.  They quickly learned that their first idea wasn't always the best one.  Several groups couldn't agree on the next step and ended up with a mashing of materials.  Once they worked through the struggle of recovering over disappointment and the struggle of working together to try something else, the magic started.  The process was rough at times, but so worth it in the end.  We talked about how that is really a metaphor for life.  We shared ideas on what worked to get through the tough times and most students agreed that having supportive friends around them was the most helpful.  We talked about how to be that supportive friend for each other.  What started as an engineering feat turned into an SEL lesson!  I'm so proud of who these students are now and who they are becoming.  

The second challenge was to take a set of 6 cups from being stacked one way to another way.  This seems easy until you realize the limits: you can't let any part of your body touch the cups and you have to use the 4 pieces of string and one rubber band.  They all struggled with this at first.  Some of them had the right answer for it to work, but couldn't get their voices heard over other ideas.  Some groups stayed so stuck on one way that they had a hard time switching and trying something new.  I believe all groups felt frustrated at one time or another.  Once they all supported each other, took a deep breath, and tried something else, they were able to succeed!  This process was truly a gift for me to watch.  I am in awe of their ability to achieve in spite of challenges.  They inspire me!

Here are some photos of both challenges: