Monday, March 2, 2015

What's a Weird Lesson? (#flipclass flash blog)

Ever since I flipped my physics and Scientific Research and Design (SRD) class it has become increasingly difficult to find a day where the lessons are “normal”. Over the years, my SRD students have launched marshmallows to study projectiles, build a Rube Goldberg Machine and build roller coasters to examine energy transforms, dissolved M&M’s to learn how to observe scientifically, design and perform a lab at Six Flags with a movie trailer report, build a mobile to study torque and every Friday they get class time to learn something new to them in their 20% project. Not necessarily your usual science class, but it works for my high school seniors.

I am quite partial to all of them including our current journey is to build quad copters and obstacle courses to fly through, my favorite is the first activity every year, the big bubble build. In a professional development we were shown a bubble to use a classroom activity, a cell, a planetarium, etc. I decided to let my senior high students to design and build one for elementary classes. They are told to build an inflatable bubble that will fit 20 5th graders from 500 sq ft of plastic, zipper, duct tape and a standard box fan. Create a design and a model, prove that it meets the requirements and redesign if needed. The class chooses the winning design. Winners become the project lead and must make everything and everyone work to create the bubble.

They don’t believe it will work and are always amazed when it goes up! They learn to work together, plan, trouble shoot, communicate, fail and succeed together. They also experience the engineering process from beginning to end. This year they will deliver our bubbles to an elementary and explain the process to the students who will get the gift. They ask to blow up the bubble and work inside it and are proud of their work. Who would have imagined so much learning with students building big bubble from plastic.

Who would have imagined so much learning with students building big bubble from plastic. We talk air pressure, geometry, structure as well as proposals, models and specifications. My students declare themselves “The real Breakfast Club” after working together. After this project they are ready to work with any of the students in the class. Considering some of them have never met, not unusual in a high school with 6000 students, this is a huge achievement.

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