Monday, March 18, 2013

Marble Roller coasters pt. 1 design

     I just finished taking a Project Based Learning class through my school and the local university.  It was a refresher course but was nice to go back through and see what new ideas there are now. Several of us were in a group together to create a project (the Art teacher, an ELA teacher, myself and an administrator).  Since I was prepping for Force and Motion (my next science topic) I jumped on the opportunity to incorporate engineering into it. I'm very excited about the overall project because we integrated art, science, engineering and writing/advertising into it.  I don't know that I'll be able to focus on the writing as much as I would like, but I'll require a good bit of it.

     My students started the engineering project yesterday -- the building of marble roller coasters. Last week we looked at a lot of youtube videos that were similar to what I had in mind, and we used our blutrack to discuss places where speed is increasing and others where friction and gravity are acting very strongly.  We continued the lesson yesterday by getting into our groups and thinking of a theme, and then using the lessons on one-point perspective taught in art, the students created 3-D designs of what they hope to build.
     It was tough going for some students. They would bring up a design they were excited about, and then I'd have to point out places where their science may not meet up with their art.  They would head back and re-design (something they aren't always fond of doing).  Many times my fifth graders think that they have finished something simply because their first attempt is completed. As a school we read one of Ron Berger's books and it really emphasized pushing for quality, so I am frequently hearing grumbles about how first drafts aren't just in English any more. Grumbles are fine though, I figure they are learning that we aren't always successful on our first attempt.
      As we begin our building with craft sticks and toilet paper tubes I'm anticipating the "fun" factor wearing off. I think juggling the size of their "real estate" (poster board) with their designs is going to be challenging.

1 comment:

  1. I am delighted to see the students working with real world problems. Be sure to remind them that engineers always have to place their designs within a defined area. I also love to see them re-designing in order to address an unexpected problem. I would imagine that the more they do that, the more it will seem like a stimulating new challenge rather than a hassle. Again, these are real world problems, and our students need to know how to address them. Build on!